Judges 12:6
Parallel Verses
English Standard Version
they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.

King James Bible
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.

American Standard Version
then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth; for he could not frame to pronounce it right: then they laid hold on him, and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. And there fell at that time of Ephraim forty and two thousand.

Douay-Rheims Bible
They asked him: Say then, Scibboleth, which is interpreted, An ear of corn. But he answered, Sibboleth, not being able to express an ear of corn by the same letter. Then presently they took him and killed him in the very passage of the Jordan. And there fell at that time of Ephraim two and forty thousand.

English Revised Version
then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth; for he could not frame to pronounce it right; then they laid hold on him, and slew him at the fords of Jordan: and there fell at that time of Ephraim forty and two thousand.

Webster's Bible Translation
Then said they to 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.

Judges 12:6 Parallel
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

At the end of two months she returned to her father again, "and he did to her the vow that he had vowed, and she knew no man." I consequence of this act of Jephthah and his daughter, "it became an ordinance (a standing custom) in Israel: from year to year (see Exodus 13:10) the daughters of Israel go to praise the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year. תּנּה does not mean θρηνεῖν, to lament or bewail (lxx, Chald., etc.), but to praise, as R. Tanchum and others maintain.

With regard to Jephthah's vow, the view expressed so distinctly by Josephus and the Chaldee was the one which generally prevailed in the earlier times among both Rabbins and fathers of the church, viz., that Jephthah put his daughter to death and burned her upon the altar as a bleeding sacrifice to Jehovah. It was not till the middle ages that Mos. and Dav. Kimchi and certain other Rabbins endeavoured to establish the view, that Jephthah merely dedicated his daughter to the service of the sanctuary of Jehovah in a lifelong virginity. And lastly, Ludov. Cappellus, in his Diatriba de voto Jephtae, Salm. 1683 (which has been reprinted in his Notae critic. in Jude 16. and the Critici Sacri, tom. i.), has expressed the opinion that Jephthah put his daughter to death in honour of the Lord according to the law of the ban, because human beings were not allowed to be offered up as burnt-sacrifices. Of these different opinions the third has no foundation in the text of the Bible. For supposing that Jephthah had simply vowed that on his return he would offer to the Lord whatever came to meet him out of his house, with such restrictions only as were involved in the very nature of the case - viz., offering it as a burnt-offering if it were adapted for this according to the law; and if it were not, then proceeding with it according to the law of the ban, - the account of the fulfilment of this vow would certainly have defined with greater precision the manner in which he fulfilled the vow upon his daughter. The words "he did to her his vow which he had vowed," cannot be understood in any other way than that he offered her as עולה, i.e., as a burnt-offering, to the Lord. Moreover, the law concerning the ban and a vow of the ban could not possibly give any individual Israelite the right to ban either his own child or one of his household to the Lord, without opening a very wide door to the crime of murder. The infliction of the ban upon any man presupposed notorious wickedness, so that burnt-offering and ban were diametrically opposed the one to the other. Consequently the other two views are the only ones which can be entertained, and it is not easy to decide between them. Although the words "and I offer him as a burnt-offering" appear to favour the actual sacrifice so strongly, that Luther's marginal note, "some affirm that he did not sacrifice her, but the text is clear enough," is perpetually repeated with peculiar emphasis; yet, on looking more closely into the matter, we find insuperable difficulties in the way of the literal interpretation of the words. Since יצא אשׁר היּוצא cannot be taken impersonally, and therefore when Jephthah uttered his vow, he must at any rate have had the possibility of some human being coming to meet him in his mind; and since the two clauses "he shall be the Lords," and "I will offer him up for a burnt-offering," cannot be taken disjunctively in such a sense as this, it shall either be dedicated to the Lord, or, if it should be a sacrificial animal, I will offer it up as a burnt-offering, but the second clause simply contains a more precise definition of the first-Jephthah must at the very outset have contemplated the possibility of a human sacrifice. Yet not only were human sacrifices prohibited in the law under pain of death as an abomination in the sight of Jehovah (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:10), but they were never heard of among the Israelites in the early times, and were only transplanted to Jerusalem by the godless kings Ahaz and Manasseh.

