The Great Emu War

I recently ran across an article describing what became known as the “Great Emu War of 1932.” It took place (as you might guess) in the country of Australia. Apparently, the emu population undertakes an annual migration from the drier inlands to the more temperate grasslands of the coastal areas.

This began to occur in 1932 as usual, but it seems the government had given 90,000 hectares of land to 5000 WWI vets. (In case you’re not up on your metrics, one hectare is equal to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres. I only know this because I researched it.) The vets cultivated their new farmland, and, lo and behold, the emus discovered the feast as they journeyed.

As the article stated, “The bird giants descended upon the crops.” As you can imagine, the farmers were not pleased. They tried everything from rifles to machineguns to mobile, truck-mounted Lewis guns. Against all odds, the unarmed emus (20,000 strong) were able to minimize their casualties. All in all, the war lasted six days. In the end, the truck had crashed, 2500 rounds of expensive munitions were spent, and the emus suffered the loss of only 200 of their fine-feathered friends. A one percent dent in their population hardly made a difference (except, maybe, to the one percent).

I’m not exactly sure why, but this has put me in mind of Gideon (you knew it had to be coming). Gideon was the famous warrior of Judges fame (see Judges 6 & 7). He was tasked with waging war against the Midianites who were wrecking havoc on the crops, livestock, and people of Israel every year. The Lord told Gideon that it was time to put a stop to that annual incursion.

In an effort to be compliant with God’s wishes, Gideon amassed an army of thirty-two thousand fighting men. That army evened the odds somewhat, but Yahweh told Gideon his army was too large. He instructed Gideon to ask the soldiers if any of them were afraid. Twenty-two thousand of them answered in the affirmative, and Gideon sent them home.

This troop reduction was impressive but still not enough to satisfy the Lord. Through an interesting lap test (Judges 7:5-8), the army was reduced by another 9700 men. If I’ve done the math correctly, this left Gideon with an army of three hundred to assault the Midianites—estimated at 135,000 soldiers. Some would say the odds were in favor of the Midianites at this point, but Yahweh seemed to think this ratio was just about right. The reason He gave, of course, was that (with those odds) no one could mistakenly give Gideon and his army credit for the victory. The victory belonged to the Lord and no one else.

The long and short of it is that both the emus and Gideon won out despite tremendously negative odds. They each sent the enemy away in defeat in a fight over crops. Moral: Make sure you’re on God’s side (and the emus’).

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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