About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 12

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Jephthah And Ephraim (ch. 12:1 - 7)  


As we've seen before, verse 1 shows the dissension between the tribes of Israel. Ephraim seems to be in the centre of the dissension a lot.  They were the biggest tribe in Israel and most likely had a big ego, which is clearly seen in the first 2 verses.  The leaders of Ephraim were basically saying that Jephthah, or any other tribe, can't win any battle without them.  But of course, that's not so.  Israel can't win any battle without the Lord. 


Concerning the fractioning of Israel, there was the north south divide, and again, it was Ephraim in the north that was the main tribe.  There was also the east west divide.  Two and a half tribes on the east side of the Jordan River that struggled with those on the west side. 


We see in verses 2 and 3 that Jephthah did indeed ask Ephraim for help but Ephraim refused.  Israel's fractured society caused a lack of cooperation among the tribes.  As I've said before, the book of Judges may be Israeli history, but it is also a picture of the church over the centuries.  The church has been and still is very fractured and cooperation among different church groups is few and far between.


In verses 4 to 6 we see this division get worse. Jephthah's army fought those from Ephraim and killed 42,000 men, and why?  It appears only because of what Ephraim said, not anything they had done.  We see in verse 4 that Ephraim called the Gileads "renegades", and for this, it appears that Jephthah went to war. 


Note the word "shibboleth".  It means "to cross over'.  Jephthah and his men asked those who came to the fords of the Jordan River to say this word.  Those who pronounced "shibboleth" as "shibboleth" were killed because Jephthah knew they were from Ephraim  Like any nation, over a period of time, different accents arose in different places and this accounts for the difference in the pronunciation of "shibboleth".


Commentators point out the fact that Jephthah wasn't always the nicest of a person, and this shows that.  They say he should not have taken things to this extreme.  Basically, it appears that  he killed 42,000 people over words spoken to him that he didn't like.


Verse 7 tells us that Jephthah led Israel 6 years, which wasn't many years compared to many of the other judges.  Maybe his time was shortened because of some of the things he had done. 


We need to note that though the Lord called men like Jephthah to be judges, to save Israel, all these men have their faults.  None were perfect.  Most were far from perfect.  God used them anyway.


There is something to say about the progressive revelation of God and His will here.  Many people struggle over many things that happened in the Old Testament.  They say, "how could God bless a man like this"?  Or, "why does God overlook certain sins, like the fact that Israeli men had their concubines".  If you read the speech of the apostle Paul in Acts 17 you will note that He said God "overlooked such ignorance", meaning, that God overlooked certain things in the past.  Paul goes on to say that this has changed.  With the appearance of Jesus into humanity, all men everywhere must repent.  God no longer overlooks such ignorance.  God throughout the Old Testament revealed Himself and His ways in a progressive fashion, but in Jesus, He has revealed all we need to know of Him.  The progressive revelation of God and His will ends with Jesus.    


Ibzon, Elon, And Abdon (ch. 12:8 - 15)    


From verses 8 through 15 we see 3 more judges mentioned, probably only for the historical record because little is said of them other than how long they ruled Israel , which wasn't long.



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