Jephthah’s Conflict with Ephraim
12 The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.” And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.” And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.
Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead.
Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon
After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.
After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.
Judges 12 Commentary
by Hank Workman
We all have them in our lives. They are the most challenging people. Chronic complainers never see anything good; always go for the worst scenario; they make everything about themselves and go toward negativity every single time. The crazy thing is they don’t even see themselves as negative! They can be the most aggravating and annoying people to be around.
The tribe of Ephraim were a bunch of chronic complainers. They had been a thorn in the side of Gideon and now were voraciously poking Jephthah. Their grumbling took a new level with threats of his own destruction. These were a people who objected to everything, then when a victory came against the Ammonites, they were so agitated they were not involved. They got no credit for the victory as they would rather sit on their hands then lend one.
Typical mindset – a complainer would rather talk about everything wrong but when given a chance to join they refuse, make excuses. Then they’re upset because they don’t get any credit.
Jephthah had his fill. Unfortunately, he reacted. Usually speaking before he acted, this time his revenge was swift. He gathered his troops and killed 42,000 men from Ephraim.
It begs the question as to how to deal with these in our lives that complain about every single thing. The reality is reasoning sometimes does not work. You tell them something is not as bad as it seems, they will come up with 20 other statements of how bad it is. Chronic complainers are those who for some reason want sympathy and validation. As this outlook is part of their mindset, they will say and do whatever they can to get it. However, as we know they are never satisfied even with that. Many times they thrive on their hardships so pointing out a different view goes nowhere.
Research reveals the best way to handle a chronic complainer is to simply nod and move on. Validate whatever they’re feeling but don’t give advice and certainly keep any advice to single points. As they’re not going to receive what you have to say anyway, this is where personal boundaries are necessary. For as we know, complainers are exhausting. They also can cause us to react in a way that is not right.
There’s an interesting passage about Jesus to consider.
“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing the signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”John 2:23-25
So here’s what fascinating to consider. From this passage, although some believed in Jesus, He knowing their sinful nature did not trust them. He set a boundary. At least in this passage we don’t see a lecture, we don’t see Him pointing out all the places their selfish wants that drove complaints could have been. He simply didn’t give the emotional energy to them.
This is our challenge.
Although we will have people in our lives who don’t just see the glass half full they see the glass with a chip or a smudge, they don’t have to steal our energy. Although many times we would want to respond like Jephthah and simply react to them, it is best to step back. It is best to put up the boundaries that are necessary so we can stay on track with the mission we have and not be diverted down some rabbit hole that has no good that can come from it.
Judges 12 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
As Jephthah’s reign comes to an end, we can reflect back on how he led and judged Israel. As is the case with every other judge, he had his high points and low points. You get the sense with the judges that they are able to bend Israel’s attention back to God, but never fully accomplish their goal of keeping the people fixated on Him. There is always a backslide waiting to happen.
Jephthah’s character and leadership reminds me a little bit of King David. He was a strong diplomatic advisor. He was a fearless in battle, and a more than capable leader. He certainly exhibited faith during his time in leadership. However, he was also insecure and selfish. This is the primary characteristic that separates him from people like Moses or Joshua. He was not a good father and he was not a good shepherd.
His primary objective was to lead and save Israel. His identity was found in conquering his enemies through his relentless determination and military prowess. But he did not care for Israel. This is made crystal clear by the fact that in the previous chapter he did not think before vowing someone from his household to the Lord for a military victory. He did not love Israel like God did. He would not truly be able to motivate Israel because he lacked the humility and grace.
As I reflect on Jephthah, I am reminding of the perfect leader. He is both strong in his leadership but loving in character. He is just as much truth as He is grace. I am thankful God did not send us another judge. I am thankful He sent us His Son, Jesus, who is the perfect sacrifice and who showed us what a true leader looks like.
For us, we must think of this narrative and consider our own weaknesses. Where are we strong and where are we lacking? Where do we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can be more like Christ?