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Judges 12:1-7

Context
Civil Strife Mars the Victory

12:1 The Ephraimites assembled 1  and crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go and fight 2  with the Ammonites without asking 3  us to go with you? We will burn your house down right over you!” 4 

12:2 Jephthah said to them, “My people and I were entangled in controversy with the Ammonites. 5  I asked for your help, but you did not deliver me from their power. 6  12:3 When I saw that you were not going to help, 7  I risked my life 8  and advanced against 9  the Ammonites, and the Lord handed them over to me. Why have you come up 10  to fight with me today?” 12:4 Jephthah assembled all the men of Gilead and they fought with Ephraim. The men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because the Ephraimites insulted them, saying, 11  “You Gileadites are refugees in Ephraim, living within Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s territory.” 12  12:5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan River 13  opposite Ephraim. 14  Whenever an Ephraimite fugitive 15  said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked 16  him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” 12:6 then they said to him, “Say ‘Shibboleth!’” 17  If he said, “Sibboleth” (and could not pronounce the word 18  correctly), they grabbed him and executed him right there at the fords of the Jordan. On that day forty-two thousand Ephraimites fell dead. 12:7 Jephthah led 19  Israel for six years; then he 20  died and was buried in his city in Gilead. 21 

1 tn Heb “the men of Ephraim were summoned [or “were mustered”].”

2 tn Heb “cross over to fight.”

3 tn Or “calling”; or “summoning.”

4 tn Heb “Your house we will burn over you with fire.”

5 tn Heb A man of great strife I was and my people and the Ammonites.”

6 tn Heb “hand.”

7 tn Heb “you were no deliverer.” Codex Alexandrinus (A) of the LXX has “no one was helping.”

8 tn Heb “I put my life in my hand.”

9 tn Heb “crossed over to.”

10 tn The Hebrew adds “against me” here. This is redundant in English and has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.

11 tn Heb “because they said.”

12 tc Heb “Refugees of Ephraim are you, O Gilead, in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh.” The LXX omits the entire second half of the verse (beginning with “because”). The words כִּי אָמְרוּ פְּלִיטֵי אֶפְרַיִם (kiamru pÿliteyefrayim, “because they said, ‘Refugees of Ephraim’”) may have been accidentally copied from the next verse (cf. כִּי יֹאמְרוּ פְּלִיטֵי אֶפְרַיִם, ki yomÿru peliteyefrayim) and the following words (“you, O Gilead…Manasseh”) then added in an attempt to make sense of the verse. See G. F. Moore, Judges (ICC), 307-8, and C. F. Burney, Judges, 327. If the Hebrew text is retained, then the Ephraimites appear to be insulting the Gileadites by describing them as refugees who are squatting on Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s land. The present translation assumes that “Ephraim” is a genitive of location after “refugees.”

13 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarification.

14 tn Or “against Ephraim,” that is, so as to prevent Ephraim from crossing.

15 tn The Hebrew text has a plural form here.

16 tn Heb “say to.”

17 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.

18 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 mss.

19 tn Traditionally, “judged.”

20 tn Heb “Jephthah the Gileadite.” The proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

21 tc The Hebrew text has “in the cities of Gilead.” The present translation has support from some ancient Greek textual witnesses.



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