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Bible Commentaries
Judges 12

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-7

Jephthah’s Repulse of the Jealous Ephraimites (12:1-7)

The Ephraimites now caused trouble with Jephthah, as they had done previously with Gideon (Judges 8:1-3). They felt slighted by not being included in Jephthah’s campaign and threatened to burn down his house. In armed strength they confronted Jephthah at Zaphon, east of Jordan. Gideon had appeased the Ephraimites, but Jephthah resorted to the way of battle. He began, however, by implying that their help had been invoked and that their failure had left the Gileadites alone to fight the Ammonites. His speech apparently failed to convince the jealous Ephraimites, for Jephthah summoned his men to do battle and routed his fellow Hebrews. By capturing the fords at the Jordan, which formed the boundary of Ephraim, he was able to halt his enemy countrymen as they sought to cross and return to their homeland. The device by which he identified the Ephraimites was the test of pronunciation — the Ephraimites pronounced "sh" as "s," and the word chosen for the test was "Shibboleth" ("stream"). Many Ephraimites must have been slain by their own kinsfolk.

The usual closing summary records Jephthah’s judgeship as lasting six years. It is evident that his work and rule were confined to Gilead and thus covered the limited area east of Jordan, not all Israel.

Verses 8-15

The Minor Judges — Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon (12:8-15)

Ibzan’s name occurs only here. The Bethlehem with which he is associated was probably the town of that name in Zebulun. The size of his family is indicative of his wealth, but, apart from the customary editorial formula, we have no other information. Elon was likewise of Zebulun, and references in Genesis 46:14 and Numbers 26:26 link the name with this tribe. Abdon is a name occurring elsewhere (for example, 1 Chronicles 8:23). He was associated with Pirathon which, according to 1 Chronicles 27:14, was in Ephraim. The size of his family and the fact that his sons and grandsons all rode asses are measures of his material substance. The reference to Amalekite territory in Ephraim is obscure in meaning.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Judges 12". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/judges-12.html.
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