The Shibboleth Incident. 1The men of Ephraim were called out, and they crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight with the Ammonites without calling us to go with you?a We will burn your house on top of you.” 2Jephthah answered them, “My soldiers and I were engaged in a contest with the Ammonites. They were pressing us hard, and I cried out to you, but you did not come to save me from their power. 3When I saw that you were not coming to save me, I took my life in my own hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the LORD delivered them into my power. Why, then, should you come up against me this day to fight with me?”
4Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, 5and Gilead seized the fords of the Jordan against Ephraim. When any of the fleeing Ephraimites said, “Let me pass,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he answered, “No!” 6they would ask him to say “Shibboleth.”* If he said “Sibboleth,” not pronouncing it exactly right, they would seize him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites fell at that time.
7Jephthah judged Israel for six years, and Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead.b
Ibzan. 8After him Ibzan* of Bethlehem judged Israel. 9c He had thirty sons and thirty daughters whom he gave in marriage outside the family, while bringing in thirty wives for his sons from outside the family. He judged Israel for seven years. 10Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.
Elon. 11After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel; he judged Israel for ten years. 12Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
Abdon. 13After him Abdon, son of Hillel, the Pirathonite, judged Israel. 14d He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He judged Israel for eight years. 15Abdon, son of Hillel, the Pirathonite, died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim in the mountain region of the Amalekites.
* [12:6] Shibboleth: Hebrew meaning “ear of grain” or “torrent of water.” Though the Ephraimites probably spoke the same dialect of Hebrew as their Gileadite neighbors, there was enough regional variation in their pronunciation of the initial sound of this word to betray them to their enemies.
* [12:8–15] Ibzan…Elon…Abdon: three more of the so-called “minor judges”; see Introduction.
b. [12:7] Jgs 10:2, 5; 12:10, 12, 15; 15:20.
c. [12:9] Jgs 8:30; 9:2, 5; 10:4; 12:14.