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theophilus

A soft answer and a harsh word

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A soft answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

 

There will be times when others are angry at us. We can’t avoid this but we can choose how we respond to their anger. We can either give a soft answer, which will turn their wrath away, or we can respond with a harsh word, which will increase their anger. Two of the judges of Israel, Gideon and Jephthah, encountered the wrath of others in nearly identical circumstances but responded differently.

 

Gideon was a farmer. When he first appears in the Biblical account he is beating out wheat in a winepress to keep it hidden from the Midianite invaders of the land. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and told him he had been chosen to destroy the Midianites. He reluctantly accepted the assignment and after a successful war against the Midianites he encountered opposition from one of the other tribes of Israel, Ephraim.

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.

Judges 8:1 ESV

He gave a soft answer that turned away their wrath.​​​​​​​

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? God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.

Judges 8:2-3 ESV

Jephthah’s background was different from that of Gideon. He was the son of a prostitute and his father’s legitimate sons forced him to flee from Israel and go to the land of Tob, where he gathered a group of followers. When the Ammonites invaded Israel the elders of Gilead offered to make him their leader if he would deliver them. He succeeded in defeating the Ammonites and then faced the same problem with Ephraim that Gideon had faced earlier.

The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.”

Judges 12:1 ESV

​​​​​​​He didn’t respond the way Gideon did.

And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”

 

Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.”

 

And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?”

 

When he said, “No,” they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.

Judges 12:2-6 ESV

Jephthah delivered Israel from the Ammonites but he also engaged in a civil war that led to the death of 42,000 Isrealites. We aren’t told how man Ammonites he killed but it is quite possible that the total number was less than 42,000. He might have killed more of his fellow Israelites than he did enemies of Israel.

 

One thing that puzzles me about this whole affair is why the Ephraimites acted the way they did. If they wanted to fight the enemies of Israel why didn’t they just attack them rather than waiting for someone else to call them to battle?​​​​​

​​​​​​​

 

 

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A big thing about battle back then was the spoils of war, greed basically. Read it with th at context, that those who won battles rook all the spoils of the enemy.

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A soft answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

 

 

Thank you for this lesson. It's quite applicable to what's been on my mind in the last half hour. I'm new to the forum, and as I browse, I notice there are a lot of "harsh words," even and especially among believers. (It could be just that I'm super sensitive, and I just got here, after all!)

 

During my time here, I want to thoughtfully express things, even disagree, by asking questions and seeking to understand. I can be a hothead too, so it's going to require some discipline!

 

One thing that puzzles me about this whole affair is why the Ephraimites acted the way they did. If they wanted to fight the enemies of Israel why didn’t they just attack them rather than waiting for someone else to call them to battle?​​​​​

​​​​

 

I guess my thought would be that in chapter 6, God sent Gideon to lead the army. It would have been inappropriate for Ephraim to decide to barge in on their own, when they already had a leader. Maybe they were expecting to be asked?

 

Not understanding God's ways, the Ephraimites may have been offended that Gideon ended up only "needing" 300 men in chapter 7, and the Ephraimites were not needed. They were itching for a fight, and they didn't get it. And not being asked for help may have been a blow to their ego.

 

Good word! Thanks!

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Just like to point out that God does use other methods. For example, 1 Kings 18:25-27 Elijah mocked the false prophets. Personally, this is an obstacle for me on this board, I juggle the extremes at times, showing too much patience according to some when someone refuses to acknowledge 2+2=4, but rather insists on spreading 2+2=7. How much respect can we have for falsehood, and when are other methods proper in consideration of timing and audience. At other times I may ban someone too fast, it has happened, once they fit "the profile" of a problematic user I have hastily banned them before they really started sprinting.

 

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

 

Just acknowledging my shortcomings, because at the moment I am disappointed that I had to drop the ban hammer. It doesn't feel good. Especially when we as staff are praying for an individual. Just remember, the staff has a different perspective on membership, which is open to young Christians under 13 years of age.

 

God bless,

William

 

P.S. I really hope people don't start mocking everyone deliberately now.

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Just like to point out that God does use other methods. For example, 1 Kings 18:25-27 Elijah mocked the false prophets. Personally, this is an obstacle for me on this board, I juggle the extremes at times, showing too much patience according to some when someone refuses to acknowledge 2+2=4, but rather insists on spreading 2+2=7. How much respect can we have for falsehood, and when are other methods proper in consideration of timing and audience. At other times I may ban someone too fast, it has happened, once they fit "the profile" of a problematic user I have hastily banned them before they really started sprinting.

 

 

You do have a point there. It's tough, because in my experience, mocking hasn't been the way to convince other people to join "my side" (or rather, "God's side!")

 

I remember having an online discussion with someone who believed abortion was fine. I was very calm and respectful but quite firm. He linked me to a video that said, "Anyone who believes abortion is wrong is a ------- idiot." At that point, I laughed - because if he was really interesting in convincing me, name-calling wasn't the way to do it!

 

I guess this is kind of opening another discussion though! And I acknowledge that as staff, you have difficult decisions to make about members, especially when you're trying to figure out if someone is trolling or not!

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You do have a point there. It's tough, because in my experience, mocking hasn't been the way to convince other people to join "my side" (or rather, "God's side!")

 

I remember having an online discussion with someone who believed abortion was fine. I was very calm and respectful but quite firm. He linked me to a video that said, "Anyone who believes abortion is wrong is a ------- idiot." At that point, I laughed - because if he was really interesting in convincing me, name-calling wasn't the way to do it!

 

I guess this is kind of opening another discussion though! And I acknowledge that as staff, you have difficult decisions to make about members, especially when you're trying to figure out if someone is trolling or not!

 

I try to avoid the Ad hom attacks. Generally, they come across to me as someone provoking an emotional response to find fault, which is easier than dealing with Scripture, Reasoning, Logic, etc.

 

God bless,

William

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