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Bible Commentaries
Judges 12

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The Ephraimites wage war against Jephthah; are smitten by the Gileadites; and being discerned by Shibboleth, are slain to the number of two and forty thousand, Judges 12:1-6.

Jephthah dies, Judges 12:7.

After him Ibzan, Judges 12:8-10, Elon Judges 11:11,Judges 11:12, Abdon, Judges 12:13-15, were judges over Israel.

Verse 1

Northward; over Jordan, so northward towards Mizpeh, where Jephthah was, Judges 11:34, and which was in the northern part of the land beyond Jordan.

Said unto Jephthah, through pride and envy, contending with him as they did before with Gideon, Judges 8:1. Wherefore passedst thou over? not over Jordan, for there he was already; but over the borders of the Israelites’ land beyond Jordan, as appears by comparing this with Judges 11:29, where the same phrase is used.

Verse 2

Hence it appears that he craved their assistance, which they denied, though that be not elsewhere expressed.

Verse 3

I put my life in my hands, i.e. I exposed myself to utmost danger; as a man that carries a brittle and precious thing in his hand, which may easily either fall to the ground, or be snatched from him. The same phrase is used 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21; Job 13:14; Psalms 119:109.

Wherefore then are ye come up unto me? why do you thus requite my kindness in running into such hazard to preserve you and yours?

Verse 4

According to this translation, these words are a scoffing and contemptuous expression of the Ephraimites concerning the Gileadites, whom they call fugitives of Ephraim; the word Ephraim being here taken largely, as it is elsewhere as Isaiah 7:2,Isaiah 7:5, so as it comprehends the other neighbouring tribes, of which Ephraim was in some sort the head or chief; and especially their brethren of Manasseh, who lived next to them, and were descended from the same father, Joseph; by reason whereof both these tribes are sometimes reckoned for one, and called by the name of the tribe of Joseph. And this large signification of Ephraim may seem probable from the following words, where, instead of

Ephraim, is put the Ephraimites and the Manassites. By

Gileadites here they seem principally to mean the Manassites beyond Jordan, who dwelt in Gilead, as appears from Deuteronomy 3:13; Joshua 17:1,Joshua 17:5,Joshua 17:6. And although other Gileadites were joined with them, yet they vent their passion against these; principally, because they envied them most; partly, because they seemed to have had a chief hand in the victory, Judges 11:29; and partly, because they were more nearly related to them, and therefore more obliged to desire their conjunction with them in the war. These they here opprobriously call

fugitives, i.e. such as had deserted their brethren of Ephraim and Manasseh, and for some worldly advantage planted themselves beyond Jordan, at a distance from their brethren, and were alienated in affection from them, and carried on a distinct and separate interest of their own, as appears by their monopolizing the glory of this success to themselves, and excluding their brethren from it. According to the Hebrew, the words lie and may be rendered thus, Therefore (so chi is oft rendered) they said, Fugitives of Ephraim are ye, (i.e. Ye Ephraimites are mere runaways; for the words next foregoing are,

the men, of Gilead smote Ephraim. And having told you what they said, because the pronoun they was ambiguous, he adds by way of explication,) who said it, even the Gileadites, (and they said it when they had got the advantage over them, and got between them and home, as the next verse shows,) being between Ephraim, and Manasseh; i.e. having taken the passages of Jordan, as it follows, which lay between Ephraim and that part of Manasseh which was beyond Jordan. Or these latter words may be rendered thus, And the Gileadites were between Ephraim and Manasseh. So there is only an ellipsis of two small words, which are oft defective, and to be understood in Scripture. Or thus, And the Gileadites were in the midst of the Ephraimites, and in the midst of the Manassites, to wit, those Manassites who ordinarily lived within Jordan, who possibly were confederate with the Ephraimites in this quarrel. And so the meaning is, they followed close after them, and overtook them, and fell upon the midst of them, and smote them; and they sent a party to intercept them at the passages of Jordan, as it here follows.

Verse 5

Those Ephraimites which were escaped, Heb. the fugitives of Ephraim, as before; for the Hebrew words are the same; which may make the latter exposition of the foregoing words more probable, to wit, that it is not the Gileadites, but the Ephraimites, who are there as well as here so called, because they are smitten before Jephthah, and fled from him.

If he said, Nay; to avoid the present danger.

Verse 6

Shibboleth signifies a stream or river, which they desired to pass over; so it was a word proper for the occasion, and gave them no cause to suspect the design, because they were required only to express their desire to go over the Shibboleth or river.

He said Sibboleth. It is well known, that not only divers nations, but divers provinces, or parts of thee same nation, who use the same language, differ in their dialect and manner of pronunciation. He could not frame to pronounce it right, or rather, he did not frame or direct himself to speak so, or to speak right, i.e. so as he was required to do it. The Hebrew text doth not say that he could not do it, but that that he did it not, because he, suspecting not the design of it, uttered it speedily according to his manner of expression.

At that time; not in that place, at the passages of Jordan, but in that expedition, being slain either in the battle, or in the pursuit, or at Jordan.

Verse 7

In one of the cities, Heb. in the cities; the plural number put for the singular, as Genesis 19:29, where Lot is said to dwell in the cities, i.e. one of the cities; and 1 Samuel 18:21, the twain is put for one of the twain; and Judges 18:11, houses for house; and Jonah 1:5, the sides for one of the sides.

Verse 8

Of Beth-lehem; either that in Judah, of which Matthew 2:6; or that in Zebulun, Joshua 19:15.

Verse 9

Took in thirty daughters, i.e. took them home for wives to his sons. See Genesis 24:67; Genesis 31:50; Deuteronomy 21:12; 2 Samuel 11:27.

Verse 11

This is added to distinguish it from other Aijalons, of which see Judges 1:35; 1 Chronicles 6:69; 1 Chronicles 8:13.

Verse 15

So called from some remarkable exploit done either by or upon the Amalekites in that place.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Judges 12". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/judges-12.html. 1685.
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