Judges Chapter 12

Jephthah was a mighty man, who was raised to be a judge in Israel. He had led the Israelites to victory over the children of Ammon. He recognized the Lord’s hand in causing them to be victorious in battle. The story of Jephthah continues in this chapter.

1 And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire.
2 And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands.
3 And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me?
4 Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.
5 And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;
6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.
7 And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.

The men of the tribe of Ephraim, were offended by Jephthah because he had not gathered them to fight against the Ammonites. They threatened to destroy his house. Jephthah reminded the men of Ephraim, that they had not given them aid when the Ammonites had been causing them strife. Instead, he had to take control and fight the battle without their help. The men of Gilead gathered with Jephthah, to fight against the men of Ephraim. Gilead struck at the Ephraimites, which called them fugitives of the people of Ephram and Manasseh. Then the men of Gilead went on to the passages of Jordan and blocked the path. If an Ephramite came, they asked if he was an Ephramite. If he said no, they told him to say the word or language of Shibboleth. He would not speak correctly, so they would kill him. They killed 42,000 men of Ephraim in this manner. Jephthah was the judge over Israel for six years before he died.

8 And after him Ibzan of Beth-lehem judged Israel.
9 And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.
10 Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Beth-lehem.
11 And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years.
12 And Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun.

Following the death of Jephthah, Ibzan judged Isreal. He had 30 sons and 30 daughters. He sent his 30 daughters off to be married, and took in 30 women for his sons. He was the judge for seven years. Then, a man named Elon judged Israel for ten years.

13 And after him Abdon the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, judged Israel.
14 And he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten ass colts: and he judged Israel eight years.
15 And Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died, and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites.

A Pirathonite, of Ephraim, called Abdon, was the next judge of Israel for eight years. He had 40 sons and according to the footnote, 30 grandsons, who, it would seem, ruled with him in Israel.

This story of Jephthah and the people of Ephraim is an example which shows that Israel was not one united nation. They were twelve tribes who descended from the same family, but who were separated at this point. They refused to help one another in times of great need, which led them to fight each other. The nation of Israel would not be a strong nation, if they continued to live like this. If they had chosen to follow the Lord with all their hearts, the Lord could have brought them together as the strongest nation. This principle applies to people today, and it can be easily seen in the family unit. When we unite as a family, strong in the gospel of Christ, we can have the strength to get through any trial and face any temptation. If we are not united and choose to focus on our personal needs and desires rather than the needs of other family members, we can become weak as a whole and will likely be effected badly when difficulties arise. Our families need the strength that comes from gathering together in righteousness and love. This is the blessing that comes to those who strive to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

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