Summary: A study of the book of Judges chapter 12

Judges 12: 1 – 15

We’ll Murda Da Bums

The Ephraimite forces were called out, and they crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over your head.” 2 Jephthah answered, “I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn’t save me out of their hands. 3 When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?” 4 Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh. ” 5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he replied, “No,” 6 they said, “All right, say ‘Shibboleth.’” If he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. 7 Jephthah led Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in a town in Gilead. 8 After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. 9 He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters away in marriage to those outside his clan, and for his sons he brought in thirty young women as wives from outside his clan. Ibzan led Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem. 11 After him, Elon the Zebulunite led Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. 13 After him, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon son of Hillel died and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.

If you remember our last study we were talking about a man who was cast off by the Jewish society because he was not a blue chipper. This chapter relates a quarrel between Jephthah and the Ephraimites, who gave him a hard time after the war was fought and won, which was fatal to the latter; the period of Jephthah’s judging of Israel; his death and burial, and then briefly makes reference to three more judges of Israel, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon.

There are a few things that really upset me. It really bothers me when I get some heroes after the fact, who wish they were present when a serious confrontation occurred. I’ll give you an example. One day, this man who was not to mentally stable attacked me after a service. After the dust had cleared and the man restrained and taken away, I get approached by all these tough guys after the fact, who informed me that they wish that they were there when the incident happened. They would have jumped in to my rescue. I think there remarks on how brave they would have been made me more upset then the poor crazy guy. Has anything like this happened to you?

We are going to read about a similar incident here today with Jephthah and the Ephraimites. Jephthah and the brave men who were with him defeated the Ammonites. Then after the fact the great heroes from the tribe of Ephraim come and are upset that they weren’t the heroes.

‘And the men of Ephraim were gathered together, and went northward, and said to Jephthah, “Why did you pass over to fight against the children of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house on you with fire.” ’

Next to Judah, Ephraim was the largest and strongest tribe in the confederacy. And they were jealous for their position of leadership. While not always fully responding to the call to arms, as seemingly happened in this case, once victory had been achieved they tended to be affronted that they had had no part in it.

It seems here also that they did not like the rise of a strong tribal group in Gilead which might usurp their position. Thus they decided to act on a pretext in order to exert their authority and superiority. Gathering a large army of about fifty military units they crossed the Jordan and moved northward towards Mizpah. It was civil war in the tribal confederacy. They no doubt hoped that Gilead had been weakened by their war against Ammon, and were certain that this Jephthah would prove no match for them.

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