Judges 12 Commentary


Judges 9-12 Integrity, Conviction, Courage - Kay Arthur

Judges 12 Bible for Home and School

Judges 12 Biblical Illustrator

Judges 11-13 - Jim Bomkamp

Judges 12 - Cambridge Bible Commentary

Judges 12 - Iain Campbell

Judges 10-12; Judges 10:6-16 - Rich Cathers

Judges 12 - Adam Clarke

Judges Commentary Notes - Thomas Constable

Judges 12:10-12 What Shall We Do with the Child? - W A Criswell

Judges 10-12 Tola; Jair; Jephthah; Ibzan; Elon; Abdon - Ron Daniel

Judges - 25 Mp3's from Believers Chapel, Dallas - Dan Duncan

Commentary on Judges - A C Gaebelein

Judges 11 - John Gill Commentary

Comments on the Book of Judges - L M Grant

Judges 10-12 - Joe Guglielmo

Judges 11-12 - Dave Hatcher

Judges 12 - Matthew Henry Commentary

Judges 12:1- 6 Us and Them - David Holwick

Judges 12 Homiletical Commentary - Check this resource!

Judges 12 International Critical Commentary

Judges 12 - Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary

Judges 12 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary

Judges - Lectures on the book of Judges - William Kelley

Judges 12 - Pictorial Bible - John Kitto - Interesting!

Judges 12 Lange's Commentary

Judges 12:1-7; Judges 12:8-10; Judges 12:11-15 -Mp3's - J Vernon McGee

Judges 12:6 Our Daily Homily - F B Meyer

Judges 12 Shibboleth - F B Meyer

Judges 12 Commentary - Net Bible Notes

Judges 11-12 Confusing Times - Phil Newton

Judges 12:1-7 Exposition - Pulpit Commentary

Judges 12:1-7 Homiletics

Judges 12:1-7 Homilies

Judges 12:8-15 Exposition - Pulpit Commentary

Judges 12:8-15 Homiletics

Judges 12:1-6 - Strife Between Brethren - Henri Rossi

Judges 12:7-15 - Ibzan, Elon and Abdon - Henri Rossi

Judges 10-12 - Rob Salvato

Judges 11-12 Jephthah or the Faith that Keeps Faith with God - A B Simpson

Judges 8-14 - Transcripts; Judges 8-14 - Mp3's - Chuck Smith

Judges 11 Commentary - Speaker's Commentary

Judges 12:1-7 Expositor's Bible Commentary - Shibboleths - R A Watson

Judges 10:17-12:15 Failed Families, Faith in God - Steve Zeisler

Judges 12 Commentary

Judges 12:1 Then the men of Ephraim were summoned, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, "Why did you cross over to fight against the sons of Ammon without calling us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you."

gathered (KJV): Heb. were called

Wherefore (KJV): Jdg 8:1 2Sa 19:41-43 Ps 109:4 Ec 4:4 Jn 10:32

we will burn (KJV): Jdg 14:15 15:6 Pr 27:3,4 Jas 3:16 4:1,2

They complained that they had not been called on to help fight against the Ammonites, a complaint similar to the one lodged against Gideon (8:1-3). Instead of using a soft answer (Pr15:1) to turn away wrath, Jephthah responded to the insults and threats of Ephraim with armed forces. This civil conflict in Israel cost the Ephraimites 42,000 lives, a high price for jealousy! This intertribal war spelled disaster for the tribe of Ephraim, which did not fully recover and achieve recognition and leadership until after the downfall of Solomon.

This incident also reveals that the separation of eastern and western tribes was even having linguistic results (v6).

Pride was at the bottom of the quarrel; only by that comes contention. It is ill to fasten names of reproach upon persons or countries, as is common, especially upon those under outward disadvantages. It often occasions quarrels that prove of ill consequence, as it did here. No contentions are so bitter as those between brethren or rivals for honour. What need we have to watch and pray against evil tempers! May the Lord incline all his people to follow after things which make for peace!

