Judges 12 - Jephthah and the Ephraimites; three Minor Judges
A. Jephthah and the Ephraimites conflict
1. (1) The men of the tribe of Ephraim are angry with Jephthah
a. The tribe of Ephraim felt slighted by Jephthah, and were angry that they did not have a central and prestigious role in the victorious battle over the Ammonites
i. There is a tendency within us all to not want to do a job unless we receive credit; it is evident that the people of the tribe of Ephraim are more concerned with getting the credit than with seeing a job done
ii. Being a real servant of Jesus Christ means that we serve without concern for credit, knowing that it is up to Jesus to give us any credit that may be coming to us
b. This seems to be a consistent problem with the people of the tribe of Ephraim; they gave a similar response to Gideon in 8:1
c. The people of Ephraim also back up their anger with a threat; they threaten to burn down Jephthah's house with him in it
2. (2-3) Jephthah responds to the people of the tribe of Ephraim
a. Jephthah's main point is that the Lord delivered them into my hand and that the Ephraimites stood by when they had the opportunity to help; he points out the essentially unjust character of their complaint
b. The people of Ephraim come off here as chronic complainers; when they had a chance to do the Lord's work, they didn't do it (I called to you, you did not deliver me); yet when the work is done and God has been glorified, they complain that they didn't get to participate
3. (4-6) The Gileadites (led by Jephthah) overwhelm the people of the tribe of Ephraim
a. Apparently, the people of Ephraim were better at talking than at fighting, because the men of Gilead seem to conquer them easily
b. Shibboleth means either "ear of grain" or "flowing stream." The people from the tribe of Ephraim were easily identified by their dialect; they had a hard time pronouncing the "h" in Shibboleth, saying Sibboleth instead, and giving themselves away
i. During World War II, the Nazis identified Russian Jews by the way they pronounced the word for corn: "kookoorooza"
ii. The term shibboleth came into the English language as something which determines which side you are one; in modern English usage, a shibboleth is the same as an "acid test"
iii. There are certain true shibboleths in a person's vocabulary today. In Judges 12:6, you could know something about a person by how they said Shibboleth. Today, see how someone talks about Jesus, and you know something about them. See how they talk about the Bible, and you know something about them.
iv. As much as you dialect gives you away, so does your everyday speech. Can people tell you are a Christian by the way that you talk?
4. (7) The remainder of Jephthah's time as a judge
B. Three minor judges
1. (8-10) The judge Ibzan
2. (11-12) The judge Elon
3. (13-15) The judge Abdon