A GENTLE RESPONSE turns away ANGER…ALWAYS! : Now the men of Ephraim said to him, "Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?" And they reprimanded him sharply. So he said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that." (Judges 8:1-3)
It is interesting to observe that usually when we do some extraordinary feat/work/achievement that is unparalleled and worthy of adulation, there is somebody somewhere who gets upset about this due to some reason that they alone know. In the case of Gideon, he had surfaced out of his hiding place in his winepress (6:11) to be a champion leader for the Israelites and had completely destroyed the combined armed forces of the Midianites, Amalekites and all the people of the East that were so many as the sand in the sea shore (7:12) with just 300 men (7:8). Now as Gideon and his victorious army were returning back from their astounding victory, they were suddenly confronted with a verbal assault from the men of Ephraim.
The men of Ephraim came up to Gideon with an unbelievable complaint that they had been left out of this potential victory as they had been called out late (v. 1). They may have wanted to take credit of this victory as well. Probably the men of Ephraim were really angry because they were sent to guard the fords and missed the looting of the Midianite camp. Although the men of Ephraim were looking for trouble, Gideon kept his cool demeanor!
Whatever fear Gideon may have felt prior to the battle with the Midianites, he displayed shrewd political instincts when he dealt with the men of Ephraim. His reference to gleaning after a quality harvest was designed to soothe the resentment of the men of Ephraim that they had not been mustered for the main battle, but only given the mop-up operation (7:24–8:1). He reminded them that they were not under the oppression of the Midianites as severely as the people of Abiezer, his hometown. Further, he also reminded them that their capture of the two princes was more illustrious than anything he had done. Through his ‘soft answer’ he appeased their anger and avoided an unnecessary conflict with one of Israel’s strongest tribes.
Gideon is a classic example of the ‘soft answer’ that brings peace. Likewise, the response of Naaman's servant to his angry words (2 Kings 5:11, 12) turned away his anger and directed him to follow good advice. Other good examples from scripture are: Jacob with Esau (Gen. 32: 33), Aaron with Moses (Lev. 10:16-20), the Reubenites with their brethren (Josh. 22:15-34), David with Saul (1 Sam. 24:9-21), and Abigail with David (1 Sam. 25:24-31).
Let us remember that gentleness is the quality that trusts God to do the work of changing bad attitudes of people (see 1 Peter 3:15-17; 2 Tim. 2:24, 25). "(This) wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17). Such gentleness was displayed in the words and attitude of our Lord Jesus Christ, even during the most difficult of circumstances in His earthly life (see 1 Peter 2:21-23).
Next time when someone gets angry with us, even if it is not our fault, we can always end the matter peaceably by responding gently and kindly, rather than with our own anger in defense (see Prov. 12:16; 15:18; 29:22). Never forget that a gentle response turns away anger…always!