And the LORD said unto Gideon,
By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand: and let all the other people go, every man unto his place.
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Ambrose of Milan
For the same reason was it that when Gideon was about to overcome the Midianites, he commanded three hundred men to take pitchers, and to hold lighted torches inside the pitchers, and trumpets in their right hands. Our predecessors have preserved the explanation received from the apostles, that the pitchers are our bodies, fashioned of clay, which do not know fear if they burn with the fervor of the grace of the Spirit, and bear witness to the passion of the Lord Jesus with a loud confession of the voice. Who, then, can doubt the divinity of the Holy Spirit, since where the grace of the Spirit is, there the manifestation of the divinity appears. By this evidence we infer not a diversity but the unity of the divine power. For how can there be a severance of power, where the effect of the working in all is one? Neither can there be the grace of the sacraments where there is no forgiveness of sins. What, then, is that fire? Not certainly one made up of common twigs or roaring with the bur...
Dogs should not always be taken in an evil sense; otherwise the prophet would not blame “dogs not able to bark and loving to dream.” Doubtless they would be praiseworthy dogs if they both knew how to bark and loved to watch. And certainly those three hundred men—a most sacred number according to the letter of the cross—would not have been chosen to win the victory because they lapped water as dogs do, unless some great mystery were signified. Good dogs watch and bark to protect their house and their master, their flock and their shepherd. Finally, even here in the praises offered by the church, when a selection is made from this prophecy, it is the tongue of dogs that is mentioned, not their teeth. - "Letter 149"
Dogs are commendable, not abominable. They observe fidelity toward their master, and before his house they bark against enemies. He has not simply said “of dogs” but “of your dog.” Nor are their teeth praised, but their tongue is: for it was not indeed to no purpose, not without a great mystery, that Gideon was bidden to lead those alone who should lap the water of the river like dogs. Of such sort not more than three hundred among so great a multitude were found. In this number is the sign of the cross because of the letter T [tau], which signifies three hundred in the Greek numeral characters. - "Explanations of the Psalms 68.29"
Just as the six hundred years of life which Noah completed prior to entering the ark designate the perfection of faith and confession of those who approach the church’s sacraments of heavenly grace and perpetual reward, so also does the three hundred and fifty years that he lived after the great flood typify the perfection of those who, having received the sacraments of life, zealously and faithfully serve the Lord until death. For we say that three hundred, because it is denoted in Greek by the letter tau, which is written in the shape of a cross, most aptly signifies those who resolve not to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence Gideon, at the Lord’s command and with his assistance, conquered the innumerable army of the Midianites with three hundred men, thus teaching figuratively that by faith in the Lord’s cross we will be victorious in the wars waged against us both by this world and by our own vices. - "On Genesis 2.9"
Limiting one’s intake of water helps a great deal to obtain temperance. This was well understood by the three hundred Israelites accompanying Gideon just when they were preparing to attack Midian. - "Praktikos 17"
That lapped water. These were preferred that took the water up in their hands, and so lapped it, before them who laid themselves quite down to the waters to drink; which argued a more eager and sensual disposition. (Challoner)
It is thought that the former would be more capable of supporting the fatigues of war. (Menochius)
The Jews suppose that those who knelt, had been accustomed to do so in honour of Baal. Lyranus concludes that they were extremely fatigued and thirsty, while the 300 underwent the labours of war with less inconvenience. Josephus observes that this experiment was made in the heat of the day; yet, if Providence had not interfered, it seems very improbable that 10,000 men should all be so eager for water. (Haydock)
And they were brought to the river to drink the waters; and whoever drank the waters with bended knees were removed from the struggle of war. For by the waters is designated the doctrine of wisdom, but by the unbended knee righteous conduct. Therefore those who are reported to have bent their knees while drinking the water retired from the strife of battles, having been forbidden because Christ proceeds to battle against the enemies of the faith with those who, when they drink the streams of doctrine, do not distort the uprightness of their actions. For all are said at that time to have drunk the water, but not all [are said] to have stood with unbended knee. And those who bent their knees while they were drinking the waters were rejected because, as the apostle witnesses, “It is not the hearers of the law who are just before God, but the doers of the law will be justified.” For since weakness of conduct is, as we have said, signified by this very bending of the knees, it is rightly sa...
That lapped water: These were preferred that took the water up in their hands, and so lapped it, before them who laid themselves quite down to the waters to drink: which argued a more eager and sensual disposition.