Summary: Gideon’s battle plan appears to have been carefully worked out, but whether it was beholden to his spiritual illumination we cannot say. But what we can say is that his methods were a type of psychological warfare.
How Gideon Formed His Attack on the Enemy Camp [Judges 7.16-7.20]
16 And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
17 And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.
18 When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
19 So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
16 And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.--Judges 7:16-20 (KJV)
16 Gideon divided the 300 men into three companies. He gave them each rams' horns and jars with torches inside.--Judges 7:16-20 (GW)
And he divided the three hundred men, into three companies, one of which he commanded. He placed one hundred men in each company, partly to give the appearance of an organized army, with a right and left flank, and partly to fall upon the camp of Midian from three directions to give the impression that they were attempting to surround the camp. Gideon, by dividing his army, small as it was, into three companies would facilitate his deception because great armies (and that was the impression he wanted to make) were usually divided into the right wing, the left wing, and the main body of the army.
Though the victory was to belong to the Lord, yet he knew that he ought to use sensible tactics; and those which he employed on this occasion were the best calculated to assist in the Lord’s plan. If he had not used these means, it is not likely that God would have delivered the Midianites into his hands. Sometimes, even in working a miracle, God will use natural means: Go, dip thyself seven times in Jordan. Go, wash in the pool Siloam.
Gideon’s battle plan appears to have been carefully worked out, but whether it was beholden to his spiritual illumination we cannot say. But what we can say is that his methods were a type of psychological warfare.
and he put a trumpet in every man's hand; the 9,700 men that were ordered to return to their homes because they failed the water trial had included many trumpeters, who, either because they were ordered to do so by Gideon or because God had put the thought in their mind, had left their trumpets behind, whereby there was a sufficient number for three hundred men; and these were put into their hands, so that when they blew them together, the noise would be very loud; and it would seem as if they were being attacked by a great army; the confusion and panic this would create would terrify the enemy. The word for trumpets is soparot; they are made from rams’ horns and they gave a sharp shrill sound. Joshua used the same type of trumpet at Jericho and perhaps this connection with that great victory helped encourage Gideon and his men as they faced the battle.
with empty pitchers, and lamps (torches) within the pitchers; the pitchers were made of earth (clay), and so they were easily broken, and would make a great noise when slammed against each other; and these were empty of water, or otherwise they would not have been fit to put lamps into, and the lamps put inside of them were not oil lamps; because, when the pitchers were broken, the oil would have run out; but they contained a kind of torch, made of rosin, wax, pitch, and such things; and these were put into the pitcher, partly to protect them from the wind, but mainly to conceal them from the enemy. They held the pitcher with the torch inside in one hand, and the trumpet in the other hand, until at just the right time; when they came upon the enemy soldiers, they would break the pitchers and hold out the torches; which on a dark night would make a terrible blaze, to incite fear in the enemy and give light to the Israelites as they go down the hill and into the camp. The sudden blaze of the held-up lights—the loud echo of the trumpets, and the shouts of Israel, always terrifying (Nu. 23:21), and now more terrible than ever by the use of such striking words, broke through the stillness of the midnight air.