Proverbs 18:21 tells us “Death and life are in the power of the tongue; And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
In our text verses, we meet with four characters: Gideon and the Ephraimites, and Jephthah and the Ephraimites, and a very similar situation. With each situation, we can see them being handled in different ways and with very different results.
Situation #1 – The Disclosure
Verse #1: The men of Ephraim were offended because Gideon did not ask for their help with their battle against the Midianites; they felt offended
Verse #2: The humility, wisdom, and grace Gideon uses to extinguish the situation before it broke out into a flame of fatal consequences
Verse #3: Gideon gives God the glory for the victory while giving the Ephraimites the preeminence of the victory instead of himself (Judges 7:23-25)
Situation #2 – the Dialogue
Verse #1: The men of Ephraim confront Jephthah, as they had Gideon, about not being able to go to war with the Ammonites. Pay attention to the attitude of the Ephraimites: “we will burn thine house upon thee with fire.”
Note: a brief history of Ephraim and Manasseh:
Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph. He had these boys while living in Egypt where he had brought the remainder of his family: a sick father and all of his brothers. Manasseh being the oldest and Ephraim the younger. Before the death of their grandfather Israel (Jacob), Joseph brought his two sons to him that he might pronounce a blessing upon them before he dies. Joseph puts Manasseh to the right hand of Jacob and Ephraim to his left. But Jacob crossed his hands where the younger, Ephraim, would be to his right and Manasseh to his left. Joseph, displeased with the switching of his father’s hand upon his sons, wanted the older son, Manasseh, to receive the greater blessing. With Ephraim having the preeminence in Jacob’s blessing and in Moses, therefore there was jealousy.
Gideon and Jephthah are both of the tribe of Manasseh. Gideon and Ephraim are on the same side of Jordan. While Jephthah is on the other side of Jordan in East Manasseh.
Verse #2: The Response of Jephthah:
I called for you and you did not come. My life and the life of my people were at stake and we did not have time to wait around.
Verse #3: The Question:
“Wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me?”
Verse #4: The Result, or Outcome:
“Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim” (name calling)
What does the Bible have to say about the tongue? James 3:2-13
(Proverbs 16:32) “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”
(Proverbs 18:19) “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
(Proverbs 15:1) “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
(Psalms 39:1) “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.”
Conclusion: If you ever find yourself in what is called a “crucial conversation,” as a child of God, let us follow the example of Gideon and take on a spirit of humility. We are to love one another and to build one another up, and not bite and devour one another. We are to esteem others better than ourselves and do good, especially to those who are of the household of faith.