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The Ephraimites expostulate with Jephthah, and threaten to burn his house. Jephthah discomfits them: he dies, and is succeeded by other judges.
Before Christ 1180.
Judges 12:3. I put my life in my hands— A strong phrase; which signifies, I exposed myself to the utmost hazard: the expression seems peculiar to the eastern writers; for Casaubon remarks, that among all the Greek and Roman writers he never met with it, except once in Zenarchus. See Bishop Patrick.
Judges 12:6. Say, now, Shibboleth— The word has two senses in the Hebrew; namely, an ear of corn, and floods of water, Psalms 69:2. It is used in the latter sense here; and the test which the Gileadites put the Ephraimites to was to bid them say, "Let me pass over the water." The pronunciation of words of the same language varies greatly in different parts. An Athenian spoke Greek as differently from a Dorian as a northern man speaks English from an inhabitant of the south: it is no wonder, therefore, that the Ephraimites could not pronounce the word in the same manner as those did who inhabited the countries on the other side of Jordan. St. Peter was known for a Galilean by his accent in the court of Pilate's palace. See Matthew 26:73.
Judges 12:7. In one of the cities of Gilead— In the Hebrew it is, in the cities of Gilead, which has given rise to a thousand ridiculous rabbinical fables. Houbigant well remarks, that all the ancient versions read, In the city of
Gilead. It is the Chaldee alone that reads, In the cities. He observes, that the phrase, whom he sent abroad, Jdg 12:9 expresses the giving these daughters in matrimony. We are to remember, that a numerous issue was considered as a peculiar blessing of Providence; and where many wives were permitted, such a number of children will not appear improbable.
REFLECTIONS.—No sooner is Jephthah delivered from foreign enemies than he is disturbed by domestic feuds.
1. The men of Ephraim, jealous of the honour that Manasseh had got, seek occasion to quarrel with him, as they had before done with Gideon, under pretence of being slighted, because not called to the war against Ammon; and threaten, with outrageous violence, to fire Jephthah's house over his head. Note; (1.) Quarrels between brethren are usually most bitter and violent. (2.) They who have done the greatest services to the cause of God are not secure from the greatest insults, even sometimes from the pretended friends of the cause. (3.) The most spotless characters are the fairest mark for the foul fangs of envy to fasten upon.
2. Jephthah remonstrates against their violence and accusation. Their charge was as false as malicious: he had called them, and they had refused to come. When, therefore, the danger was so imminent, at the risk of his life, he went out to battle, and, through the strength of God, prevailed. Was this a cause for their anger? Ought it not rather to have been cause of thankfulness? Note; (1.) The greatest boasters are usually the greatest cowards. (2.) They, who are themselves most in fault, would often save themselves by clamouring against the innocent. (3.) They well deserve the honour who purchase it at the peril of their lives.
3. The ill temper of the Ephraimites will not be pacified, and their ill tongue provokes the Gileadites, who came to interpose with them in behalf of the captain. They call them fugitives, a vagabond race, pretending as if they were expelled Canaan from the Ephraimites and Manassites, as unworthy of their relation. Such insult is too much for men of war usually to bear: swords are instantly drawn, and the Ephraimites justly punished for their insolence. They are routed in the field, and the passes of Jordan being secured by the men of Gilead, by the pronunciation of the word Shibboleth, they are all detected and slain, to the number of forty-two thousand. Note; (1.) A hasty and lying tongue usually occasions much mischief to its owner. (2.) They who insolently upbraid others quickly bring themselves into a worse condition. 4. Six years ended Jephthah's government. Note; Great and good men must die, as well as others; but there is one who liveth, who will never leave his people to want a friend and protector in time of need.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 12". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany