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.
I. Faintness comes to the body by long travel. These men had come a considerable distance, and distance will vanquish the strongest in the end, if there is not adequate renewal of the strength by food and rest.
It is so with the soul. There is a mysterious spending of its substance and vitality day by day in thought, emotion, will, effort. And if, through long travel, the waste is more than the recruiting, then comes faintness. God takes forty, fifty, sixty years for the ripening of one soul. He takes seven, three, or only one for the perfecting of another. No man can measure God's work clearly in the soul of another, or even in his own.
II. Faintness comes to the body by rapid movement. These men had come fast as well as far. All earnest natures tend to go by rapid movements, and are in consequence subject to sudden exhaustion. The fainting is the natural fruit of the effort.
III. Faintness comes to the body by the difficulty of the ground that has been trodden, or of the work that has been done. Some Christians go to heaven by the way of the plain, and some by the mountain roads. The mountain men are often faint, and hardly "pursuing."
IV. Faintness comes to the body through lack of sustenance. The soul, like the body, will faint if it is famished. Jesus feeds His flock like a shepherd.
V. Faintness may come to the body by sickness, by disease.
The soul sickens and grows faint when in any way, in any place, it inhales the poison of sin.
The grand word of the text is "pursuing." To pursue in weakness is even better, in some senses, than to pursue in strength. It shows that the life-purpose has taken full possession of the soul, and that God Himself is inspiring it.
A. Raleigh, Quiet Resting Places, p. 163.
References: Jdg 8:4.—J. Baldwin Brown, The Higher Life, p. 288; E. J. Hardy, Faint yet Pursuing, p. 31; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation; 1st series, p. 83; Parker, vol. vi., p. 165. Jdg 8:12, Jdg 8:17.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 391. Jdg 8:20.—Parker, vol. vi., p. 165; Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 80. Jdg 8:28.—Homiletic Quarterly vol. iv., p. 393.
Jdg 8:21The purport of these words is not obscure. The desert chieftains meant that, since they must die, they would rather fall by the hand of a strong man and a great commander such as Gideon, than by the hand of a mere stripling like his son; and that, first, because his stout arm would be more likely to despatch them quickly, and save them from a lingering and painful death; and secondly, because such an end would be less ignominious. Like many a wise saw of the olden time, 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. Gideon belonged to the order of nature's nobility. He was a man of splendid figure and bearing, of a tall and commanding presence. Whatever work he undertook, he would do with thoroughness and effect. Although it is true that men cannot give to themselves a handsome mien, or add one cubit to their stature, it is equally true that they can do much to promote their health, to build up their constitution, and even to give dignity to their physical presence. The axiom generally holds good that as the 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. In real power of work the skilled artisan leaves the mere labourer far behind, and the thoughtful clerk the mere mechanical penman; so that as a man is in intelligence, so is his strength.
III. 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. There must be a foundation of stern principle, or you will be as weak as water. A man with a resolute conscience will always be a power. There is no strength in the world like the strength imparted by a faith which lays hold of the risen and all-sufficient Redeemer.
J. Thain Davidson, The City Youth, p. 69.
References: Jdg 8:21.—E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 264. Jdg 8:22-35; Jdg 8:9—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 303.
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.