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Bible Commentaries
Judges 12

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7

Judges - Chapter 12

Jephthah and the Ephraimites, vs. 1-7

The jealous pride of Ephraim again raises it ugly head, and this time much to the disaster of the Ephraimites. Jephthah was a diplomat, but he had no time for fools. Perhaps his leniency was limited by his own sorrow too, in the loss of his beloved daughter through his careless oath. The Ephraimites gathered themselves in force, several thousand in fact, and accosted Jephraimites gathered themselves in force, several thousand in fact, and accosted Jephthah that he would so slight them as not to send for their help against the Ammonites. They felt their ability to punish Jephthah for such a slight and even threatened to burn down his house on him.

Jephthah protested to them that the people of Gilead had been in terrible trouble with the Ammonites and had sought for help and leadership. When none was forthcoming, Jephthah had assumed the responsibility, and the Lord had delivered the enemy into his hands. It appeared that the bravado of the Ephraimites was only apparent when there was someone to take the initiative. There was no reason that the Ephraimites should come with an army to fight the Gileadites.

But Jephthah was compelled to gather his Gileadites and fight the Ephraimites. This the Gileadites were more ready to do because of the slanderous charge the Ephraimites made against them, that they were all a band of fugitives who had run away from obligations in the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh on the west of Jordan Doubtless there had been some of these in Gideon’s band of freebooters, but it was not true of the Gileadites generally. This resentment was so pronounced that the Gileadite army was inspired to fight the more earnestly.

As a result the Ephraimites were soundly defeated. As they were fleeing back across the Jordan, the Gileadites took possession-of the fords and slaughtered them. When a fugitive from the battle came to the river desiring to cross he was tested. He was asked to pronounce "Shibboleth," whereupon the Ephraimite would say "Sibboleth, because Ephraimites could not pronounce the sh sound. If the person desiring to cross the river was proved an Ephraimite he was put to the sword. When the day ended the Ephraimites had lost a total of 42,000 men, (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Jephthah’s was the shortest judgeship recorded, lasting only six years. He died and was buried in Gilead.

Verses 8-15

Three Minor Judges, vs. 8-15

One might wonder why the Lord inspired a record of these minor judges whose claim to fame seems to be so slight. They do not seem to have led Israel in great campaigns like so many others against enemies. Nor is any outstanding feat of any kind recorded for them. It may be that this is a mark of greater service by them than are the deeds of those who led military exploits. May it not be that the faith and leadership of these relatively unknown men was such that Israel kept closer to the Lord and was not dominated by an enemy. If so, and such certainly appears likely, they may be the "major" judges rather than those about whom much more is recorded, (Acts 15:18).

All these judges were from the northern tribes. The Bethlehem from which Ibzan hailed was in the tribe of Zebulun. He was a prominent man and judged seven years. His prosperity is evident from the size of his family, which consisted of thirty sons and thirty daughters, and from the fact he was able to secure girls from other tribes as brides for his sons.

Elon was also from the tribe of Zebulun. He judged ten years and was buried at Aijalon, famous as the place over which Joshua asked that the moon be made to stand while he finished the battle against the Canaanites (Joshua 10:12). This city was not in Zebulun, but near the border of Dan and Ephraim. It is not known why he was buried there.

Abdon was from the city of Pirathon, in the tribe of Ephraim, not far from the city of Shechem westward. His forty sons and thirty nephews (or grandsons, as the Hebrew should have been translated) were a band of seventy young men who must have been prominently known as they rode about the country together on their ass colts. Abdon was a very prominent man of his tribe, and was the son of a prominent man, Hillel. He judged for eight years. The twenty-five years of combined judgeship by these three men were evidently years of peace and prosperity for Israel.

The chief lesson of this chapter is well summed up in the words of Proverbs 16:18, which reads, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Nowhere in the Bible, probably, is this truth more wholly illustrated than here. We see again, also, that the Lord uses men in many ways which may not be spectacular, but they fulfill the responsibility He has given them nevertheless, as in the cases of lbzan, Elon, and Abdon.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Judges 12". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/judges-12.html. 1985.
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