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In Judges 7:5

So he took the troops down to the water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “Set apart all those who lap up the water with their tongues like dogs from all those who get down on their knees to drink.”

we see that there are two different groups of people who get on knees and drink and another group who get into the water and drink with their hands.

My question is why was it is significant for G-d to separate from those who drunk water on their knees?

Why did he choose 300?

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    @talmudist A Good Question: the Rashi says: "Set him (i.e., he who kneels) separately away from your group because they will not go with you since they are thus accustomed to kneel before idols.", but I suspect there is more to it than this. – Tau Jan 7 '16 at 2:33
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    @Ruminator Please stop making drastic changes to old questions. Changes that obsolete existing answers or radically change the scope of a question should be reserved for when a question gets closed. – Caleb Dec 10 '17 at 6:43
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When these men go down to the stream to drink, they will have to get down on their knees, since it is not possible to drink any other way. The issue is not who kneels and who stands, but who will cup his hands and bring water to his mouth, and who will not. Those who bowed down on their knees to drink, but did not cup their hands to bring the water into their mouth, but put their faces into the water, were sent home. Those who lapped with their tongues as a dog laps, stayed. Thus Gideon was given instruction on how to select men for his special cutting-edge forces. Those who were kept appeared to be the ones who bowed on their knees, but cupped their hands to bring up and drink the water from their hands, showing they were ready for any sudden attack . . .

Those who lifted the water to their mouth with their hands represented the good soldiers who, upon reaching a brook before the battle, did not allow themselves time to fall down and satisfy their thirst in the most convenient manner. These good solders simply knelt, took up some water with their hands as they remained upright in their military armor to strengthen themselves for the battle, and they proceeded without delay against the foe. The remained watchful and prepared for any emergency. - Excerpt from Ariel's Bible Commentary on the Book of Judges

God chose 300 soldiers because those were the men who passed the two tests. The first test reduced Gideon's army from 32,000 to 10,000 (Judges 7:2-3). This disqualified the fearful. The second test reduced the army down to 300 after disqualifying the careless.

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  • Why do you think they all kneeled? – user8377 Jan 7 '16 at 16:10
  • dogs when they drink they dont kneel they enter water and lap! – user8377 Jan 9 '16 at 14:38
  • "The issue is not who kneels and who stands" - don't agree with you. That is your personal conjecture. – Cynthia Avishegnath Jan 13 '16 at 11:51
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OP: My question is why was it is significant for G-d to separate from those who drunk water on their knees?

Lange's Commentary - Judg. 7 - pdf p. 320

Lange Comm.

...The question is, What characteristic did it show in the 300 men, that they did not drink water kneeling, but lapped it with their tongues, like dogs. Bertheau has followed the view of Josephus (Ant. v. 6, 3), which makes those who drink after the manner of dogs to be the faint-hearted. According to this view, the victory is the more wonderful, because it was gained by the timid and fearful. But this explanation does not accord withthe traditional exegesis of the Jews, as handed down by others.

Moreover, it contradicts the spirit of the whole narrative. When Gideon was chosen, it ws for the very reason that he was a "valiant hero" (ch. 6:12). All those who were deficient in courage were sent home by the, proclamation (v.3). If faint-heartedness were demanded, the brave should have been dismissed.

Finally, God saves by few, indeed, if they trust in Him, but not by cravens. Cowardice is a negtive quality, unable even to trust. To do wonders with cowards, is a contradiction in adjecto; for if they fight, they are no longer cowards. Cowardice is a condition of soul which cannot become the medium of divine deeds; for even the valiant few, when they attack the many and conquer, are strong only because of their divine confidence....

The Jewish interpretation, communicated by Raschi, is evidently far more profound. Gideon, it says, can ascertain the religious antecedents of his men from the way in which they prepare to drink. Idolators were accustomed to pray kneeling before their idols. On this account, kneeling, even as a mere bodily posture, had become unpopular and ominous in Israel and was avoided as much as possible. Hence, he who in order to drink throws himself on his knees, shows thereby, in a perfectly free and natural manner, that this posture is nothing unusual to him; whereas those who have never been accustomed to kneel, feel no need of doing it now, and as naturally refrain from it....

The three hundred - this is what God makes of Gideon to know - have never kneeled before Baal; they are clean men; and with clean vessels, men, and animals, God is accustomed to do wonderful things. Midian's idolatrous people shall be smitten only by such as have always been free from their idols.....

Commentary on this topic carries on for another column, and I found it all interesting. Thanks for the question.

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I always thought God chose the ones who knelled and cupped the water but now as I was reading my devotions it says the ones who lapped were the ones who went. Which is it? Confused.

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  • Hello and welcome, Nancy. On this Hermeneutics site, answers are to be offered if the query detailed by the Asker can be addressed. As it is, you simply expressed your confusion about the text, which would have been suitable for putting in a comment box, but not an answer box. Do take the tour of the site to familiarise yourself with requirements for answering, and then find your feet! – Anne Mar 15 '19 at 17:26
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This is the way I've always heard it interpreted. Sorry I don't have a reference.

When drinking from a stream, most people will naturally lie or kneel and either put their face directly into the water or scoop it up with both hands and pour it into their mouths.

In this situation however, a few people remained upright, perhaps going down onto one knee. They used one hand to lift water to their mouths and drank from that using their tongues and not tipping their heads back.

This second group stayed on the alert. Their heads remained level so they could see what was happening around them. They each had one hand free, perhaps to hold onto their spears to support themselves.

This second group of 300 were the ones that didn't neglect their duty as soldiers. They were the few good men that wanted to be aware of their situation at all times. They demonstrated some very obvious characteristics of the elite forces that Gideon needed.

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Who laps and who kneels? Judges 7:5

My question is why was it is significant for G-d to separate from those who drunk water on their knees?

In Judges 7:5

"So he took the troops down to the water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “Set apart all those who lap up the water with their tongues like dogs from all those who get down on their knees to drink.”

They were chosen because they stayed alert to the surrounding conditions.

The dogs lap water while at the same time keep their eyes open to see if there is any danger from the surrounding areas.

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The reason that the lap dogs were chosen over the kneelers is not explicitly given so some detective work and conjecture seem to be required. It seems to me that the answer might be one of these:

  • if kneeling is the more alert position and that is to be recognized as a virtue then they are omitted in favor of the possibly more goofy dogs, seeing that dogs were considered a base animal (because they mate and poop in public without shame). The less capable the army, the more glory goes to Yahveh for the victory and less to man

  • if the lapping is somehow more virtuous then he has a smaller but more lean (none of those darn kneelers) army

Since the story was told we can presume that there was a spiritual lesson so there may be intertextuality at play that has not yet been identified. But since it hasn't been identified I'm inclined to think that the lappers were chosen for their weakness rather than their strength. A small allusion might be seen in the incompetence of the disciples:

NIV 1 Cor 1: 26Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”d

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