Chapter 12


Jephthah’s Conflict with Ephraim

        • The men of Ephraim were called together; they crossed over the Jordan River to Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, “Why didn’t you call us to go with you when you crossed over and fought the Ammonites? We’ll burn your house down with you inside!”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Ephraim once again felt neglected (cp 8:1-3) and sought revenge. In contrast to Gideon’s policy, Jephthah’s response blamed Ephraim and resulted in civil war.”

        • Jephthah replied, “My people and I had a big dispute with the Ammonites. I called you, but you didn’t save me from their hands, so I took my life in my own hands, crossed over to the Ammonites, and Yahweh handed them over to me. Why have you come to fight me today?”

          • Pulpit Commentary writes, “This incident is not mentioned in the previous narrative. Probably Jephthah asked the help of Ephraim when he was first made chief of the Gileadites, and they refused partly because they thought the attempt desperate, and partly because they were offended at Jephthah’s leadership.”

          • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, “The summons is not mentioned in ch. 11, but it may be implied in Jdg 11:29…”

        • Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and they fought and defeated Ephraim because they said, “You Gileadites are Ephraimite fugitives in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.” The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan River leading to Ephraim. Whenever a fugitive of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” they would say, “Then say Shibboleth.” And if he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce it correctly, then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “The Gileadites’ plan to identify Ephraimites involves a dialectical contrast between a ‘sh’ sound and an ‘s’ sound. This is a case of differentiation in the pronunciation of the same sibilant in different regions…Accordingly, whenever the Gileadites demanded that an Ephraimite say ‘Shibboleth’…he would have betrayed his origin by saying ‘Sibboleth.’ This event reflects and reinforces the significance of the Jordan River as a geographic and psychological barrier between eastern and western Israelites.”

        • Jephthah judged Israel for six years, and when he died, he was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.

        • HCSB notes that the LXX alternatively renders the last phrase as, “in his city in Gilead.”

Ibzan Becomes Israel’s Judge

        • After him, Ibzan from Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his 3 daughters in marriage to men outside of his family, and he brought in thirty women from outside his family for his sons. He judged Israel for seven years, and when he died, he was buried in Bethlehem.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “If this was the northern Bethlehem located in Zebulun (see…Joshua 13:1-21:45), it can be understood as part of the structure of Judges, in which each of the tribes supplies one of the twelve judges.”

Elon Becomes Israel’s Judge

        • After him, Elon, who was from Zebulun, judged Israel for ten years. When he died, he was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.

Abdon Becomes Israel’s Judge

        • After him, Abdon, the son of Hillel who was from Pirathon, judged Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He judged for eight years, and when he died, he was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.

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