Shibboleth

(a stream), (Judges 12:6) is the Hebrew word which the Gileadites under Jephthah made use of at the passage of the Jordan, after a victory over the Ephraimites, to test the pronunciation of the sound sh by those who wished to cross over the river. The Ephraimites, it would appear, in their dialect substituted for sh the simple sound s ; and the Gileadites, regarding every one who failed to pronounce sh as an Ephraimite and therefore an enemy, put him to death accordingly. In this way there fell 42,000 Ephraimites. There is no mystery in this particular word. Any word beginning with the sound sh would have answered equally well as a test.