We have seen that the men of Ephraim also quarreled with Gideon (8:1) when he didn’t summon them to help him rout the Midianites. Now in a hostile way, they demanded that Jephthah give them the reason why he did not ask for their help in the battle. The jealousy of Ephraim was a real infection that led to a defection. Later on, when the kingdom is divided into north and south, you will find out that Ephraim is the center of all of the rebellion. And it probably goes back to their jealousy.

There is jealousy in the church today. It is one of our greatest problems. Paul speaks of vanity and envy (Php2:3) two things that cause problems in churches today. When you hear some person in a church complain that it is not being run the way he thinks it should be we need to wonder if he is jealous. When you find someone who is opposing the preacher all of the time, suspect there is jealousy behind it.

Jealousy seems to be was the root problem here with the Ephraimites & Jephthah.

Judges 12.1
G Campbell Morgan

We will burn thine house upon thee with fire. Judges 12.1

We draw attention to these words in the story because they illustrate the arrogance with which injustice often speaks, and the sequel shows the utter futility and folly of such boasting. The men of Ephraim could have had no reason for this complaint and threat, other than that of hatred of Jeph­thah. They complained that he had not called upon them to help as he went forth to war with Ammon. The folly of that complaint is evidenced by the fact that he had gained a complete victory without their aid. If he had failed, they might have had some reason for complaint. The answer of Jephthah to the complaint and threat was logical and final. He first told them why he had not called them. When he and his people had been at strife with Ammon, he had asked the help of Ephraim, and it had been withheld. Why then should he appeal to them again? Having thus given an answer to the complaint, he replied to the threat by severe punishment. It may safely be affirmed that behind arrogance and threatening, there is invariably injustice; and further, that these things are the sure signs of incom­petence. A frantic boast is proof positive of fundamental weakness. To threaten frightfulness is to declare the consciousness of wrong. Those who are strong in the sense of the justice of their cause, are never arrogant in their speech; they do not threaten, they act. When we are tempted to loud protestations of ability, we may well seek for the weakness which inspired us to such wordiness. When we are inclined to threaten, we are wise if we ask ourselves what injustice prompts such action. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible)

Judges 12:2 And Jephthah said to them, "I and my people were at great strife with the sons of Ammon; when I called you, you did not deliver me from their hand.

I and my (KJV): Jdg 11:12-33

I CALLED YOU though the record is silent concerning such an invitation)

Judges 12:3 "And when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the sons of Ammon, and the LORD gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day, to fight against me?"

put (KJV): Jdg 9:17 1Sa 19:5 28:21 Job 13:14 Ps 119:109 Ro 16:4 Rev 12:11

wherefore (KJV): Jdg 11:27 2Ch 13:12

"I took my life in my hands" pictures one carrying his very life in his hands and is used of risking one's life through a daring, dangerous action.

Judges 12:4 Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought Ephraim; and the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, "You are fugitives of Ephraim, O Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh."

and the men (KJV): Jdg 11:10 Nu 32:39,40 Dt 3:12-17

fugitives (KJV): 1Sa 25:10 Ne 4:4 Ps 78:9 Pr 12:13 15:1

YOU ARE FUGITIVES OF EPHRAIM O GILEADITES, IN THE MIDST OF EPHRAIM AND IN THE MIDST OF MANASSEH: implies that the tribes on the E side of the Jordan had deserted from Ephraim and Manasseh on the W side.

Judges 12:5 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, "Let me cross over," the men of Gilead would say to him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he said, "No,"

Jdg 3:28 7:24 Jos 2:7 22:11

For the third time in Judges, the capture of the fords of the Jordan was crucial (v. 5; 3:28; 7:24-25).

The Gileadites applied a linguistic test to screen out the Ephraimites, who pronounced Shibboleth as Sibboleth.

Judges 12:6 then they would say to him, "Say now, 'Shibboleth.'" But he said, "Sibboleth," for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim.

