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
When our daughter was quite young, she was extremely sensitive to raised voices. If we instructed her verbally with any increase in volume beyond a normal conversational tone, she would say quietly, “Please don’t yell at me!” While it would have been a stretch to call our tones yelling, her reaction was a reminder to be careful about speaking “sharply.”
How easy it is to inadvertently speak angry, hurtful, or negative words! Yet, once spoken, those words are like feathers in the wind. Most of us have heard the old adage from when feather pillows were common: slit a feather pillow outside, shake it in the wind, and then try to pick up all the feathers. It is impossible! It is just as impossible to take back our words.
The tribe of Ephraim scolded Gideon for not calling them to go and fight the Midianites. Rather than responding harshly, Gideon soothed them by pointing to the portion of the victory that God had given to them. Gideon’s words were much more uplifting than those of the men of Ephraim.
What kind of words do we speak? Are they encouraging and edifying? It could be quite a valuable exercise to review our conversations and comments during the last week. Maybe we can look back and remember how someone said something to us that renewed our strength and courage. Have we extended the same courtesy to someone else? Perhaps a person spoke sharply to us, and our spirits were grieved. Have we used this as an excuse to talk carelessly and hurt another person?
Each one of us needs God’s strength and grace in order to talk as we should. Each day we want to ask His help with our words so that what we say is beneficial to others and brings glory to Him. The Bible indicates that a person who controls his words can control his whole body. Most of us know by experience that this can be a big challenge, but God is more than able to help us if we let Him!
The people of the tribe of Ephraim were desirous of sharing in a victory they had done very little to accomplish. They reproved Gideon, asking why he had not called them sooner into battle with the Midianites. Ephraim was a large tribe and therefore important. They were offended and perhaps jealous of the victory that had been won. Maybe they were upset that they did not receive part of the spoils because they had not participated in the actual battle.
When Gideon and his men were tired and hungry, they asked bread of the men of Succoth and also of Penuel, but were refused. Both of these groups of people were Israelites from the tribe of Gad. They refused, perhaps out of fear that Gideon would not win the battle. Their attitude was an illustration of the lack of unity that prevailed among the Israelites. Without central leadership, various groups ruled themselves. Not only did they refuse to help, but they refused rudely.
Gideon warned those selfish people that they would be punished for their response. He severely disciplined the seventy-seven leaders of Succoth with thorny branches, and slew some of the men of Penuel.
The two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, had killed Gideon’s brothers. According to the law, it was the responsibility of family members to avenge the murder of their relatives (Numbers 35). These kings hoped that flattering Gideon would help their situation, but it did not. Gideon instructed his son to accomplish the execution, since being killed by a boy would have been extremely humiliating for Zebah and Zalmunna. The boy was not mature enough, and the kings challenged Gideon (perhaps somewhat sarcastically) to perform the deed himself.
When Gideon and his men returned to Canaan, the Children of Israel wanted to make him their king. This was Israel’s first request for a king. Gideon refused, and told Israel, “The Lord shall rule over you.”
However, Gideon did request a gift, and he received between forty and seventy pounds of gold. An ephod was either a part of the priest’s apparel (Exodus 28:6) or an image, so it is impossible to know exactly what is meant by the use of the word in this text. Although Gideon’s intentions are unclear, the ephod became an object of idolatrous worship and a snare to Gideon and Israel.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. Conditions during the period of the judges
B. The judges of the period
c. Israel’s deliverance
(3) The conflict for deliverance
(e) The defeat of the Midianites
 The jealousy of Ephraim (8:1-3)
 The search for the Midian kings (8:4-21)
[a] The refusal of Succoth and Penuel (8:4-9)
[b] The capture of the kings (8:10-12)
[c] The punishment of Succoth and Penuel (8:13-18)
[d] The death of the Midian kings (8:19-21)
(f) Gideon’s failure (8:22-27)
d. Israel’s rest (8:28)
e. Gideon’s death (8:29-32)
C. Parenthesis: the tyranny of Abimelech
1. Israel’s idolatry (8:33-35)
What type of words will we speak today? May God help us to say words that will encourage others and glorify Him!