A Speech Problem
March 16 - Nº 75 Judges 12
Not all the Israelites were thrilled with Jephthah’s great victory over the Ammonites. The tribe of Ephraim became very jealous. They felt they should have been included in the battles that won so much territory back for the nation. As a matter of fact, they were so upset that they decided to go to war against Jephthah so they could receive some prestige and glory for themselves. They had previously responded this same way when Gideon had defeated the Midianites (Judges 8:1), but Gideon had been able to calm them down. This time they mobilized an army, crossed the Jordan River, and told Jephthah, “We’re going to burn your house down with you in it!” Jephthah insisted that this was an unjust complaint. He insisted that he had called the Ephraimites to help fight the Ammonites, but they had chosen not to come. “When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight them myself,” he replied. “And the Lord gave me the victory. Now why have you come up today to fight me?” he wanted to know.
The Ephraimites mocked Jephthah, calling him and his men traitors. This made Jephthah angry, and a fierce battle broke out. Just a short time after God had given the Israelites a tremendous victory over the Ammonites, they were trying to destroy each other. Jephthah and his men won decisively. But for the defeated Ephraimites to escape to their homes, they had to flee back across the Jordan River. Instead of allowing them to retreat, Jephthah decided to destroy them completely. He set up border patrols at all the possible river-crossings. When they came to them, the Ephraimite warriors tried to pass themselves off as members of a different tribe. Then Jephthah’s men came up with a test to determine if there were telling the truth. Ephraimites spoke a different dialect of the Hebrew language from any other Israelites, and they could not pronounce the “sh” sound. So Jephthah’s border patrol asked every man who tried to cross the Jordan River if they were from Ephraim. If they replied, “No,” they were asked to say the word “Shibboleth” (which means “flowing stream” in Hebrew). Thousands of Ephraimites died trying to escape because they mispronounced the word “Shibboleth.” They said “Sibboleth” instead. Jephthah led Israel for six tumultuous years before he died. Over the next 24 years, three other judges led the nation. Once again, the Israelites did evil in God’s eyes, and for forty years, He allowed the Philistines to forcibly control them.
Is there someone in your life that you seem to be “at war” with? In such a situation it sometimes helps to stop and ask two questions: “What is in my heart?” and “What is at stake here?” Jealousy led to a battle that began to destroy the entire Jewish nation. Both parties could have avoided the disastrous results if they had stopped and looked at the situation from God’s point of view.