And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.
4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.”
5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” 6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water. 7 Then the Lord said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. -Judges 7:2-7 NKJThis passage is sometimes dredged up by folks who dislike dogs to justify their prejudice. After all, God Almighty does not like dogs so it is OK for them to not like dogs.
I, as a dog love, deconstruct this passage differently. It is an exercise in context.
Ancient battle was often as much theatrics as personal contest. In soccer we called it "dancing around the ball." Saying ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead. cleared the field of those who were tempted to show up and "dance around the ball". Presumably, two-thirds of the army fell into this category.
Lapping water like a dog
For the next part I want you to banish the image in your head of a dog lapping water from a stream. That is a distraction. Rather, I want you to imagine the posture of a human sucking water from a shallow stream. They are either lying on their bellies or on their hands-and-knees. In a word, they are "vulnerable".
They are vulnerable for a multitude of reasons:
- Inability to maintain situational awareness
- Hands occupied and unable to grasp weapons
- Posture completely defenseless, unable to ward off blows or launch strikes.
- They are able to maintain situational awareness. That is, they are free to look around and to use their ears.
- While they are drinking with their one hand, the clean one, they still have their left hand available.
- They are in a posture to move and avoid blows and can quickly spring to their feet.
The ability to see into men's hearts
This story presents us with a miracle but it is not the miracle seen by the casual reader. This is not an example of God being inscrutable. This is a miracle where God gave Gideon the ability to look into his men's hearts based on their actions, actions that anybody can observe and interpret.
A man who is extremely thirsty and still exercises situational awareness and combat readiness when drinking is a man who is ready to battle. The point is driven even deeper when you realize that the undisciplined were not only filling their bellies more quickly, they were also muddying the stream as they drink. Also bear in mind that the observant Jew was not using both hands. He was lifting up the water with a single, clean, hand. A very slow process.
A man who exercises self-discipline in the smallest of things is more likely to follow external discipline during the chaos of battle. The man who abandons self-discipline in the simplest of things remains a question mark and is a potential failure point.
This story suggests that one percent of an army are "the three hundred". That is exactly the same ratio proposed by Heraclitus
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”