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Jdg 12:1 The men of Ephraim were gathered together and passed northward, and they said to Jephthah, Why did you go to fight against the Ammonites and didn’t call us to go with you? We will burn your house around you with fire-
The Ephraimites came over as offended because they weren’t invited to fight in a battle, even though they had shown no inclination; and they did this with both Gideon and Jephthah  (Jud. 8:1; 12:1). We see how the Biblical record is consistent in its depiction of character and personality, over incidents which occurred far apart. This is yet another internal evidence for Divine inspiration.

The threat to burn his house with fire, from which his daughter had emerged, may be an allusion to what he had done to her; and they sought to punish him by burning him to death, the punishment for apostacy. I discussed on Jud. 11:31,37 how the whole question of 'Did Jephthah slay and offer his daughter?' is intentionally left ambiguous. And here again we have only a possible contribution towards the argument that he may have done this. But it is very tangential, purposefully so.

Jdg 12:2 Jephthah said to them, I and my people were at great strife with the Ammonites and when I called you, you didn’t save me out of their hand-
We note the difference between this response to the Ephraimites, and that of Gideon in Jud. 8:1-3. Gideon was far humbler, and his softer answer turned away wrath. Whereas Jephthah is not so wise, and it results in bloodshed. We recall his unwisdom in his vow of Jud. 11. Surely Jephthah ought to have learned from the history of how Gideon correctly responded in an identical situation- when again, the Ephraimites had not come forward to help him in routing Yahweh's enemies. We also note Jephthah speaks of how the men of Ephraim could have helped save him from the hand of the Ammonites. But it was Yahweh who delivered him out of the hand of the Ammonites, and placed the Ammonites into his hand (Jud. 11:32). In the flush of victory, Jephthah seems to have lost the humility which Gideon displayed as noted on Jud. 8:2.

Jdg 12:3 When I saw that you didn’t save me, I put my life in my hand and went against the Ammonites, and Yahweh delivered them into my hand-
Just as all the animals and everything in the eretz promised to Abraham was 'delivered into the hands' of Noah (s.w. Gen. 9:2), so the nations of that eretz were delivered into the hands of Israel (s.w. Ex. 6:8; 23:31; Dt. 2:24; 3:2,3; 7:24; 21:10; Josh. 2:24; Jud. 1:2). Tragically, like Adam in Eden [perhaps the same eretz promised to Abraham] and Noah in the new, cleansed eretz, Israel didn't realize this potential. What was delivered into the hand of Joshua (Josh. 2:24) actually wasn't delivered into their hand, because they disbelieved (Jud. 2:23); and this looks ahead to the disbelief of so many in the work of the Lord Jesus, who has indeed conquered the Kingdom for us. They considered the promise of the nations being delivered into their hand as somehow open to question, and only a possibility and not at all certain (Jud. 8:7; Num. 21:2 cp. Num. 21:34). Some like Jephthah (s.w. Jud. 11:32; 12:3), Ehud (Jud. 3:10,28), Deborah (Jud. 4:14), Gideon (Jud. 7:15) did, for a brief historical moment; but as individuals, and their victories were not followed up on. Instead they were dominated by the territory. And so instead, they were delivered into the hands of their enemies within the eretz (s.w. Lev. 26:25; Jud. 13:1).   

Why then have you come up to me this day, to fight against me?-
Again we sense an arrogance, in the flush of victory. As if to say, 'I just beat the Ammonites, why then try to fight me?'.

Jdg 12:4 Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim, and the men of Gilead struck Ephraim because they said, You Gileadites are renegades of Ephraim from Ephraim and Manasseh-
The motivation for the conflict is here given as being merely racial and historical prejudice, rather than anything spiritual. And yet despite this yet further unwisdom and arrogance, Jephthah is listed as being amongst the faithful in Heb. 11, assured of resurrection to eternal life. We note that Jephthah took the initiative in attacking his brethren, and he did so because their words stuck in his mind, he kept repeating them, and therefore did what God was surely against- attacking and slaying his own brothers. This casual attitude to the death of others may, or may not, tie in to the discussion on Jud. 11:31 as to whether he also intended to slay his own daughter.