Say now (KJV): Mt 26:73 Mk 14:70

Shibboleth (KJV): which signifieth a stream, or flood, Ps 69:2,15 Isa 27:12 *Heb: {Shibboleth} also means an ear of corn, (Job 24:24,) and {sibboleth} signifies a burden, (Ex 6:6;) and a heavy burden they were obliged to bear who could not pronounce this test letter. It is well known that several nations cannot pronounce certain letters. The sound of th cannot be pronounced by the Persians, no more than by some of our Continental neighbours; though it is a common sound among the Arabians. To this day, many of the German Jews cannot articulate [t] th, for which they substitute ss; thus for {baith,} a house, they say {baiss.}

there fell (KJV): Pr 17:14 18:19 Ec 10:12 Mt 12:25 Ga 5:15

forty (KJV): {Arbaim ooshenayim aleph,} "forty and two thousand." Here the [w,] and, may mean simple addition; and this number may denote 2,040 and not 42,000. At the last census of the Israelites (Nu 26:37) the whole tribe of Ephraim only amounted to 32,500, compared with which this last number appears far too great.

THEN THEY WOULD SAY TO HIM, "SAY NOW, 'SHIBBOLETH (stream)'": The people of Ephraim had their own regional pronunciation for the word shibboleth, which means “stream” or “floods.” They said “sibboleth,” and this gave them away (Matt. 26:73). It was a simple test, but it worked. Because of this story, the word shibboleth has become a part of our English vocabulary and is now found in our dictionaries. It stands for any kind of test that a group gives to outsiders to see whether they really belong.

The sibbilants are notoriously difficult in Semitic languages. During World War II, the Nazis identified Russian Jews by the way they pronounced the word for corn: "kookoorooza."

300 yrs in their separate provinces in Canaan could make a significant difference in local pronunciations, even between two tribes of Israelites (compare differences between Brooklyn and Birmingham accents today). If they mispronounced it by an “s” rather than “sh” sound, it gave them away, being a unique indicator of their dialect.

During the American Civil War soldiers from "border states" spoke very much alike whether they fought on the side of the Union or the Confederacy. Consequently, it was easier for spies from these areas to work undetected behind the lines in enemy territory. Conversely, soldiers from far northern or southern states had a more pronounced accent and were betrayed by their speech. Likewise, during WWII Nazi spies who learned English in the German classroom were often exposed when they were asked to say English words that a German speaking person finds difficult to pronounce.

With respect to the Ephraimites it should be noted that the tongue kindled the flame (v1) and the tongue betrayed them (v6). Tragically, many times since this sad event, strife among the people of God has occurred because of the same sort of pride, jealously, and hurt feelings.

Judges 12:6
F B Meyer
Our Daily Homily

And he said Sibboleth.

It was only the omission of “h,” but it meant the death of the man who missed it. One little letter, and the whole wonder and beauty of a human life was forfeited. It is only recently that the peace of an empire was in jeopardy, because a full-stop was misplaced. This scene has become proverbial of those who exact compliance with some arbitrary test, before admitting their fellows into their sect or church. But how thankful we should be, that our admission to the privilege of the Kingdom of God does not depend upon our pronunciation; that the reality of the new-birth is not tested by the accuracy with which we utter the creed; that we shall not be excluded from the gates of the New Jerusalem because we fail in the utterance of an “h”!

Our acceptance with God does not depend on how much we believe. The woman who was healed had very inadequate notions of faith and Christ. She thought that his garment would communicate blessing, yet she was cured. The dying thief had but a glimmering ray of knowledge of the majesty and power of Jesus, but he entered Paradise in His company. The prime necessity with us, is not faith in the sense of creed, but as standing for trust. It is not our belief about Christ, but our trust in Him; not our ability to answer the questions of the Catechism, but our coming to Him, and finding rest to our souls — this only is necessary to pass us across the fords of Jordan. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

Judges 12:7 And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.

This is a "new formula" in the book of Judges… previously we would read "Then the land had rest ____years… " But after Gideon we never read of peace in the land

Jephthah is cited in [Heb11:32] along with Gideon, Barak, and Samson. All these men had their faults, but they all, at one time or another, demonstrated great faith. It is often said that God does not save us and use us because of who or what we are but because of what we may become by His grace and in His power.

Judges 12:8 Now Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel after him.

Ibzan (KJV): A.M. 2823, B.C. 1181, An, Ex, Is, 310, "He seems to have been only a civil judge to do justice in North-east Israel."

