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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 12

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-24


(vv. 1-7)

The men of Ephraim assumed the same proud attitude toward Jephthah as they had before done toward Gideon (tie.8:1-2).When Jephthah had gained the victory over the Ammonites, they ought to have shown genuine appreciation of this, but instead they came with bitter enmity, being angry because Jephthah had not called them to help in the defeat of Ammon.They tell him, "We will burn your house down on you with fire!" (v.1).

Jephthah was not as wise as Gideon in the way he responded, however (tie. 8:2-3). In

Gideon's case a soft answer turned away wrath, but Jephthah was immediately on the defense, telling Ephraim in effect that he had expected them to deliver Israel from the Ammonites, but when they failed to do this, then he took his life in his hands and attacked the Ammonites, whom God delivered into his hands (vv. 2-3). Thus, Jephthah made it clear to them that they were in the wrong.But it does not usually sit well for people to have demonstrated to them that they are wrong, and in this case it led directly into conflict.

Sadly then, Jephthah led his army against his own Israelite brethren.Jephthah was more concerned about his own authority than he was for the glory of God. No doubt he was a believer, asHebrews 11:32; Hebrews 11:32 indicates, but he lacked any spirit of counting others better than himself (Philippians 2:3). It ought to have been a sorrow to him that discord should arise within the nation Israel, but instead he was only angry with those he considered responsible for the discord. If he had only sought God's mind about this matter, how different would the history have been.

Of course the Ephraimites were wrong. They contemptuously considered the Gileadites as fugitives from Ephraim because they lived east of the Jordan. Because of this contempt therefore the Ephraimites were defeated, just as our own bad attitude will defeat us too (v. 4).

When the defeat took place, then men of Ephraim wanted to return to their own property west of Jordan. But Jephthah and his army took possession of the fords of the Jordan. They were determined to kill off every Ephraimite they could, so that they tested them by asking them to pronounce the word "shibboleth." Evidently the Ephraimites did not use the "sh"sound, and said, "sibboleth." If so, they would kill them (v. 6). Altogether there were 42,000 Ephraimites slaughtered! Usually when a battle is finished the victors would do no more than take captive those who were already defeated, so that this action of Jephthah was actually cold-blooded murder. Do things like this ever happen among Christians today? Though not precisely the same, yet there can too easily be a sectarian rejection of other Christians because they do not conform to our requirements. It is true that it is not possible to have full, unhindered fellowship with many Christians, but to condemn them because of their inconsistencies is the spirit of murder. These Ephraimites were no longer fighting against Jephthah. How much better it would have been to let them return to their land, and pray for them!

Jephthah lived after this only six years, during which he judged Israel (v. 7), but nothing is said of his government, whether to be commended or otherwise.



Three judges followed Jephthah, but nothing is said of their character or their actions. Ibzan had thirty sons and thirty daughters, all of whom were married, his sons being provided with wives from elsewhere, whether from Israel or from the nations is not clear. His government continued for seven years. At least nothing derogatory is said of him.

Elon judged Israel for two years, but besides this nothing is recorded of him but his death and burial (vv.11-12). Abdon followed to judge Israel eight years. Otherwise, we are only told of him that he had forty sons and thirty grandsons, all of whom were provided with donkeys to ride.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 12". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/joshua-12.html. 1897-1910.
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