We see here the power of unkind words, although LXX offers "because they that were escaped of Ephraim said, Ye are of Galaad in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasse". This would imply there had been a previous, unrecorded conflict between Gideon and the men of Ephraim.  But 'You as Gileadites are really under our control' was the idea. GNB "The Ephraimites had said, "You Gileadites in Ephraim and Manasseh, you are deserters from Ephraim!"". And reflection upon those words made Jephthah so angry that he went and slew his brethren.

Jdg 12:5 The Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites. When the fugitives of Ephraim said, Let me cross over, the men of Gilead said to him, Are you an Ephraimite? If he said No-
The men of Gilead were related closely to the Ephraimites, hence the claim of :4. There was just a slight difference in accent between them. So this really was brother slaying brother, and shows Jephthah and his men in a very bad light. And yet, he is counted amongst the faithful in Heb. 11, and we assume he must have repented for what he did here.

Jdg 12:6 then they said to him, Now say ‘Shibboleth;’ and he said Sibboleth, for he couldn’t manage to pronounce it right, then they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan-
"Sibboleth" means both a stream- which is all the 'river' Jordan is at places in northern Israel- or a burden of abuse (Ex. 6:6); and 'shibboleth' is an ear of corn. There are many examples of this kind of thing in dialects today. Maybe the idea was  that if they couldn't say "shibboleth" then they were asking to be placed under an abusive burden of death, 'sibboleth'.

At that time, forty-two thousand of Ephraim fell-
This was nothing less than a bloodbath, a huge massacre. Although "thousand" when used of military conflict probably refers to a military division, rather than to a literal 1,000.

Jdg 12:7 Jephthah judged Israel for six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in a city of Gilead-
Perhaps it was during these six years that he repented of his unspiritual behaviour and unwisdom, and had the faith which was the basis of his commendation in Heb. 11.

Jdg 12:8 After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel-
All the judges / saviours look forward to the Lord Jesus, the ultimate judge / saviour of Israel. Ibzan, 'the splendid one' of Bethlehem, is a clear example.

Jdg 12:9 He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He sent his daughters away in marriage, and brought in thirty women for his sons. He judged Israel for seven years-
He clearly wished to spread his influence far and wide. Perhaps "brought in" could imply from other tribes or even nations (AV "from abroad)", both of which were against the Mosaic intentions of keeping the inheritances within the tribes. We note the contrast with Jephthah, who had only one child, presumably because he refused to take other wives and retained his one barren wife as his only wife.

Jdg 12:10 Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem-
See on :8; he was a type of Christ. However, the book of Judges rarely mentions Judah, so this may be the Bethlehem in Zebulun (Josh. 19:15), from where the next judge also came (:11). 

Jdg 12:11 After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel for ten years-
Elon's name means 'grove of oaks', clearly with reference to pagan practices. The fact he is not recorded as having renamed himself could suggest that he remained an idolater, although was used by God to deliver Israel. Being used by God doesn't mean we are therefore faithful to Him and assured of His acceptance.

Jdg 12:12 Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun-
Elon and Aijalon have the same Hebrew consonants, and may be as in LXX the same basic word. Elon was a clan of Zebulun (Gen. 46:14; Num. 26:26), so this may refer to a man from that clan. The lack of a personal name would therefore indicate he was as it were an anonymous person used by God to deliver His people at a certain time.

Jdg 12:13 After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel-
"Abdon" means server, and "Hillel" means praise, usually of Yahweh. Although the Yahweh Name is absent from his name, we assume that he was a servant of Yahweh (s.w. Jud. 10:16). And yet as noted on :15, his personal commitment to Yahweh failed to ensure that the whole people were His servants.

Jdg 12:14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkey colts, and he judged Israel for eight years-
The very large numbers of children by several of the judges suggests they were polygamists, and we therefore get the impression of men who were not very spiritual but were used by God to deliver His people. They throw Jephthah into positive contrast, as he had only one child; presumably because he refused to take other wives and retained his one barren wife as his only wife. And he is one of the few judges listed in Heb. 11 as having had true faith.

Jdg 12:15 Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites-
The mention of the Amalekites is tacit admission that Abdon did not effect a major, lasting deliverance of Israel from their enemies. Or perhaps, as with Joshua, his victories were not followed up by the people. We see spiritual weakness at every turn in the Judges narrative.