Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over toward Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!”
And Jephthah said to them, “My people and I were in a great struggle with the people of Ammon; and when I called you, you did not deliver me out of their hands. So when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the people of Ammon; and the LORD delivered them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” Now Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. And the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, “You Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites and among the Manassites.” The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites arrived. And when any Ephraimite who escaped said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Then say, ‘Shibboleth’!” And he would say, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.
And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried among the cities of Gilead.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The Ephraimites made the same complaint to Gideon.
Now the men of Ephraim said to him, “Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?” And they reprimanded him sharply. — Judges 8:1
Gideon put up with this nonsense and even went the extra mile to smooth things over. Jephthah, who we’ve already seen knows his history, is having none of it. Their complaint is ridiculous anyway; it was Gilead who asked him to be their leader; Ephraim wasn’t involved. And the threat to burn Jephthah’s house down adds the perfect personal touch.
So, no diplomacy this time. Jephthah tells Ephraim to pound sand, then gives them a thorough beat down.
This sad battle of Israelite against Israelite at least gave us a wonderful English colloquialism.
And do not miss how shameful this was.
And when any Ephraimite who escaped said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Then say, ‘Shibboleth’!”
The Ephraimites were denying they were Ephraimites. That’s pathetic.
But their dialect gave them away.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.