12:5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan River 1 opposite Ephraim. 2 Whenever an Ephraimite fugitive 3 said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked 4 him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” 12:6 then they said to him, “Say ‘Shibboleth!’” 5 If he said, “Sibboleth” (and could not pronounce the word 6 correctly), they grabbed him and executed him right there at the fords of the Jordan. On that day forty-two thousand Ephraimites fell dead.
1 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarification.
2 tn Or “against Ephraim,” that is, so as to prevent Ephraim from crossing.
3 tn The Hebrew text has a plural form here.
4 tn Heb “say to.”
5 sn The inability of the Ephraimites to pronounce the word shibboleth the way the Gileadites did served as an identifying test. It illustrates that during this period there were differences in pronunciation between the tribes. The Hebrew word shibboleth itself means “stream” or “flood,” and was apparently chosen simply as a test case without regard to its meaning.
6 tn Heb “and could not prepare to speak.” The precise meaning of יָכִין (yakhin) is unclear. Some understand it to mean “was not careful [to say it correctly]”; others emend to יָכֹל (yakhol, “was not able [to say it correctly]”) or יָבִין (yavin, “did not understand [that he should say it correctly]”), which is read by a few Hebrew