Continuing on from Chapter 11 of the Book of Judges, we now come to Chapter 12.
There are some rough parallels between Gideon and Jepthah. We saw a major one in that both had their hopes of a dynasty crushed before they even started. Gideon’s son would not kill Zebah and Zalmunna. Had he done so, that would assured him of the right to take his father’s place after Gideon died. Jepthah’s only child was a daughter, but that would not have stopped any ambition. Whoever married her could have thought they had a claim to rule, and Jepthah could have given her in marriage to whom he desired. Instead, she became a dedicated virgin to the Tabernacle. In both cases, any dynasty from these men was stopped before it began.
There are many lessons one could draw from this. Perhaps the one we should consider during the DUB is that even with God’s Holy Spirit to guide us, He doesn’t force us to have right attitudes or take away our desires. No, it is up to us to want to change in the first place and to ask for help.Another parallel between Gideon and Jepthah is that the men of Ephraim chide with both of these judges, claiming they weren’t invited to participate in the war. In this case, though, that is where the similarity ends. Gideon had called to Ephraim, while it appears that Jepthah may not have. Furthermore, while the contention was sharp in both cases, the Ephraimites threaten Jepthah with being burnt to death.
Perhaps it was because Gideon was wise enough to use soft words. Gideon found a way to praise Ephraim and turn away their anger. Perhaps it was that the Ephraimites were more unreasonable towards Jepthah, given the threats.
What we do know is that there isn’t recorded any effort to resolve the conflict God’s way.
8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose;
9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:
10 And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee:
11 According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.
12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.
In addition, the Ephraimites in this case carry the bulk of the blame for disregarding the authority of the judge whom God had risen up.
17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses.
18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.
The logical thing for Ephraim to have done would have been to realize that God granted the victory, which Jepthah points out in v 3. Unfortunately, they weren’t thinking logically but emotionally. They were allowing their hearts to rule their heads, rather than the other way around (cf Jer 17:9). As a result, their pride is about to be their undoing.
It could be that the Gileadites were a fairly independent subtribe, which led to the insult, “Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites” (v 4). However, the tables quickly turn, and it is the Ephramites who become the fugitives. The Gileadites block the passage of the Jordan to prevent the Ephraimites from returning home.
Without TV and radio, dialects weren’t homogenized like they are today. It is hard to say the exact difference in speech that detected whether or not they were Ephraimites on the other side of the Jordan, but it appears to center around the “s” sound. This has led some to believe there was a predominant lisp involved. The KJV has “sh” vs “s”. Whatever it was, it was a enough of a pronounced difference (pun intended) that the Gileadites could tell if they were lying or not.
Jepthah judged 6 years.
Ibzan judged 7 years.
Elon judged 10 years.
Abdon judged 8 years.
Total is 31 years of peace during this frame.
40 years is traditionally viewed of as a generation. It seems that little gets learned from one generation to the next.
Next, Chapter 13 picks up the story of Samson.