Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Judges series - Judges 12

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note/What we have learnt/can learn".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Jephthah and Ephraim

1 The men of Ephraim called out their forces, crossed over to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, "Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We're going to burn down your house over your head." 2 Jephthah answered, "I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn't save me out of their hands. 3 When I saw that you wouldn't help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?" 4 Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, "You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh." [I cannot help but compare Jephthah to Gideon. Apart from similarities of both were warriors from the Manasseh tribe, Jephthah paled in comparison to Gideon, although Gideon did make one mistake – the allowing of his golden ephod to become a detestable thing before the Lord, that people would worship the ephod. Gideon was firstly humble. He had great reverence for God – we saw this from the way he talked with God about the suffering of the Israelites, and his offerings to the Lord, and his obedience. He must have been very much into the faith heritage – he knew of and probably meditated on the past dealings God had with the people, he learnt the ways of God. He was courageous. He was a peace-maker – remember how he pacified the Ephraimites. Jephthah, on the other hand was prideful – he wanted to be head of Gilead. He was obviously not serious with the Lord – he probably did not bother to learn about the faith of his forefathers, about God. He was complacent with God, mixing the Lord with other pagan gods – all these leading to detestable vow and resultant burnt offering of his daughter. And here, we read of him making war literally, with “brothers” (the Ephraimites and the Manassites were descendants from Ephraim and Manasseh, sons of Joseph who was the son of Jacob {aka Israel}). {Although pride and jealousy were the reasons here, to understand the constant bickering between the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, please read my commentary on Judges 8).}] 5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, "Let me cross over," the men of Gilead asked him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he replied, "No," 6 they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.' " He said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. [These kinds of things deepened the animosity between the 2 tribes. In Isaiah 9:21, the prophet Isaiah, in prophesying the birth of the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6), when making references to the past (as well as the future), even quoted the animosity between the 2 half-tribes. Some Bible commentators tended to imply that Gileadites were not Manassites or men of Manasseh. I beg to differ. Gilead was the son of Makir who was the son of Manasseh (Num 26:29). Each Israelite Tribe could have several clans. In the case of the Manasseh Tribe, Makirite and Gileadite clans were just 2 of the clans. Also, in Num 32:39-41, it is clearly stated that Moses gave the place, Gilead to the tribe of Manasseh and the latter did settled there. Gilead can be referring to a clan (of Manasseh) or a place {also, Gilead stood for other things as well} depending on the context.

In fact, from Judges 11:1, we read that Jephthah was the son of Gilead. I believe Jephthah was not listed in Numbers 26 as a descendant or clan because Jephthah’s mother was a prostitute, not wife of Gilead.

This event recorded here was an example of events that increased the animosity of the 2 sub-tribes.]
7 Jephthah led Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died, and was buried in a town in Gilead. [I do not think I was that far off, in thumbing down Jephthah, if he had much favor of God, counting from the first judge, Othniel to him, Jephthah, it would be strange that he led Israel for the shortest period – 6 years (I excluded Abimelech for obvious reason – he was not chosen by God). Here is the tally: Othniel (40 years), Ehud (80 years), Shamgar (not stated), Deborah (40 years), Gideon (40 years), Abimelech (excluded), Tola (23 years), Jair (22 years), Jephthah (6 years).]

Ibzan, Elon and Abdon

8 After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. 9 He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters away in marriage to those outside his clan, and for his sons he brought in thirty young women as wives from outside his clan. Ibzan led Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died, and was buried in Bethlehem. [In Joshua 19, in the land allotment to the Zebulun tribes, there was a mention of a place called Bethlehem (v 15). This place was different from the famous Bethlehem dwelled in by the Judah tribe. There are 2 schools of thought, one thinks that Ibzan was a Zebulunite, another, a Judah. My pick is Ibzan was a Zebulunite; after 7 years, another Zebulunite, Elon, took over.] 11 After him, Elon the Zebulunite led Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon died, and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. [Nothing was said of Elon except that he led for 10 years]
13 After him, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon son of Hillel died, and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites. [After Elon, Abdon, a donkey rider Ephraimite took over.]

What we are to learn:

This chapter focused mainly on Jephthah although 3 minor judges were mentioned at the end. There is no doubt that Jephthah was a Manasseh, just like Gideon was, yet we saw the great contrast between the 2 men, particularly how they handled the relation between the 2 sub-tribes of the House of Joseph.

Although Jephthah was raised by God to be a judge to fight the Ammonites, as I have pointed out in my commentary for verse 7 above, Jephthah’s leading was the shortest among the judges from the beginning till his time. This could point to his own incorrect dispositions and character flaws which hindered him from being more useful for the Lord. I believe it is worthwhile for us the study both the accounts of Gideon and Jephthah, which we can easily do now, with my write-ups of the same, if we want to be used of the Lord, in more than just a one-off scenario.

Anthony Chia – Lord, I want your continual favor so that I will not just serve you in mere one-off scenario. Help me to grow in your ways so that I may be a pleasing vessel for your use.

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