Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Jud 12:1-3. The Ephraimites Quarrelling with Jephthah.
1. the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together—Hebrew, "were summoned."
and went northward—After crossing the Jordan, their route from Ephraim was, strictly speaking, in a northeasterly direction, toward Mizpeh.
the men of Ephraim … said unto Jephthah, Wherefore … didst [thou] not call us?—This is a fresh development of the jealous, rash, and irritable temper of the Ephraimites. The ground of their offense now was their desire of enjoying the credit of patriotism although they had not shared in the glory of victory.
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.
2. when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands—The straightforward answer of Jephthah shows that their charge was false; their complaint of not being treated as confederates and allies entirely without foundation; and their boast of a ready contribution of their services came with an ill grace from people who had purposely delayed appearing till the crisis was past.
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?
3. when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands—A common form of speech in the East for undertaking a duty of imminent peril. This Jephthah had done, having encountered and routed the Ammonites with the aid of his Gileadite volunteers alone; and since the Lord had enabled him to conquer without requiring assistance from any other tribe, why should the Ephraimites take offense? They ought rather to have been delighted and thankful that the war had terminated without their incurring any labor and danger.
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.
Jud 12:4-15. Discerned by the Word Sibboleth, Are Slain by the Gileadites.
4-6. the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim—The remonstrances of Jephthah, though reasonable and temperate, were not only ineffectual, but followed by insulting sneers that the Gileadites were reckoned both by the western Manassites and Ephraimites as outcasts—the scum and refuse of their common stock. This was addressed to a peculiarly sensitive people. A feud immediately ensued. The Gileadites, determined to chastise this public affront, gave them battle; and having defeated the Ephraimites, they chased their foul-mouthed but cowardly assailants out of the territory. Then rushing to the fords of the Jordan, they intercepted and slew every fugitive. The method adopted for discovering an Ephraimite was by the pronunciation of a word naturally suggested by the place where they stood. Shibboleth, means "a stream"; Sibboleth, "a burden." The Eastern tribe had, it seems, a dialectical provincialism in the sound of Shibboleth; and the Ephraimites could not bring their organs to pronounce it.
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;
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.
And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.
7. Jephthah died—After a government of six years, this mighty man of valor died; and however difficult it may be for us to understand some passages in his history, he has been ranked by apostolic authority among the worthies of the ancient church. He was followed by a succession of minor judges, of whom the only memorials preserved relate to the number of their families and their state [Jud 12:8-15].
And after him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel.
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.
Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Bethlehem.
And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years.
And Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun.
And after him Abdon the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, judged Israel.
And he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten ass colts: and he judged Israel eight years.
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.