(Note: "Human sacrifices do not even belong to heathenism generally, but to the darkest night of heathenism. They only occur among those nations which are the most thoroughly depraved in a moral and religious sense." This remark of Hengstenberg (Diss. iii. p. 118) cannot be set aside by a reference to Euseb. praep. ev. iv. 16; Baur, Symb. ii. 2, pp. 293ff.; Lasaulx, Shnopfer der Griechen und Rmer, 1841, pp. 8-12; Ghillany, die Menschenopfer der alten Hebrer, 1842, pp. 107ff., as Kurtz supposes, since the uncritical character of the proofs collected together in these writings is very obvious on a closer inspection, and Eusebius has simply taken his examples from Porphyry, and other writings of a very recent date.)

If Jephthah therefore vowed that he would offer a human sacrifice to Jehovah, he must either have uttered his vow without any reflection, or else have been thoroughly depraved in a moral and religious sense. But what we know of this brave hero by no means warrants any such assumptions, His acts do not show the slightest trace of impetuosity and rashness. He does not take to the sword at once, but waits till his negotiations with the king of the Ammonites have been without effect. Nor does he utter his vow in the midst of the confusion of battle, so that we might fancy he had made a vow in the heat of the conflict without fully weighting his words, but he uttered it before he set out against the Ammonites (see Judges 11:30 and Judges 11:32). So far as the religious training of Jephthah was concerned, it is true that he had led the life of a freebooter during his exile from his country and home, and before his election as the leader of the Israelites; but the analogous circumstances connected with David's life preclude us from inferring either moral depravity or religious barbarism from this. When David was obliged to fly from his country to escape from Saul, he also led a life of the same kind, so that all sorts of people came to him, not pious and virtuous people, but all who were in distress and had creditors, or were embittered in spirit (1 Samuel 22:2); and yet, even under these circumstances, David lived in the law of the Lord. Moreover, Jephthah was not destitute of the fear of God. This is proved first of all by the fact, that when he had been recalled from his exile he looked to Jehovah to give him the victory over the Ammonites, and made a treaty with the elders of Gilead "before Jehovah" (Judges 11:9 and Judges 11:10); and also by the fact, that he sought to ensure the help of God in war through the medium of a vow. And again, we have no right to attribute to him any ignorance of the law. Even if Kurtz is correct in his opinion, that the negotiations with the king of the Ammonites, which show the most accurate acquaintance with the Pentateuch, were not carried on independently and from his own knowledge of the law, and that the sending of messengers to the hostile king was resolved upon in the national assembly at Mizpeh, with the priests, Levites, and elders present, so that the Levites, who knew the law, may have supplied any defects in his own knowledge of the law and of the early history of his people; a private Israelite did not need to study the whole of the law of the Pentateuch, and to make himself master of the whole, in order to gain the knowledge and conviction that a human sacrifice was irreconcilable with the substance and spirit of the worship of Jehovah, and that Jehovah the God of Israel was not a Moloch. And again, even if we do not know to what extent the men and fathers of families in Israel were acquainted and familiar with the contents of the Mosaic law, the opinion is certainly an erroneous one, that the Israelites derived their knowledge of the law exclusively from the public reading of the law at the feast of tabernacles in the sabbatical year, as enjoined in Deuteronomy 31:10.; so that if this public reading, which was to take place only once in seven years, had been neglected, the whole nation would have been left without any instruction whatever in the law. The reason for this Mosaic precept was a totally different one from that of making the people acquainted with the contents of the law (see the commentary on this passage). And again, though we certainly do not find the law of the Lord so thoroughly pervading the religious consciousness of the people, received as it were in succum et sanguinem, in the time of the judges, that they were able to resist the bewitching power of nature-worship, but, on the contrary, we find them repeatedly falling away into the worship of Baal; yet we discover no trace whatever of human sacrifices even in the case of those who went a whoring after Baalim. And although the theocratical knowledge of the law seems to have been somewhat corrupted even in the case of such men as Gideon, so that this judge had an unlawful ephod made for himself at Ophrah; the opinion that the Baal-worship, into which the Israelites repeatedly fell, was associated with human sacrifices, is one of the many erroneous ideas that have been entertained as to the development of the religious life not only among the Israelites, but among the Canaanites, and which cannot be supported by historical testimonies or facts. That the Canaanitish worship of Baal and Astarte, to which the Israelites were addicted, required no human sacrifices, is indisputably evident from the fact, that even in the time of Ahab and his idolatrous wife Jezebel, the daughter of the Sidonian king Ethbaal, who raised the worship of Baal into the national religion in the kingdom of the ten tribes, persecuting the prophets of Jehovah and putting them to death, there is not the slightest allusion to human sacrifices. Even at that time human sacrifices were regarded by the Israelites as so revolting an abomination, that the two kings of Israel who besieged the king of the Moabites - not only the godly Jehoshaphat, but Jehoram the son of Ahab and Jezebel - withdrew at once and relinquished the continuance of the war, when the king of the Moabites, in the extremity of his distress, sacrificed his son as a burnt-offering upon the wall (2 Kings 3:26-27). With such an attitude as this on the part of the Israelites towards human sacrifices before the time of Ahaz and Manasseh, who introduced the worship of Moloch into Jerusalem, we cannot, without further evidence, impute to Jephthah the offering of a bloody human sacrifice, the more especially as it is inconceivable, with the diametrical opposition between the worship of Jehovah and the worship of Moloch, that God should have chosen a worshipper of Moloch to carry out His work, or a man who was capable of vowing and offering a human-being sacrifice. The men whom God chose as the recipients of His revelation of mercy and the executors of His will, and whom He endowed with His Spirit as judges and leaders of His people, were no doubt affected with infirmities, faults, and sins of many kinds, so that they could fall to a very great depth; but nowhere is it stated that the Spirit of God came upon a worshipper of Moloch and endowed him with His own power, that he might be the helper and saviour of Israel.

