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Civil Strife Mars the Victory

12 The Ephraimites assembled[a] and crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go and fight[b] with the Ammonites without asking[c] us to go with you? We will burn your house down right over you!”[d]

Jephthah said to them, “My people and I were in a struggle and the Ammonites were oppressing me greatly.[e] I asked for your help, but you did not deliver me from their power.[f] When I saw that you were not going to help,[g] I risked my life[h] and advanced against[i] the Ammonites, and the Lord handed them over to me. Why have you come up[j] to fight with me today?” Jephthah assembled all the men of Gilead and they fought with Ephraim. The men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because the Ephraimites insulted them, saying,[k] “You Gileadites are refugees in Ephraim, living within Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s territory.”[l] The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan River[m] opposite Ephraim.[n] Whenever an Ephraimite fugitive[o] said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked[p] him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they said to him, “Say ‘Shibboleth!’”[q] If he said, “Sibboleth” (and could not pronounce the word[r] correctly), they grabbed him and executed him right there at the fords of the Jordan. On that day 42,000 Ephraimites fell dead.

Jephthah led[s] Israel for six years; then he[t] died and was buried in his town in Gilead.[u]

Order Restored

After him Ibzan of Bethlehem led[v] Israel. He had thirty sons. He arranged for thirty of his daughters to be married outside his extended family,[w] and he arranged for thirty young women to be brought from outside as wives for his sons.[x] Ibzan[y] led[z] Israel for seven years; 10 then he[aa] died and was buried in Bethlehem.

11 After him Elon the Zebulunite led[ab] Israel for ten years.[ac] 12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.

13 After him Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite led[ad] Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel for eight years. 15 Then Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.


  1. Judges 12:1 tn Heb “the men of Ephraim were summoned [or “were mustered”].”
  2. Judges 12:1 tn Heb “cross over to fight.”
  3. Judges 12:1 tn Or “calling”; or “summoning.”
  4. Judges 12:1 tn Heb “Your house we will burn over you with fire.”
  5. Judges 12:2 tc Heb “A fighting man was I was and my people, and the Ammonites greatly.” The LXX reads “I was man fighting, and my people [also]. And the sons of Ammon were humiliating me greatly.” The imperfect form of ταπεινόω (tapeinoō) in the LXX probably represents the Hebrew verb עָנָה (ʿanah) as it commonly does elsewhere. Two nearby words begin with ע (ʿayin): עַמִּי (ʿammi; “my people”) and עַמּוֹן (ʿammōn; “Ammon”). So a form of עָנָה (ʿanah) could easily have been omitted by haplography. A piel perfect would begin with ʿayin, (עִנּוּ; ʿinnu), while a piel participle (as might be suggested by the Greek imperfect) would begin with mem and ʿayin, מְעַנֶּה (meʿanneh).tn The Hebrew verb רִיב (riv) often appears in a legal setting, to contend a legal case, but does not have to. In non-legal settings it can mean to strive against, quarrel, brawl (HALOT, 1224).
  6. Judges 12:2 tn Heb “hand.”
  7. Judges 12:3 tn Heb “you were no deliverer.” Codex Alexandrinus (A) of the LXX has “no one was helping.”
  8. Judges 12:3 tn Heb “I put my life in my hand.”
  9. Judges 12:3 tn Heb “crossed over to.”
  10. Judges 12:3 tn The Hebrew adds “against me” here. This is redundant in English and has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  11. Judges 12:4 tn Heb “because they said.”
  12. Judges 12:4 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 (ki ʾameru pelite ʾefrayim, “because they said, ‘Refugees of Ephraim’”) may have been accidentally copied from the next verse (cf. כִּי יֹאמְרוּ פְּלִיטֵי אֶפְרַיִם, ki yoʾmeru pelite ʾefrayim) 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. Judges 12:5 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarification.
  14. Judges 12:5 tn Or “against Ephraim,” that is, so as to prevent Ephraim from crossing.
  15. Judges 12:5 tn The Hebrew text has a plural form here.
  16. Judges 12:5 tn Heb “say to.”
  17. Judges 12:6 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. Judges 12:6 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 mss.
  19. Judges 12:7 tn Traditionally, “judged.”
  20. Judges 12:7 tn Heb “Jephthah the Gileadite.” The proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  21. Judges 12:7 tc The Hebrew text has “in the cities of Gilead.” The present translation has support from some ancient Greek textual witnesses.
  22. Judges 12:8 tn Traditionally, “judged.”
  23. Judges 12:9 tn Heb “thirty daughters he sent off outside.” Another option is to translate, “He arranged for his thirty daughters….” It is not clear if he had more than the “thirty daughters” mentioned in the text.
  24. Judges 12:9 tn Heb “and thirty daughters he brought for his sons from the outside.”
  25. Judges 12:9 tn Heb “He”; the referent (Ibzan) has been specified in the translation for clarity and for English stylistic reasons.
  26. Judges 12:9 tn Traditionally, “judged.”
  27. Judges 12:10 tn Heb “Ibzan.” The pronoun “he” is used in the translation in keeping with English style, which tends to use a proper name first in a sentence followed by a pronoun rather than vice versa.
  28. Judges 12:11 tn Traditionally, “judged.”
  29. Judges 12:11 tn Heb “…led Israel. He led Israel for ten years.”
  30. Judges 12:13 tn Traditionally, “judged.”

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