Title: Judges 12-13. Death of Jephthah; judges Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon; introduction to Samson.
Due to self-centeredness, ignorance, and paganism Israel did not have peace and unity and war ensued.
JDG 12:1 Then the men of Ephraim were summoned, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, "Why did you cross over to fight against the sons of Ammon without calling us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you."
JDG 12:2 And Jephthah said to them, "I and my people were at great strife with the sons of Ammon; when I called you, you did not deliver me from their hand.
JDG 12:3 And when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the sons of Ammon, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day, to fight against me?"
JDG 12:4 Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought Ephraim; and the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, "You are fugitives of Ephraim, O Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh."
JDG 12:5 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened 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,"
JDG 12:6 then they would say to him, "Say now, 'Shibboleth.'" But he said, "Sibboleth," for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim.
JDG 12:7 And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in one of [not in original] the cities of Gilead.
When the Gileadites had beaten the Ephraimites, they took the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites or towards Ephraim.
Some Ephraimites had escaped battle and were retreating home. Gilead took the fords to prevent them from crossing to their homes.
The irony is that, under Gideon, the Ephraimites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Midianites; now the same tactic is used against the fugitives of Ephraim. In verse 5 the Ephraimites are called fugitives which is the same term the Ephraimites used in vilifying Gilead.
They cut off their retreat. Yet they were not out to kill any Israelite crossing the Jordan while traveling. In order to distinguish an Ephraimite the Gileadites set up road blocks and asked each traveler to pronounce Shibboleth which means a stream or a flood.
The Ephraimites generally pronounced v(shin - sh sound) as s(semekh - s sound).
A dialectical difference had developed over the hundreds of years between the west Jordan and east Jordan and this is another example, and is symbolic of, the division that has occurred in Israel as a result of their centuries of pagan worship.
In this manner there fell at that time, i.e., during the whole war, 42,000 Ephraimites and thus ends the recorded history of Jephthah.
Jephthah judged Israel only for six years and he likely only judged on the east side of the Jordan amongst Manasseh, Gad, and Reuben.
The judgeships of Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon of which no particular deeds are related much like Tola and Jair.
JDG 12:8 Now Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel after him.
There is a Bethlehem in Judah and Zebulun and this is more likely the latter.
The Bethlehem of Judah is usually referred to as Bethlehem of Judah or Bethlehem Ephratah. Ibzan judged northern Israel for seven years. He was a polygamist and likely quite wealthy.
JDG 12:9 And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters whom he gave in marriage outside the family, and he brought in thirty daughters from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.
JDG 12:10 Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.
It is difficult to ascertain where these daughters came from. The description is that they were brought in from “outside” which comes from a word that means just that. It was used for the outside of Noah’s ark and as a noun it refers to the street, meaning a place outside the home. It may mean that they were foreigners or that he obtained wives for his sons from other tribes.
JDG 12:11 Now Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel after him; and he judged Israel ten years.
JDG 12:12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
Elon was the name of one of the sons of the original Zebulun and so became a popular name in that tribe.
JDG 12:13 Now Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel after him.
JDG 12:14 And he had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy donkeys; and he judged Israel eight years.
JDG 12:15 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.
Abdon is an Ephraimite as Pirathon is situated in her mountains. He is a polygamist of great wealth (donkeys).
The fact that Abdon was this wealthy means that there was peace and prosperity in that part of the nation, north-central to the far north. Conflict from oppression was occurring in the south by the Philistines and in the east by the Ammonites.
From Jephthah to Adbon, 31 years of the history of the judges is accounted for. Simultaneous with their judgeship is the judgeship of Sampson in the south of Israel. These occur at the same time. We remember that Jephthah defeated the Ammonties and ended their oppression east of the Jordan, but oppressing Israel at the same time were the Philistines.
Samson’s life and contact with the Philistines: Jdg 13-16. He is contemporary with Jephthah - Abdon and in southern Israel.
Whilst Jephthah, in the power of God, was delivering the tribes on the east of the Jordan from the oppression of the Ammonites, the oppression on the part of the Philistines continued uninterruptedly for forty years in the land to the west of the Jordan, and probably increased more and more after the disastrous war during the closing years of the high-priesthood of Eli, in which the Israelites suffered a sad defeat, and even lost the ark of the covenant, which was taken by the Philistines in 1Sa 4.
The timeline gets confusing here because the time of Samson in Judges overlaps with 1Sa.
JDG 13:1 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.
Philistine oppression of 40 years: From the birth of Samson to their defeat by Samuel in 1Sa 7.
Samson fights them while he judges Israel for 20 years, but he does not defeat them. The Philistines become a prominent fixture in the history of Israel until David finally defeats them many years later in 2Sa 5.
The Philistines are allowed to oppress Israel only because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord, 13:1.
Early on, Samson marries a Philistine girl and only a year or two later, the battle of Shiloh occurs in which Israel is defeated and forfeits the ark. Eli and his two sons die.
Early on in his judgeship Samson marries a Philistine girl against the wishes of his parents. Though Samson kills some Philistines they are still oppressing Israel and soon after his wedding the battle of Shiloh occurs. The Philistines possess the ark for about 7 months and then give it back because it creates havoc among them.
Though southern Israel is weak and oppressed all this time, Samson and the captured ark are used by God as a witness to the Philistines and to His own people.
The triumphant delight of the Philistines at the capture of the ark was soon changed into great and mortal terror, when Dagon their idol had fallen down from its place before the ark of God and was lying upon the threshold of its temple with broken head and arms. The inhabitants of Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron, to which the ark was taken, were so severely smitten with boils by the hand of Jehovah, that the princes of the Philistines felt constrained to send the ark, which brought nothing but harm to their people, back into the land of the Israelites, and with it a trespass-offering in 1Sa 5-6.