12 The men of [the tribe of] Ephraim were summoned [to action], and they crossed over to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight with the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? [For that] we will burn your house down upon you.”2 And Jephthah said to them, “My people and I were in a major conflict with the Ammonites, and when I called you [for help], you did not rescue me from their hand.3 So when I saw that you were not coming to help me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord handed them over to me. So why have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”4 Then Jephthah assembled all the men of Gilead and fought with [the tribe of] Ephraim; and the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they had said, “You Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim, in the midst of [the tribes of] Ephraim and Manasseh.”5 And the Gileadites took the [a]fords of the Jordan opposite the Ephraimites; and when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,”6 they said to him, “Then say ‘Shibboleth.’” And he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not [b]pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites fell.
7 Jephthah judged Israel for six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.
8 And after him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel.9 He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters whom he gave in marriage outside the family, and he brought in thirty daughters [-in-law] from outside for his sons. He judged Israel for seven years.10 Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.
11 After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel; and he judged Israel for ten years.12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
13 Now after him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel.14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy donkeys; and he judged Israel for eight years.15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.
Judges 12:5I.e. narrow or shallow places where a river may be crossed by wading.
Judges 12:6Lit speak thus. The difference in pronunciation was between a Hebrew consonant with an ‘sh’ sound, which the Ephraimites evidently did not have in their dialect, and another consonant with a sharp ‘s’ sound. This difference was similar to that between the Hebrew greeting “Shalom,” and the greeting “Salaam” used in Islamic circles. Shibboleth has even been accepted into English as a word meaning “a peculiarity of pronunciation.” In Hebrew it refers to an ear or head of grain.
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