Judges 8:2
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?
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(2) What have I done now in comparison of you?—Since Gideon was by no means a man of very placable and pacific disposition, we see the strong and noble self-control which this answer manifests. He was not in a condition, even had he wished it, to humble the fierce jealousy of this kindred tribe, as the more independent Jephthah, who was not so closely bound to them, did not scruple to do. He remembered that Zebah and Zalmunna were still safe; the Midianites were as yet by no means finally crushed. Patriotism as well as right feeling demanded that at such a moment there should be no civil discord.

Is not the gleaning . . .?—The answer has a proverbial sound. (Comp. Deuteronomy 24:21.) It here implies that Ephraim, by a mere subsequent and secondary effort, had achieved more (as yet) than Gideon himself had done, or perhaps that the two bloody heads which were their “gleaning” were better than the “vintage” of obscure thousands. In admitting this, in waiving all self-assertion, Gideon was setting an example of the spirit which is content to suffer wrong, and to take less than its proper due (elassousthai, Time. i. 77). Nor was there any irony or wilful sacrifice of truth in his remark, for there can be no doubt that the Ephraimites had wrought a splendid victory (Isaiah 10:26). The Chaldee renders it, “Are not the weak of the house of Ephraim better than the strong of the house of Abiezer?”

Jdg 8:2. What have I done now? &c. — What I have done in cutting off some of the common soldiers is not to be compared with your destroying their princes. I began the war, but you have finished it. Gideon here shows a noble temper of mind, which deserves admiration and imitation. Though in the midst of a most glorious victory, in which he was the chief instrument; yet, for the sake of the common good, that there might be no dissension, nor the help of the Ephraimites be wanting to distress the enemy, he receives their reproaches without anger, and even humbles himself before them, making himself of no account in comparison with them, and magnifying their service as greatly superior to his own. He disarms their insolence by his humility; their anger by his meekness; “a singular instance,” says Dr. Dodd, “of modesty and prudence in a man of Gideon’s courage.” Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim — What you have gleaned, or done after me; better than the vintage of Abi-ezer? — That is, of the Abi-ezrites, to whom he modestly ascribes the honour of the victory, and does not arrogate it to himself. It is not improbable but this might be a proverbial expression in those days, whereby it was customary to commend the smallest action of one as superior to the greatest of another. And the proverb, perhaps, was founded on fact, namely, that more grapes were usually gleaned in the large and extensive country occupied by the Ephramites, than the whole vintage of the small district belonging to Abi-ezer afforded. Be this as it will, the proverb is here applied with all the propriety imaginable, and its meaning is obvious. It is as if he had said, These scattered parties which you have gleaned and picked up at the fords of Jordan are much more considerable than those which I and my whole host have destroyed.

8:1-3 Those who will not attempt or venture any thing in the cause of God, will be the most ready to censure and quarrel with such as are of a more zealous and enterprising spirit. And those who are the most backward to difficult services, will be the most angry not to have the credit of them. Gideon stands here as a great example of self-denial; and shows us that envy is best removed by humility. The Ephraimites had given vent to their passion in very wrong freedom of speech, a certain sign of a weak cause: reason runs low when chiding flies high.A civil war with the great tribe of Ephraim would soon have turned Israel's victory into mourning. Gideon therefore soothes their wounded pride by confessing that Ephraim had done more, though they had joined him so late in the day, than he had been able to effect in the whole campaign. The grape-gleaning of Ephraim was better than the whole vintage of Abi-ezer. 2, 3. he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you?—His mild and truly modest answer breathes the spirit of a great as well as good man, who was calm, collected, and self-possessed in the midst of most exciting scenes. It succeeded in throwing oil on the troubled waters (Pr 16:1), and no wonder, for in the height of generous self-denial, it ascribes to his querulous brethren a greater share of merit and glory than belonged to himself (1Co 13:4; Php 2:3). What was done was done by God’s immediate making them one to kill another; what I have done, in cutting off some of the fugitive common soldiers, is not to be compared with your exploit in destroying their princes; I began the war, but you have finished.

The gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim; what you have gleaned or done after me.

Of Abi-ezer, i.e. of the Abi-ezrites, to whom he modestly communicateth the honour of the victory, and doth not arrogate it to himself, as generals commonly do.

And he said unto them,.... In a very mild and gentle manner, giving soft words, which turn away wrath:

what have I done in comparison of you? he and his men, he signifies, had only blew trumpets, broke pitchers, and held torches; it was the Lord that did all, and set the Midianites one against another to slay each other; and in the pursuit as yet he had only picked up and slain some common soldiers, they had taken two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and had brought their heads in triumph to him:

is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? the family of Abiezer, of which Gideon was; the meaning is, that whereas he began the fight, which may be called the vintage, and they had finished it, which was like gleaning; yet what they did last was much preferable to what was done by him at first; or the princes of Midian, which they had taken in the pursuit, and was like gleaning after a vintage, were equal, yea, superior to all the camp of Midian, or that part of it that had fallen into his hands. The Targum is,"are not the weak of the house of Ephraim better than the strong of the house of Abiezer?''

And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of {b} you? Is not the {c} gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?

(b) Who have slain two princes, Oreb and Zeeb.

(c) This last act of the whole tribe is more famous, than the whole enterprise of one man of one family.

2. Gideon, like his father (Jdg 6:31), had the ready wit to extricate himself from an awkward situation. For the gleaning of the grapes see Isaiah 17:6, Micah 7:1; the word is used of fruit, not of corn. Ephraim indeed arrived late upon the scene, but they had the glory of capturing the chiefs. Gideon speaks only of Abiezer, his own clansmen; the 300 warriors chosen from different tribes, Jdg 7:2-8, belong to another version of the story. Probably Jdg 8:3 was followed by Jdg 8:29 in the original narrative.

Verse 2. - What have I done, etc. Gideon's character comes out splendidly in this answer. Humble and unassuming (Judges 6:15, 36, note), and indisposed to glory, he was willing to give the Ephraimites full credit for their share in the great victory; prudent, and a lover of his country, he saw the immense importance of union among themselves, and the danger of intestine divisions and discord, and so at once met Ephraim's taunts by the soft answer which turneth away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). The grapes. The insertion of the word grapes, which is not in the Hebrew, rather spoils the proverb. It would run better, The gleaning of Ephraim is better than the vintage of Abi-ezer. The word vintage sufficiently shows that the gleaning meant was a gleaning of grapes. Ephraim, who came in at the end of the fight, like the gleaner when the vintage is finished, had got more glory by the capture of Oreb and Zeeb than the Manassites, who had gone through the whole campaign. The passage above referred to in Isaiah (Isaiah 10:25) implies that a great slaughter of the Midianites took place at the rock of Oreb.

CHAPTER 8:4-12 Judges 8:2When the Ephraimites met with Gideon, after they had smitten the Midianites at Oreb and Zeeb, and were pursuing them farther, they said to him, "What is the thing that thou hast done to us (i.e., what is the reason for your having done this to us), not to call us when thou wentest forth to make war upon Midian? And they did chide with him sharply," less from any dissatisfied longing for booty, than from injured pride or jealousy, because Gideon had made war upon the enemy and defeated them without the co-operation of this tribe, which was striving for the leadership. Gideon's reply especially suggests the idea of injured ambition: "What have I now done like you?" sc., as if I had done as great things as you. "Is not the gleaning of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?" The gleaning of Ephraim is the victory gained over the flying Midianites. Gideon declares this to be better than the vintage of Abiezer, i.e., the victory obtained by him the Abiezrite with his 300 men, because the Ephraimites had slain two Midianitish princes. The victory gained by the Ephraimites must indeed have been a very important one, as it is mentioned by Isaiah (Isaiah 10:26) as a great blow of the Lord upon Midian. "And what could I do like you?" i.e., could I accomplish such great deeds as you? "Then their anger turned away from him." רוּח, the breathing of the nose, snorting, hence "anger," as in Isaiah 25:4, etc.
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