Many people consider Gideon a hero. He was a hero, except for the fact he ended his career by causing Israel to go whoring after a golden ephod (see the Bible verses in Judges 8:27). We could stop and ask why so many good men in the Bible finished their lives poorly. At least the land had forty years of rest, despite the snare Gideon put in Israel’s way.
Gideon was one of the judges in Israel. God used him to deliver the people and win major battles. As a leader, he exemplified boldness, courage and assertiveness in ways that can instruct us all.
Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, so God sent Midian to afflict Israel for seven years. When the time came to set the people free, God raised up Gideon to cast off the forces of Midian. After confirming the will of God with a fleece, Gideon raised an army and set out to defeat the Midianites.
The soldiers of Midian were like locusts, swarming about the land. For years, Israel lived in fear of Midian. The people had to hide in caves because the Midianites would kill the Israelites on sight. The Midianites would steal crops whenever the Israelites tried to grow food.
Gideon had 32,000 men to fight against Midian, but God said the army was too big. Gideon first sent 22,000 fearful and trembling soldiers home. Out of the remaining 10,000, God chose 300 men who lapped when they drank water. The rest went home.
To make a long story short, God gave Gideon and his 300 men a major victory. Most people recognize the victory God gave Gideon over the Midianites as one of the great victories of the Bible.
When Gideon returned home after liberating Israel, they had ticker tape parades. They were, no doubt, shouting with joy. They gave high fives, chest bumps and knuckle touches. Some did cartwheels. This was a great victory. The people were free.
Everyone was happy except Ephraim. They acted like someone had urinated on their corn flakes. They were not happy campers. They wanted help win the victory, but they weren’t allowed. They wanted to take part in the battle, but Gideon had sent their sorry tails home.
That’s right. The men of Ephraim either didn’t join the army, were fearful and trembling, or failed to lap when they drank water.
Jdg 8:1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely.
Lessons in leadership
Gideon, high from the victory, could have told the men of Ephraim to stifle. He could have ridiculed them for their failure to qualify for the élite company that fought the battle and won. Gideon could have told the men of Ephraim how utterly pathetic, sorry and disgraceful they were. They should shut up and go home. Stinkin’ party poopers.
Israel was free and Ephraim was pouting and not shouting.
Seek to understand before being understood
Gideon took the time to understand the complaint the men of Ephraim had. They were left out. They felt ignored. Like a youth baseball team, the coach chose his favorites to get all the glory, but left the rest of the team sitting on the bench. Gideon showed leadership by listening to – and understanding – the complaint against him.
Everyone likes being a part of success
Gideon knew that human nature wants to take part in success. After all, Ephraim was just as good as any other part of the team, so why couldn’t Ephraim play too? Gideon understood human nature.
The wise response of a leader
Gideon could have jumped all over the men of Ephraim. He could have told them how low-down and sorry they were. He could have told them to shut up and leave the country if they didn’t like the way he operated. He could have mocked them in front of the rest of the nation.
The situation could have gotten out of hand. Civil war could have erupted with Gideon putting down Ephraim by force.
Instead of berating Ephraim, Gideon chose to highlight the great contributions Ephraim had made to the cause. Compared to Gideon, Ephraim had done much more to bring liberty to Israel.
What have I been able to do in comparison with you?
Humility, respect and empowerment
In these Bible verses, the men of Ephraim fiercely argued with Gideon, yet Gideon kept his cool. He diffused a tough situation by showing humility and respect. He held up Ephraim’s accomplishments as better than his own.
Rather than fighting with Ephraim, Gideon effected peace. Rather than having division, Gideon brought unity.
True leaders will us a little understanding, patience, humility and respect to keep the team together so everyone can enjoy important victories. Wherever you have a leadership role, remember to use this Truth in the Word to help you and your team succeed.