still life from Old Woman Praying Maes

Maybe Not the Smartest Group

There’s a text critical issue in Judges 7:4-6 – the story of who God picks to go with Gideon to attack the Midianites!

An Old Woman Reading the Bible
The daily lectionary for April 27 includes Judges 7:1-8:17

It turns on what it means to “kneel” and “lap like a dog.” Different versions, it turns out, resolve it differently. NRSV makes the “lappers” out to be the ones who put their mouths directly into the stream. NLT and JPS make the lappers the ones who bring their hands to their mouths (and lap out of their hands, presumably). Either way, the “lappers” are the smaller group, 300 men.

We had this story when I was a little girl in Sunday school – I can still see the illustration of the different soldiers in my mind’s eye. We were more or less told that God picked the smart, careful, cautious ones, the ones who put one hand in the water and kept one hand on their sword. God is so smart that way.

Well, of course God is smart, but … the point of the test is not actually how the guys drank. The point of the test is to find the smallest group.

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