[Judges 12:1] 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.
One commentator ("Rinat Yitschak" by A. Y. Soretzkin) using Biblical verses
and Rabbinical Traditions suggests the following picture:
The Ammonites had oppressed the Gileadites for quite a time. The Gileadites
had requested help from Ephraim but this had not been forthcoming. The
Ammonites then raided Ephraim causing havoc but not remaining in the
country. Meanwhile the Gileadites had appointed Yiphtach (JEPHTHAH) to
assist them. Yiphtach had proceeded to fight against Ammon with relatively
few men and defeat them. He had relied on miraculous intervention and
received it but he had also offered up his only daughter as a burnt
offering. In the atmosphere of the time Ephraim felt cheated out of the
leadership, cheated out of the right both to lead and to reassert their
dignity in the fact of Ammon. This deprivation had been caused by the wild
guerilla-type outsider Yiphtrach who had introduced an unknown factor into
the picture by offering up his daughter. The threat to burn down the house
of Yiphtach was as much due to resentment at the offering he had made of
his daughter and a desire to extirpate this new foreign disturbing element
from the midst of Israel as it was resentment at the usurpation of leadership.
[Judges 12:2] 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.
Yiphtach may personally have made an appeal to Ephraim OR he may be
speaking as the personification of his people who had made the plea to
Ephraim before appointing him at their head.
Ephraim was the leading tribe. Ephraim may well have played a leading role
in conquering the northern parts of Israel and have viewed itself as the
natural leading tribe to who all others had to defer.
Similarly the British planted colonies in North America, Australia, New
Zealand, South Africa, etc. Often the colonists were not from the same
mainstream elements of English society as Government officials were. They
were Scotsmen, Ulstermen, Irishmen, Welsh, social outsiders, Dissenters,
etc. In North America the colonists suffered from friction with the
Amerindians and felt that they were not receiving sufficient help from the
Government officialdom who could even be sympathetic or "Open-minded"
towards their enemies. This could lead to tensions and resentment. In
Israel the Jewish Zionists in a sense were colonists of the British and
they too suffered from occasional British sympathy towards the
"Palestinians". A similar situation held in New Zealand and elsewhere.
Likewise here too, Ephraim saw itself as the leading tribe and somehow
responsible for the others. When help was needed against the wicked foreign
oppressors Ephraim was not forthcoming yet Ephraim was quick enough to
attempt "disciplinary action" against the Gileadites who had only dared to
[Judges 12:3] 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?
[Judges 12:4] 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.
No-one seems to be certain what exactly was intended by the above
expression. There are different opinions that contradict each
other. Perhaps the Ephraimites were demeaning the men of Gilead and
belittling their status and had been doing so for a while allowing a great
deal of resentment against themselves to build up.
[Judges 12:5] 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;
[Judges 12:6] 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.
[Judges 12:7] AND JEPHTHAH JUDGED ISRAEL SIX YEARS. THEN DIED JEPHTHAH THE
GILEADITE, AND WAS BURIED IN ONE OF THE CITIES OF GILEAD.
[Judges 12:8] AND AFTER HIM IBZAN OF BETHLEHEM JUDGED ISRAEL
<<IBZAN>> according to tradition "Ibzan" was another name for Boaz the
ancestor of David.
[Judges 12:9] 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.
[Judges 12:10] THEN DIED IBZAN, AND WAS BURIED AT
[Judges 12:11] AND AFTER HIM ELON, A ZEBULONITE, JUDGED ISRAEL; AND
HE JUDGED ISRAEL TEN YEARS.
[Judges 12:12] AND ELON THE ZEBULONITE DIED, AND WAS BURIED IN AIJALON IN
THE COUNTRY OF ZEBULUN.
[Judges 12:13] AND AFTER HIM ABDON THE SON OF HILLEL, A PIRATHONITE, JUDGED
[Judges 12:14] AND HE HAD FORTY SONS AND THIRTY NEPHEWS, THAT RODE ON
THREESCORE AND TEN ASS COLTS: AND HE JUDGED ISRAEL EIGHT
[Judges 12:15] 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.