We cannot therefore regard Jephthah as a servant of Moloch, especially when we consider that, in addition to what has already been said, the account of the actual fulfilment of his vow is apparently irreconcilable with the literal interpretation of the words עולה והעליתיהוּ, as signifying a bleeding burnt-offering. We cannot infer anything with certainty as to the mode of the sacrifice, from the grief which Jephthah felt and expressed when his only daughter came to meet him. For this is quite as intelligible, as even the supporters of the literal view of these words admit, on the supposition that Jephthah was compelled by his vow to dedicate his daughter to Jehovah in a lifelong virginity, as it would be if he had been obliged to put her to death and burn her upon the altar as a burnt-offering. But the entreaty of the daughter, that he would grant her two months' time, in order that she might lament her virginity upon the mountains with her friends, would have been marvellously out of keeping with the account that she was to be put to death as a sacrifice. To mourn one's virginity does not mean to mourn because one has to die a virgin, but because one has to live and remain a virgin. But even if we were to assume that mourning her virginity was equivalent to mourning on account of her youth (which is quite untenable, as בּתוּלים is not synonymous with נעוּרים), "it would be impossible to understand why this should take place upon the mountains. It would be altogether opposed to human nature, that a child who had so soon to die should make use of a temporary respite to forsake her father altogether. It would no doubt be a reasonable thing that she should ask permission to enjoy life for two months longer before she was put to death; but that she should only think of bewailing her virginity, when a sacrificial death was in prospect, which would rob her father of his only child, would be contrary to all the ordinary feelings of the human heart. Yet, inasmuch as the history lays special emphasis upon her bewailing her virginity, this must have stood in some peculiar relation to the nature of the vow. When a maiden bewails her virginity, the reason for this can only be that she will have to remain a bud that has not been allowed to unfold itself, prevented, too, not by death, but by life" (P. Cassel, p. 473). And this is confirmed by the expression, to bewail her virginity "upon the mountains." "If life had been in question, the same tears might have been shed at home. But her lamentations were devoted to her virginity, and such lamentations could not be uttered in the town, and in the presence of men. Modesty required the solitude of the mountains for these. The virtuous heart of the maiden does not open itself in the ears of all; but only in sacred silence does it pour out its lamentations of love" (P. Cassel, p. 476).

