Summary: They were angry with Gideon because they were left out and did not share in the glory. Gideon tactfully gave them the “soft answer” that healed the wounds and prevented division. Better to do that than to start another war.
Gideon Prudently Pacifies the Offended Ephramites [Judges 8.1-8.4]
1 And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
2 And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
3 God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
4 And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
Judges 8:1-4 (KJV)
It takes all kinds to make a nation (or a church), and a leader must know how to handle each one, especially after a great victory. This chapter continues the account of Gideon's victory over the Midianites, and it also has the rest of the story of his life and leadership.
I. Gideon prudently pacifies the offended Ephraimites (v. 1-3). They were angry with Gideon because they were left out and did not share in the glory. Gideon tactfully gave them the “soft answer” that healed the wounds and prevented division. Better to do that than to start another war.
II. He bravely pursues the fleeing Midianites (v. 4, 10-12). They said, “You have not yet won the battle, so why should we help you?” The men of Succoth had no faith in God or appreciation for Gideon and his men, and their lack of love cost them dearly.
III. He justly chastises the insolence of the men of Succoth and Penuel, who maliciously abused him (v. 5-9), and were reprimanded for it (v. 13-17).
IV. He honorably slays the two kings of Midian (v. 18-21). Executing two famous kings would be a great way to start a military career, but the lad was too immature to carry it out. We wonder if Gideon remembered his own fears and God’s patience with him.
V. After all this, he modestly declines the government of Israel (v. 22, 23).
VI. He foolishly gratified the superstitious humor of his people by setting up an ephod in his own city, which proved a great snare (v. 24-27). Unlike Abraham, Gideon became covetous and asked for a generous share of the loot. This led to idolatry and apostasy because the heart of man is always ready to indulge in sin.
VII. He kept the country quiet for forty years (v. 28).
VIII. He died in honor, and left a large family behind him (v. 29-32).
IX. Both he and his God were soon forgotten by ungrateful Israel (v. 33-35).
1 And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.--Judges 8:1 (KJV)
1 The men from Ephraim strongly protested Gideon's actions. They said, “Why did you do this to us? You didn't invite us to go fight Midian with you.”--Judges 8:1 (GW)
And the men of Ephraim said unto him…To Gideon, when they brought him the heads of Oreb and Zeeb; assuming that this was a good opportunity to complain and scold him, seeing that they had done a great service for Gideon and Israel. This account is no doubt given out of order; for what is mentioned here could not have taken place until the return of Gideon from the pursuit of the Midianites; for he had not yet crossed the Jordan River; see Judges 8:4. And it was when he was beyond that river that the Ephraimites brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to him: “And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb, and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb, they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (Judges 7:25; KJV).
No sooner were the Midianites, the common enemy of all Israel, defeated, than some hot spirits from the tribe of Ephraim started to quarrel with Gideon. This led to an unhappy spark being struck, which, if Gideon had not with a great deal of wisdom and grace extinguished it immediately, it might have broken out into a flame of fatal consequence. The Ephraimites, when they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon as their general, instead of congratulating him upon his successes and addressing him with thanks for his great services, as they ought to have done, they picked a quarrel with him that immediately grew very hot. Though they did not say so their anger stemmed from Gideon having received credit for the victory, and a suspicion that he was trying to deprive them of the spoils of war.