Bethlehem (KJV): Ge 15:19 1Sa 16:1 Mic 5:2 Mt 2:1

It is not indicated whether this was Bethlehem in Judah or Bethlehem in Zebulun located about 10 miles N of Megiddo a town N of Megiddo. Ibzan appears to have been only a civil judge in NE Israel.

Judges 12:9 And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters whom he gave in marriage outside the family, and he brought in thirty daughters from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.

Jdg 12:14 10:4

OUTSIDE THE FAMILY: Probably = from outside his clan which suggest his seeking political alliances & extension of his sphere of influence that were associated with marriages in the Ancient East.

Very large families (cp v14, 10:4) suggest the fathers’ marriage to several wives (polygamy), a part of life tolerated but never matching God’s blueprint of one wife at a time (Ge2:24). To have many children had the lure of extending one’s human power and influence.

Judges 12:10 Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.


Judges 12:11 Now Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel after him; and he judged Israel ten years.

A.M. 2830, B.C. 1174, An, Ex, Is, 317, "A civil judge in North-east Israel." Jdg 12:11


Judges 12:12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.

Aijalon (KJV): Jos 19:42 1Ch 6:69 8:13


Judges 12:13 Now Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel after him.

A.M. 2840, B.C. 1164, An, Ex, Is, 327, "A civil judge also in North-east Israel." Jdg 12:13


Judges 12:14 And he had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy donkeys; and he judged Israel eight years

nephews (KJV): Heb. sons' sons

rode (KJV): Jdg 5:10 10:4

J Vernon McGee comments:

"Abdon did nothing except “out-Jair” Jair. Talk about keeping up with the Jones family! As we have seen in chap10:3-5, Jair had 30 sons—but Abdon had 40 sons and 30 nephews besides. It must have been quite a sight to see that man ride out of town with his sons and nephews. You would have seen a parade of Jaguars, Mustangs, Pintos, and Cougars like you had never seen before. They call the little donkey the “mockingbird” or “lark” of the desert because he can really bray. Just think of all of those braying donkeys! That is all Abdon contributed. That isn’t much, friend."

Judges 12:15 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.

A.M. 2848, B.C. 1156, An, Ex, Is, 335

Pirathonite (KJV): 2Sa 23:30

in the mount (KJV): Jdg 3:13,27 5:14 Ge 14:7 Ex 17:8 1Sa 15:7


F B Meyer…


Judges 12:1-6 Fratricidal strife. -- This is the worst of all. There is no war to be compared to civil war. Ephraim had contended thus with Gideon (Jdg. 8:1-note). Pride lay at the root of all. They could not endure that there should be honor and glory from which they were excluded.

Men are very unreasonable; like these children of Ammon, they are reluctant to take up a difficult cause. Then they are annoyed not to share in the glory when it has passed out of its narrowness into a large place. This comes of calculating results, and considering what will make for name, or fame, or prosperity. No man can live happily or honorably who has one eye towards his own interests and the other towards God's.

Oh, for the single eye, the united heart; the devoted purpose fixed on doing the will of God! When once the soul elects to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, he is indifferent to human praise or blame, success or failure, as the world may deem it, and turns away from the heated faces and words of critics and opponents, saying, "I put my life in my hands, and the Lord delivered" (Judges 12:3).

The word "shibboleth" means river. Forty and two thousand is 2040. This scene had led to the use of shibboleth, to indicate the tests which Christians impose on each other, and by which they condemn those who differ from them in matters trivial as an h, while they ignore the great bonds of a common brotherhood (Ro 14:19-note).

There are many among us who might pass as allies and brothers, but they cannot adjust to pronounce certain words which to us are as dear as life. They utter them, indeed, with their lips, but there is a certain dialect, a color, an indefinable defect which we can instantly detect, and which betrays the false professor. God help us to speak plainly!

Judges 12:8-15 Some minor Judgeships succeed, which call for very slight notice, and yet in these quiet days the people were able to recoup themselves for the grievous rages made in their prosperity during the preceding years. We all of us need quiet, growing days in our lives, in which, although we may not be winning conspicuous victories or making remarkable progress, we are righting ourselves, striking our roots deep, and repairing the mistakes of the past. (F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)