Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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.Jdg 8:3
Sometimes men of great strength of will and purpose possess also in a high degree the gift of tact.... In nearly all administrative posts, in all the many fields of labour where the task of man is to govern, manage, or influence others, to adjust or harmonize antagonism of race or interests or prejudices, to carry through difficult business without friction and by skilful cooperation, this combination of gifts is supremely valuable.
—W. E. H. Lecky.
In his Life of Coriolanus, Plutarch tells how the Roman troops rallied round M. Coriolanus in the attack upon the Volscians and drove the latter off in confusion. 'As they began to pursue them, they begged Marcius, now weary with toil and wounds, to retire to the camp; but he, saying that "it was not for victors to be weary," joined in the pursuit. The rest of the Volscians were defeated, many were slain, and many taken.'
Strength of endurance is worth all the talent in the world.
References.—VIII. 4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2343. E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation (1st Series), p. 83. J. Baldwin Brown, The. Higher Life, p. 288.
If a Te Deum or an O, Jubilate were to be celebrated by all nations and languages for any one advance and absolute conquest over wrong and error won by human nature in our times—yes, not excepting
The bloody writing by all nations torn—
the abolition of the commerce in slaves—to my thinking that festival should be for the mighty progress made towards the suppression of brutal, bestial modes of punishment.
Reference.—VIII. 18.—A. Gray, Faith and Diligence, p. 124.
This passage is curiously applied by Cromwell in his fourth speech to the English Parliament of 1655, when bitterly denouncing the Anabaptist Levellers and their intrigues. These men, the Protector complains, 'have been and yet are endeavouring to put us into blood and into confusion; more desperate and dangerous confusion than England ever yet saw. And I must say, as Gideon commanded his son to fall upon Zebah and Zalmunna, and slay them, they thought it more noble to die by the hand of a man than of a stripling—which shows there is some contentment in the hand by which a man falls; so it is some satisfaction if a Commonwealth must perish, that it perish by men, and not by the hands of persons differing little from beasts!'
As the Man Is, So Is His Strength
It is a strange and tragic history that of Gideon, the fifth, and for many reasons the greatest of all the judges of Israel. Like many a wise saw of the olden times, the text contains much truth in small bulk.
I. Plainly, the first meaning of it is, that as a man is physically so is his strength. Now, it is perfectly true that we cannot give to ourselves a handsome mien, nor add one cubit to our stature; nevertheless, it is equally true—and of none more true than young men—that we can do much to promote our health, to build up our constitution, and even to give dignity to our physical presence. Given a smart and gentlemanly exterior, a young man's chances of preferment are decidedly greater, and the axiom generally holds good that, as a man is, even in outward physique, so is his success and strength.
II. Take it in another way: as a man is intellectually, so is his strength. I use the word 'strength' here as meaning power of work, capacity for accomplishing the ends of life, and making the world the better for his existence. You want to have your eyes open and your wits awake; to be sharp, and ready, and active. The quick-witted Jack will generally have the advantage over the slow-witted giant. The commerce of England is not indeed in the hands of scholars; but it is, for the most part, in the hands of shrewd, clear-headed practical men, who understand their business, and know how to push it. Thus intellect becomes an equivalent of strength, mind means money.
III. This old adage admits of a yet higher application. Indeed, in no sense is it more widely and markedly true than this; as a man is morally and spiritually, so is his strength. Character and faith, more than anything else, determine your power of overcoming difficulty and of accomplishing good. This is the sure gauge of your personal force in society and in the world. Without a moral backbone you may as well be a jelly-fish, for any real, solid good you will accomplish. There must be a foundation of stern principle, or you will be weak as water. A man with a resolute conscience will always be a power.
—J. Thain Davidson, The City Youth, p. 68.
Writing to Mr. Cotton, a Boston minister, in 1651, Cromwell, after recounting the Puritan successes, adds significantly: 'We need your prayers in this as much as ever. How shall we behave ourselves after such mercies?'
In his account of a Mr. Rowlandson, the old, avaricious, and intemperate curate of Grasmere, Wordsworth describes how 'one summer's morning, after a night's carouse in the vale of Langdale, on his return home, having reached a point near which the whole of the vale of Grasmere might be seen with the lake immediately below him, he stepped aside and sat down on the turf. After looking for some time at the landscape, then in the perfection of its morning beauty, he exclaimed—"Good God! that I should have led so long a life in such a place!" This, no doubt, was deeply felt by him at the time, but I am not authorized to say that any noticeable amendment followed.'
A man would wonder to heare Men Professe, Protest, Engage, Give Great Wordes, and then Doe just as they have Done before.
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?
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.
And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.
And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?
And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.
And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.
And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.
And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure.
And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.
And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,
And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.
And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary?
And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.
And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.
And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.
And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.
Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks.
Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.
And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)
And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.
And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.
Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.
And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.
And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.
And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:
Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.