Judges 8:2 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 8:2, NIV: But he answered them, 'What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren't the gleanings of Ephraim's grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer?

Judges 8:2, ESV: And 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 grape harvest of Abiezer?

Judges 8:2, KJV: 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?

Judges 8:2, NASB: But he said to them, 'What have I done now in comparison with you? Is the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim not better than the vintage of Abiezer?

Judges 8:2, NLT: But Gideon replied, 'What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren't even the leftover grapes of Ephraim's harvest better than the entire crop of my little clan of Abiezer?

Judges 8:2, CSB: So he said to them, "What have I done now compared to you? Is not the gleaning of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer?

What does Judges 8:2 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The men of Ephraim are confronting Gideon. Instead of celebrating their great victory over the Midianites, the Ephraimites are angry. In their view, Gideon called on them to help only at the last minute, when there was no other option. Their questions are really accusations: why did he do this to them? It's possible they thought Gideon was trying to keep them from sharing in the spoils of the battle.

Gideon's answer reveals something about him. He doesn't do what one might expect: telling the men of Ephraim the story of how God allowed him only 300 men for the initial attack. Nor does he point out that God had given them the victory. Instead, he speaks like a seasoned diplomat. The positive interpretation of this is that Gideon chooses a soft answer to dial down the anger of the Ephraimites (Proverbs 15:1). A more cynical impression is that he deftly uses flattery and distraction to get out of this confrontation.

He begins by emphasizing the role played by the men of Ephraim to this point. He downplays his own success, implying their accomplishments are greater. To hear Gideon tell it, the glory for the battle is theirs, and he was merely a small player. From that perspective, they were the real heroes. Whether one feels this is entirely honest is subject to debate, but the tactic is effective.

Next, Gideon compares the reputation of his tribe to that of the people of Ephraim. His statement is not literally about grapes, or harvests. The implication is that Israel already perceives which clan is "better," so these men don't need to worry about their image. They're already a respected clan, and no one in Israel would put Gideon over them. This part of the conversation is pure flattery, which also seems to ease the tension.