And the men of Ephraim said to him, Why have you served us thus, that you called us not, when you went to fight with the Midianites?…
The scanty information that we have leaves the impression that in speaking as they did the men of Ephraim were entirely in the wrong. If they were the foremost of the tribes, why had they not organised resistance themselves? If they had neglected duty, what right had they to complain that others had discharged it? If Gideon had invited them, would they not have equally resented such an unwarrantable piece of presumption in a mere Manassite? But how few men in Gideon's place would have made allowance for them as he did! It shows how grace had got the better of nature in him. It shows how little he cared for his own interest or honour; how much for the welfare of Israel and the ruin of its foes. That in the very moment of victory he who had been the instrument of it all should be reproached instead of honoured by his countrymen, and even by the very men who had been thinking only of themselves when he was planning and enduring and risking everything to save them all — this was trying in the extreme to flesh and blood. But Gideon knew that an angry reply might kindle mere discontent into a flame, and that even a continuance of jealousy would defeat his purpose of following up the pursuit and effectually terminating the war. His answer, therefore, was one calculated not only to soothe Ephraim, but even to restore their self-respect. The answer was in an important sense a true one. God had overruled for good the very slowness of Ephraim to come forward. It was their seizing the line of the Jordan that had turned defeat into irretrievable overthrow; and, as plain matter of fact, those slain by Ephraim must have been far more numerous than all that Gideon and his men had beaten down. The answer was true, no doubt, but not on that account the easier to give. To acquiesce in a statement of the case, nay, even to suggest it, in which no credit was given for those preparatory trials and schemes, and risks and conflicts, without which all the direct hard fighting of Ephraim would have been perfectly useless — this showed a moderation that nothing can have inspired except the deep sense that the real glory belonged to another altogether, and that Ephraim on the one hand, and he and his men upon the other, were only instruments that God employed, each in the way that He deemed best, for working out His own designs. When he thus effaced himself, and gave up the glory without a murmur that by all fair human standards was righteously his own, Gideon stood at a pitch of moral grandeur that few of the choicest saints in Scripture have exemplified. When we remember that he was no quiet, meditative spirit, but a mighty man of war, rejoicing in his prowess, keenly sensitive to dishonour, and animated by not a little of the fierce vindictive spirit of his age, the triumph of faith and grace within him becomes all the more conspicuous.
(W. Miller, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.