Judges 12


‘The Ephraimite forces were called out, and they crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over your head.” Jephthah answered, “I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn’t save me out of their hands. When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?” Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.” The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he replied, “No,” they said, “All right, say ‘Shibboleth.’ ” If he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. Jephthah led Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in a town in Gilead.’ Judges 12:1-7

Jephthah And Ephraim

In the previous chapter we saw how after God gave a great victory to Jephthah over the Ammonites, he dedicated his daughter to temple service as promised in his vow.

Notice how the Ephraimites ask why they weren’t called to help him out. This wasn’t the case, since the Ephraimites were probably called before the elders came to Jephthah, Judges 11:4-11. This seems to be a consistent problem with the people of the tribe of Ephraim, they gave a similar response to Gideon, Judges 8:1.

It’s possible that the Ephraimites wanted some of the spoil of the Ammonites or it may have been that they wanted credit for defeating the Ammonites among their own people. Whatever the reason was, they didn’t come to the original call to battle, though they were called.

As a result of this questioning from the Ephraimites, and because the Ephraimites accused them of being a band of fugitives who took up arms against the Ammonites, the Gileadites go on to punish them. Because they were not the official army who represented any of the tribes of Israel, they couldn’t claim anything or any victory in Israel’s name.

The Gileadites defeated the Ephraimites, and the Ephraimites fled to their homes. Sadly for them, they had to pass over the fords of the Jordan before they could get home. Therefore, the Gileadites set up a roadblock at the fords. It appears that the Ephraimites had been away from the tribes of Israel for so long, that their accent changed.

In the pronunciation of the word ‘shibboleth’, they couldn’t say it like the Israelites who lived on the west side of the Jordan. The word ‘shibboleth’ means either ‘ear of grain’ or ‘flowing stream’.

With this word, the people from the tribe of Ephraim were easily identified by their dialect. They had a hard time pronouncing the ‘h’ in Shibboleth and said Sibboleth instead, therefore giving themselves away. As a result, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed.

Jephthah led Israel for six years, then he died and was buried in the town of Gilead.


‘After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters away in marriage to those outside his clan, and for his sons he brought in thirty young women as wives from outside his clan. Ibzan led Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.’ Judges 12:8-10

The only information we have about Ibzan is what is written here. He obviously had a large family and he led Israel for 7 years.

He died and was buried in Bethlehem, not to be confused with the Bethlehem in Judea, this Bethlehem was a small village in the southwest area of Zebulun.


‘After him, Elon the Zebulunite led Israel ten years. Then Elon died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.’ Judges 12:11-12

The only information we have about Elon is what is written here.

He led Israel for 10 years, died and was buried in Aijalon which is located in the land of Zebulun.


‘After him, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years. Then Abdon son of Hillel died and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.’ Judges 12:13-15

The only information we have about Abdon is what is written here.

He had a large family and he was probably wealthy as he possessed 70 donkeys. He led Israel for 8 years, died and was buried in Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.

The mention of the sons and daughters of these judges indicates the family influence a specific judge had among the people. It appears that families carried on the heritage of their fathers who were key judges.

Go To Judges 13


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