And so, again, the still further clause in the account of the fulfilment of the vow, "and she knew no man," is not in harmony with the assumption of a sacrificial death. This clause would add nothing to the description in that case, since it was already known that she was a virgin. The words only gain their proper sense if we connect them with the previous clause, he "did with her according to the vow which he had vowed," and understand them as describing what the daughter did in fulfilment of the vow. The father fulfilled his vow upon her, and she knew no man; i.e., he fulfilled the vow through the fact that she knew no man, but dedicated her life to the Lord, as a spiritual burnt-offering, in a lifelong chastity. It was this willingness of the daughter to sacrifice herself which the daughters of Israel went every year to celebrate-namely, upon the mountains whither her friends had gone with her to lament her virginity, and which they commemorated there four days in the year. And the idea of a spiritual sacrifice is supported not only by the words, but also most decisively by the fact that the historian describes the fulfilment of the vow in the words "he did to her according to his vow," in such a manner as to lead to the conclusion that he regarded the act itself as laudable and good. But a prophetic historian could never have approved of a human sacrifice; and it is evident that the author of the book of Judges does not conceal what was blameable even in the judges themselves, from his remarks concerning the conduct of Gideon (Judges 8:27), which was only a very small offence in comparison with the abomination of a human sacrifice. To this we have to add the difficulties connected with such an act. The words "he did to her according to his vow" presuppose undoubtedly that Jephthah offered his daughter as עולה to Jehovah. But burnt-offerings, that is to say bleeding burnt-offerings, in which the victim was slaughtered and burnt upon the altar, could only be offered upon the lawful altar at the tabernacle, or before the ark, through the medium of the Levitical priests, unless the sacrifice itself had been occasioned by some extraordinary manifestation of God; and that we cannot for a moment think of here. But is it credible that a priest or the priesthood should have consented to offer a sacrifice upon the altar of Jehovah which was denounced in the law as the greatest abomination of the heathen? This difficulty cannot be set aside by assuming that Jephthah put his daughter to death, and burned her upon some secret altar, without the assistance and mediation of a priest; for such an act would not have been described by the prophetic historian as a fulfilment of the vow that he would offer a burnt-offering to the Lord, simply because it would not have been a sacrifice offered to Jehovah at all, but a sacrifice slaughtered to Moloch.

(Note: Auberlen's remarks upon this subject are very good. "The history of Jephthah's daughter," he says, "would hardly have been thought worth preserving in the Scriptures if the maiden had been really offered in sacrifice; for, in that case, the event would have been reduced, at the best, into a mere family history, without any theocratic significance, though in truth it would rather have been an anti-theocratic abomination, according to Deuteronomy 12:31 (cf. Judges 18:9; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:1-5). Jephthah's action would in that case have stood upon the same platform as the incest of Lot (Genesis 19:30.), and would owe its adoption into the canon simply to genealogical considerations, or others of a similar kind. But the very opposite is the case here; and if, from the conclusion of the whole narrative in Judges 11:39-40, the object of it is supposed to be simply to explain the origin of the feast that was held in honour of Jephthah's daughter, even this would tell against the ordinary view. In the eye of the law the whole thing would still remain an abomination, and the canonical Scriptures would not stoop to relate and beautify an institution so directly opposed to the law.")

All these circumstances, when rightly considered, almost compel us to adopt the spiritual interpretation of the words, "offer as a burnt-offering." It is true that no exactly corresponding parallelisms can be adduced from the Old Testament in support of the spiritual view; but the germs of this view, as met with in the Psalms and the writings of the prophets, are contained in the demand of God addressed to Abraham to offer Him his only son Isaac as a burnt-offering, when compared with the issue of Abraham's temptation-namely, that God accepted his willingness to offer up his son as a completed sacrifice, and then supplied him with a ram to offer up as a bleeding sacrifice in the place of his son. As this fact teaches that what God demands is not a corporeal but a spiritual sacrifice, so the rules laid down in the law respecting the redemption of the first-born belonging to the Lord, and of persons vowed to Him (Exodus 13:1, Exodus 13:13; Numbers 18:15-16; Leviticus 27:1.), show clearly how the Israelites could dedicate themselves and those who belonged to them to the Lord, without burning upon the altar the persons who were vowed to Him. And lastly, it is evident, from the perfectly casual reference to the women who ministered at the tabernacle (Exodus 38:8; 1 Samuel 2:22), that there were persons in Israel who dedicated their lives to the Lord at the sanctuary, by altogether renouncing the world. And there can be no doubt that Jephthah had such a dedication as this in his mind when he uttered his vow; at all events in case the Lord, to whom he left the appointment of the sacrifice, should demand the offering up of a human being. The word עולה does not involve the idea of burning, like our word burnt-offering, but simply that of going up upon the altar, or of complete surrender to the Lord. עולה is a whole offering, as distinguished from the other sacrifices, of which only a part was given up to the Lord. When a virgin, therefore, was set apart as a spiritual עולה, it followed, as a matter of course, that henceforth she belonged entirely to the Lord: that is to say, was to remain a virgin for the remainder of her days. The fact that Nazarites contracted marriages, even such as were dedicated by a vow to be Nazarites all their lives, by no means warrants the conclusion that virgins dedicated to the Lord by a vow were also free to marry if they chose. It is true that we learn nothing definite from the Old Testament with regard to this spiritual sacrificial service; but the absence of any distinct statements upon the subject by no means warrants our denying the fact. Even with regard to the spiritual service of the women at the tabernacle we have no precise information; and we should not have known anything about this institution, if the women themselves had not offered their mirrors in the time of Moses to make the holy laver, or if we had not the account of the violation of such women by the sons of Eli. In this respect, therefore, the remarks of Clericus, though too frequently disregarded, as very true: "It was not to be expected, as I have often observed, that so small a volume as the Old Testament should contain all the customs of the Hebrew, and a full account of all the things that were done among them. There are necessarily many things alluded to, therefore, which we do not fully understand, simply because they are not mentioned elsewhere."

Judges 12:6 Parallel Commentaries

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Say now.

Matthew 26:73 And after a while came to him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely you also are one of them; for your speech denudes you.

Mark 14:70 And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely you are one of them: for you are a Galilaean...

Shibboleth. which signifieth a stream, or flood

Psalm 69:2,15 I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me...

Isaiah 27:12 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river to the stream of Egypt...

Shibboleth. also means an ear of corn

Job 24:24 They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other...

and sibboleth signifies a burden.

Exodus 6:6 Why say to the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians...

and a heavy burden they were obliged to bear who could not pronounce this test letter. It is well known that several nations cannot pronounce certain letters. The sound of th cannot be pronounced by the Persians, no more than by some of our Continental neighbours; though it is a common sound among the Arabians. To this day, many of the German Jews cannot articulate th, for which they substitute ss; thus for baith, a house, they say baiss. there fell.

Proverbs 17:14 The beginning of strife is as when one lets out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

Proverbs 18:19 A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.

Ecclesiastes 10:12 The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

Matthew 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation...

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another.

forty. Arbaim ooshenayim Aleph. `forty and two thousand.' and many mean simple addition; and this number may denote

2040 and not

42,000. At the last census of the Israelites

Numbers 26:37 These are the families of the sons of Ephraim according to those that were numbered of them, thirty and two thousand and five hundred...

the whole tribe of Ephraim only amounted to

32,500 compared with which this last number appears far too great.

Cross References
Judges 12:5
And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, "Let me go over," the men of Gilead said to him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" When he said, "No,"

Judges 12:7
Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead.

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