Proud men think all the honors wasted that they themselves did not win.
Envy brings serious contentions in the ranks of those who should be as one to fight God’s battles.
He who rolls the stone of reproach unjustly upon another,
let him expect that it will justly return upon himself.
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.
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.
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.
Judges 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Judges 12:1-15 – At the Fords of Ephraim
In this second war, Jephthah showed the same conciliatory spirit as he had showed to Ammon. He parleyed sensibly and courteously before he went into the conflict. A great many Christians are less Christian than this. They ignore Christ’s strict injunction, Matthew 18:15. Ephraim had acted in the same manner to Gideon, Judges 8:1. In each case that tribe wanted to retain its primacy without the sacrifice which leadership involves; and it was angry when deliverance had arisen from another source. Leadership must be won, not inherited. Ephraim, therefore, was clearly in the wrong; and when her troops, which had crossed the Jordan into Gilead, were hurled back, the slaughter at the ford fell as a national judgment. The omission of a letter in their speech betrayed them. Alas, that Christians have martyred their fellows for even less!
Jephthah died soon after. Probably he died, not of age nor the brunt of war, but of a broken heart. The sweet voice of his child was always calling him. But the Spirit of God wrote on his memorial tablet—“By faith …Jephthae” (Hebrews 11:31-32). —Through the Bible Day by Day
Judges 12:6—And he said Sibboleth.
It was only the omission of “h,” but it meant the death of the man who missed it. One little letter, and the whole wonder and beauty of a human life was forfeited. It is only recently that the peace of an empire was in jeopardy, because a full-stop was misplaced. This scene has become proverbial of those who exact compliance with some arbitrary test, before admitting their fellows into their sect or church. But how thankful we should be, that our admission to the privilege of the Kingdom of God does not depend upon our pronunciation; that the reality of the new-birth is not tested by the accuracy with which we utter the creed; that we shall not be excluded from the gates of the New Jerusalem because we fail in the utterance of an “h”!
Our acceptance with God does not depend on how much we believe. The woman who was healed had very inadequate notions of faith and Christ. She thought that his garment would communicate blessing, yet she was cured. The dying thief had but a glimmering ray of knowledge of the majesty and power of Jesus, but he entered Paradise in His company. The prime necessity with us, is not faith in the sense of creed, but as standing for TRUST. It is not our belief about Christ, but our trust in Him; not our ability to answer the questions of the Catechism, but our coming to Him, and finding rest to our souls—this only is necessary to pass us across the fords of Jordan. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). —Our Daily Homily