This chapter is connected with the former. It relates to us the displeasure of the men of Ephraim against Jephthah, because he called them not to the battle with Ammon; and the sad consequence of this jealousy: the death of Jephthah; the three successive judges to Jephthah, lbzan, Elon, and Abdon, including a period of 25 years.
If the Reader recollects the dying benediction of the Patriarch over the two sons of Joseph, how under the spirit of prophecy Jacob put Ephraim before Manasseh, he will here trace the fulfillment of it, and therefrom discover the foundation of the jealousy between those two houses. See Genesis 48:13-20. But what a melancholy event is it in human nature, to behold from the consequence of the fall the quarrels of brethren to be even greater than among strangers. A brother offended (we are told in scripture) is harder to be won than a strong city. Proverbs 18:19. Precious Jesus! what a refreshing thought is it to my soul, that amidst all my numerous and repeated provocations, thou art not so offended. Thou art indeed the Brother born for adversity; the friend that loveth at all times; and that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 17:17; Pro_18:24.
Shibboleth means a river. The only difference between this and Sibboleth, arose from spelling the former with the Hebrew letter Shin, and the latter with Samech. But what is the spiritual illustration of the passage to mark the Shibboleth from the Sibboleth? Is it not, according to what our adored Redeemer taught when he said, 'by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.' Matthew 12:37. The language of the lips will correspond to the feelings of the heart. If Jesus be in the heart, depend upon it, his sweet name will be as honeycomb dropping from the lips. But if Christ be not formed in the heart the hope of glory, the Sibboleth of the conversation will betray the man, as Peter was discovered in the high priest's palace. Matthew 26:73.
How quick in succession the departure of men! It may be said of all God's servants, as it is of David, after he had served his own generation, by the will of God, he fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption. But Reader! what a precious addition to this remark doth the Holy Ghost make concerning our Jesus? He whom God raised again saw no corruption. Pray read the passage, and the two beautiful verses which follow, Acts 13:36-39.
I include the whole of these verses, and of the reign of three judges, comprising a period of twenty-five years, within the compass of one view, not only for the sake of brevity, but because the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to have nothing more recorded of those men but that they lived, and reigned, and provided for themselves and families, and then died and were buried. Alas! is there nothing to be remarked of them, in their zeal for God? Do their histories furnish no monuments of having promoted the divine glory? Then have we nothing to record to their honour? Ibzan was born in Bethlehem. This may, as it ought to, to remind us of Jesus, being the memorable spot of Christ's birth and incarnation. So far therefore, the history of this judge of Israel furnisheth out subject for meditation. But what a deplorable state was Israel, as a people, now reduced to, that in the history of all these judges comprising a period of so many years, we hear nothing of Israel's altars, high priests, and offerings! What the prophet was commissioned to tell the church at another period, seems applicable also to this. Israel shall abide many days without sacrifice, and without ephod, and teraphim. But afterwards they shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king. Hosea 3:4-5. Precious promise then, and even before that period, though leading toward it, in the part of history we are now upon. For all the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yea, and amen. And our glorious David compriseth in himself all the promises of the Bible. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. Genesis 3:15 compared with Galatians 3:16 and Luke 1:72; 2 Corinthians 1:20.
My soul! in all the contentions and animosities of life, and especially among brethren, never lose sight of Him, and his unequalled love, who passeth by the repeated provocations of thy sinful nature, and in return for thy manifold instances of ingratitude, pours himself, and his fullness of mercies into thy bosom. Precious Jesus! thou hast indeed endured the contradiction of sinners against thyself, and on the cross remembered our poor blind nature, when in that sweet prayer, thou didst call upon the Father to forgive the sins of ignorance, for they knew not what they did. Wilt thou be pleased, dearest Lord, to be to me all I need. Do thou fill up all relations: make up the want of every tie of natural affinities, and so influence my soul by the constraining graces of thine Holy Spirit, that the language of my heart may be the true Shibboleth of thy gospel; so as never to betray thy interest, nor give the enemy cause to blaspheme; but that thy name, thy person, thy righteousness, thy salvation, may be as ointment poured forth, for the fragrancy of it, and my mouth may daily speak of it among the people, for I know no end thereof.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Judges 12". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany