“They encamped against them and they destroyed the produce of the land until they came to Gaza and nothing that could preserve life was left in Israel, nor lamb, nor ox, nor donkey. Thus, they and their livestock would go up and come with their tents like a great swarm of locust — they and their camels could not be numbered — and they came into the land to ruin it. Thus Israel was made very weak because of Midian and the Sons of Israel cried out to Yahweh.”
We are shown not only the hostility of the Midianites in these verses, but also their numbers. It is clear that the role of the Midianites is not to colonize or to establish an empire, but to punish the people of Israel. Their goal: ruin the land. And, with the land ruined, stripped bare of its natural resources, the people would wither and cease to be a threat to the Midianite kingdom. The judgment upon Israel is harsh in this fifth cycle of sin. How grateful we ought to be when God shows us mercy in the midst of our own stubborn sins.
The Midianites and their allies fill and cover the land as do locusts, stripping the land as they go. Not only are locusts and locust swarms a common point of reference for those in the ancient near east, it is also a common illustration used in the Bible to describe God’s judgment on a people for their sin (see Exodus 10:12-14; Deuteronomy 28:38; Joel 1:4; Nahum 3:15; Psalm 78:46; Revelation 9:7). Thus, when we see a comparison between the enemies of God’s people and the locust, it is an indication that the people doing the invading are doing so as part of God’s judgment (as in Joel and Nahum, for example).
And thus, under the hand of judgment, the people cry out to God for help and if Deborah was an unlikely candidate to be a judge, Gideon will be equally as unlikely. Yet, is this not how God ordinarily works? Does he not call those to serve him who (in human terms) are the least so that his hand will be most seen and so that He will be most glorified. Such is the way things have always been and such is the way they always will remain in the providence of God. To Him be the glory, Amen.