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Bible Commentaries
Judges 12

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-7

The Defeat of the Ephraimites

v. 1. And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together and went northward, or, marched Zaphon, a town in the tribe of Gad, on the eastern side of the Jordan Valley, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, to attack them in battle, and didst not call us to go with thee? It was not zeal for fighting the Lord's battles which prompted this outburst, but a presumptuous jealousy, because the Ephraimites had not shared in the booty and in the results of success. We will burn thine house upon thee with fire. It was the same overbearing pride which they had shown with Gideon, but tile threat which they added in this case showed that they were even more presumptuous at this time than before.

v. 2. And Jephthah, in an endeavor to make the situation clear to the arrogant meddlers, said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon, literally, "A man of war was I, I and my people, and the children of Ammon [on the other side] very"; he and his fellow-citizens were engaged in a severe struggle with the invaders; and when I called you, this fact being omitted in chapter 11, because it had been unsuccessful, ye delivered me not out of their hands. The Ephraimites had probably refused to take part in the campaign because Jephthah had been chosen leader without their consent.

v. 3. And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, he staked the most precious possession which he had, and passed over against the children of Ammon, in a bold attack upon their army, and the Lord delivered them into my hand; wherefore, then, are ye come unto me this day to fight against me? Although speaking in the name of all the Gileadites, he placed his own person in the foreground, because the enmity was directed chiefly against his person.

v. 4. Then Jephthah gathered together, mobilized for immediate military duty, all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim, not only in self-defense, but as the judge of the nation putting down rebellion with force of arms; and the men of Gilead, of the entire country east of Jordan, smote Ephraim because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites and among the Manassites, thus heaping upon them the insult that their army was really a pack of deserters, a set of fugitives, a bunch of dissatisfied loafers from west of Jordan, a statement which deeply affected their tribal honor.

v. 5. And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites, the fords which led to the country of Ephraim; and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped, who had not been killed in battle, said, Let me go over, that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? For they did not want to slay any innocent persons. If he said, Nay;

v. 6. then said they unto him, Say now shibboleth (stream, flood); and he said Sibboleth; for he could not frame (was not able) to pronounce it right. It was a difference in dialect, and the Ephraimites simply could not get the sound right; their pronunciation betrayed them. Then they took him, every Ephraimite who was thus exposed, and slew him at the passages of Jordan; and there fell at that time, in the entire campaign, of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. Thus the rebellious arrogance of Ephraim was punished.

v. 7. And Jephthah judged Israel six years, his jurisdiction apparently extending chiefly over the country east of Jordan. Then died Jephthah, the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead. Rebellions take place also in the midst of God's. people, the Church of Christ, and in more than one case the defenders of the truth have made a certain statement of Scripture a Shibboleth. in order to make a distinction between friends. and enemies. But the weapons of our warfare are spiritual.

Verses 8-15

The Judgeships of Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon

v. 8. And after him (Jephthah) Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. This Bethlehem was that in the tribe of Zebulun, and Ibzan's jurisdiction seems to have extended over the northern tribes only.

v. 9. And he had thirty sons and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, saw them well provided for in marriage, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years, living in princely and happy state in the midst of the people.

v. 10. Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Bethlehem.

v. 11. And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, in the same part of Cavnaan, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years.

v. 12. And Elon, the Zebulonite. died, also after a peaceful and happy judgeship, and was buried in Aijalon, in the country of Zebulun.

v. 13. And after him Abdon, the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, in the country of Ephraim, judged Israel.

v. 14. And he had forty sons and thirty nephews (grandsons), that rode on threescore and ten ass colts, in itself a mark of princely authority; and he judged Israel eight years, keeping the people in discipline and in obedience to God.

v. 15. And Abdon, the son of Hillel, the Pirathonite, died, and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites, that section of the mountains formerly occupied by this heathen tribe. If the teachers and rulers called by God will at all times follow the rule of God's Word, they will be able to lead even the weak in knowledge the right way.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Judges 12". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/judges-12.html. 1921-23.
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