Now, the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and they went northward, and said to Jephthah, How come you passed over to fight against the children of Ammon, and you didn’t call us to go with you? We’re going to burn your house with fire (27:1).
Now, these guys from Ephraim are an interesting group. When Gideon was fighting against the Midianites, only after he had wiped them out and had them on the run, did the men of Ephraim join in the battle. They happened to catch and kill the two chiefs of the Midianites, Zeeb and Zalmonah. Then, after the battle of the Midianites was over, they came to Gideon and said “What’s the big idea not calling us to help you! We’re going to get you, man!” Gideon responded “Come on, guys! What have I done, compared to what you did? Wow! You captured the kings, while all I did was wipe out 135,000 of the army.” He used the allegory, “Is not the gleanings of Ephriam better than the vintage of Gideon?” The vintage is the full harvest of Gideon, and the gleanings are the grapes that are left over after the harvest. They harvest the grape crop and, after they have done so, all the little clumps of grapes that they miss when they’re picking, are the leftovers, the gleanings. So, what these guys from Ephriam have are the gleanings, worth more than the whole harvest of Gideon. This appeased the guy. Gideon used his keen diplomacy to calm the situation. Jephthah was a bandit, he was tough, and he didn’t take anything from anybody! The men of Ephriam came they come to him and try the same old trick. “Why didn’t you call us? Why did you go fight without us? We’re gonna burn your house!” This time, they were dealing with a whole different type.
He said, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and I called for your help, but you didn’t deliver me. And when I saw that you would not respond, I put my life in my hands, and I passed over against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivered them into my hand: wherefore are you come this day to fight against me (12:2-3)?
He says “I called for your help, but you didn’t show up!” He stands up to these guys, gets right back in their faces. Gideon appeased them, but this guy stands up to them. “Hey! I called for your help. You didn’t come. You didn’t deliver me, so I put my life in great jeopardy. I went against them without your help, and the Lord delivered them. Now, why have you come to fight against me?”
And Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, among the Manassites (12:4).
So, they came over, and they were rude and crude, and they were calling them a bunch of fugitives. So, the Gileadites smote Ephraim, and the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan, which is the area where the Jordan was crossable. When the Ephraimites, who had escaped, came to these passages, the men of Gilead were there guarding them, and they said:
Let us cross over to Jordan, and they said, Are you an Ephramite? And if they said no, then they said unto him, Say Shibboleth: and the fellows would answer Sibboleth: for they could not frame the word to pronounce it right (12:5-6).
Evidently, these guys had definite accents. Depending on what country, or even what part of a county, a person comes from, folks develop a certain way of speaking. From those accents, you can sometimes determine where they are from. In Spanish, many of the words with the “rr”, require that you trill your tongue to pronounce the word correctly. I can’t do that, so I would be easy to find out, simply by asking me to say a word that requires the trill. The same was evidently true of these Ephramites.
The Ephramites could not pronounce the “sh” sound. It’s interesting that when they came over, they were harassing these guys about being half-breeds, fugitives from Ephriam. They were bragging about their own tribe, Ephriam. Now that they are trying to get back, they are denying that they are Ephriamites. As they meet them at the river they ask if they are from Ephriam and, if they deny it, they ask them to pronounce this word. If they cannot say it correctly, they are slain.
They took him, and killed him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell that time of the tribe of Ephriam, about forty thousand men. [42,000] And Jephthah judged Israel for six years.
Then Jephthah the Gileadite died, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead (12:6-7).
Many scholars, believe that his deep grief over his daughter shortened his life. They are most likely correct. He spoke of being bowed down by the grief that he felt for his daughter. A six year reign is extremely short for a judge. When he died, he was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.
So after him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters, so he sent his daughters out to marry those from abroad, and he took thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. He judged Israel for only seven years. He died and was buried at Bethlehem.
This guy sent his daughters abroad to marry foreign princes, and he brought in foreign princesses to marry his sons. This is still practiced today, among royalty.
It is important to notice that the judges come from various tribes. There is no ruling tribe, just men from various tribes are chosen to judge Israel.
And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; he judged Israel for ten years. Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijahlon in the country of Zebulun.
This is not the Aijahlon of Joshua’s fame, where God threw the rocks at their enemies. It is a different Aijahlon.
And after him Abdon the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, judged Israel. And he had forty sons and thirty grandsons that rode on seventy ass colts: and he judged Israel for eight years.
Abdon the son of Hillel died, and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites (12:8-15).
In summary of this information, there was a quick succession of judges, one for six years, then seven years, ten years, and eight years, all short reigns. Then, we come to the fascinating story of Samson. Samson was the thirteenth judge of Israel, and is a most interesting character study.
One expression, which caught my attention, was from Jephthah, when he said “I’ve opened my mouth before the Lord, and I cannot go back.” I like to think of the fact that we, as Christians, have opened our mouths before the Lord. We have confessed Him to be our Savior, confessed Him to be our Lord, confessed our love for Him. So, having opened our mouths before the Lord, we cannot go back. I cannot go back into the life of sin. I cannot go back into the life of self-centeredness. I belong to Him forever. “I have opened my mouth before the Lord, I cannot go back.”
I pray that each of us have made that confession, and that each of us will not go back. We all need to go forth serving the Lord. We all need to commit to show by our actions, by a
life of commitment, and by our love for Him. We all need to commit daily worship of the Lord, to constantly praying to the Lord, and that we do not neglect family fellowship.
We all need to make a diligent effort to spend time expressing our love for the Lord, by regular worship.