Sunday, September 24, 2006
12:1-6 Ephraim Complains Again
12:1 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.” 2 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. 3 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?” 4 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.” 5 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,” 6 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.
After Gideon won his battle, the Ephraimites complained that Gideon did not call them until it was clean up time. See Judges 8:1. Gideon pacified them by telling them they had won the greater glory by capturing and killing the two kings. This time, however, Jephthah could not pacify them, possibly because he reminded them that he had indeed called them and they had not come. He gave credit to the Lord for the victory, but that did not satisfy them, either. This time there is a fight, but Jephthah defeated them, captured the fords of the Jordan so they could not return home, and killed 42,000 of them. This is the first civil war in Israel, but you can see that the tribes are not unified.
The judges were more local than national in their leadership and did not unite the whole nation behind them. In that sense, they provide a positive argument for a king that would rule the whole nation. Yet, that was not the pattern of the Lord’s leadership with them. The Lord first appointed Moses, who was a combination of judge, prophet and priest. Moses appointed leaders of the tribes in Deuteronomy 1:9-16, along with judges to settle disputes. Joshua took over that role until the conquest concluded. Then these tribal leaders, or elders and judges took over. God would raise up a judge who was a greater leader or military leader when necessary. Evidently, though, had Israel kept the covenant, there would have been no need for the military leader, as God would have protected them.
The last of the judges was Samuel, who operated as a priest and judge. When he got old, and his sons did not follow in his ways, the people demanded a king. The Lord told Samuel that their demand for a king was a rejection of the Lord as king over Israel. See 1 Samuel 8:7.
“Shibboleth” passed into English vocabulary as a test to see what side a person is on in a conflict.
12:7- 15 Jepthah and His Successors
7 Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead. 8 After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. 9 He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem. 11 After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. 13 After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.
Jepthah was the first in a series of judges who would only judge for short periods of time until the time of Samson.
These men judged Israel for 31 years, then 13:1 tells us Israel turned again to idolatry and suffered until the time of Samson, a period of 40 years.