Judges 12:1 MEANING

Judges 12:1
(1) Gathered themselves together.--Literally, were called. Hence the Vulg. renders it "a sedition arose in Ephraim." No doubt the phrase arose from the circulation of some warlike summons--whether watchword or token--among the tribe (Judges 7:23-24; Judges 10:17).

Northward.--Mizpeh in Gilead lay to the northeast of the tribe of Ephraim. The Hebrew word is Tsaphonah, rendered Sephenia in some MSS. of the LXX. (Cod. A., Kephenia). Hence some suppose that it means "towards Tsaphon," a town in the Jordan valley not far from Succoth, which the Jews identified with Amathus (Joshua 13:27).

And didst not call us.--The tribe of Ephraim throughout the Book of Judges is represented in a most unenviable light--slothful and acquiescent in time of oppression, and turbulently arrogant when others have taken the initiative and won the victory (Joshua 17:14-18; Judges 8:1). They brought on their own heads the terrible disgrace and humiliation which Jephthah inflicted on them. They resembled Sparta in dilatoriness, and perhaps in courage; but when Athens had won Marathon, Sparta had at least the generosity to congratulate her (Herod. v. 20).

We will burn thine house upon thee with fire--i.e., we will burn thee alive in thy house. They regarded it as an unpardonable offence that Jephthah should have delivered Israel without recognising their hegemony (see Judges 8:1). The horrible threat shows the wild manners of the times (Judges 14:15; Judges 15:6; Judges 20:48); and if a whole tribe could be guilty of such conduct, it shows how little cause we have for surprise at the much less heinous aberrations of individual men like Gideon and Jephthah and Samson.

Verse 1. - Northward, or, otherwise rendered, to Zaphon, a city of the Gadites mentioned in Joshua 13:27 together with Succoth, and thought to be the modern, Amateh on the Wady Rajlb (see Vanderveld's map). It is difficult to say with certainty which rendering is right, but on the whole the latter seems most probable. Although Gilead does lie north-east of Ephraim, it hardly seems a natural description of the Ephraimite movement to say they "went northwards;" whereas if they marched to Zaphon the phrase would be precise. The previous phrase, gathered themselves together, means mustered for battle, as in Judges 7:23, 24. We will burn thine house, etc. - the same savage threat as the Philistine youths made use of to induce Samson's wife to discover and reveal his riddle (Judges 14:15), and as the Philistines actually put in practice upon her and her father in revenge for the destruction of their corn (Judges 15:6). Passedst thou over, as in Judges 11:29, 32; Judges 12:3.

12:1-7 The Ephraimites had the same quarrel with Jephthah as with Gideon. Pride was at the bottom of the quarrel; only by that comes contention. It is ill to fasten names of reproach upon persons or countries, as is common, especially upon those under outward disadvantages. It often occasions quarrels that prove of ill consequence, as it did here. No contentions are so bitter as those between brethren or rivals for honour. What need we have to watch and pray against evil tempers! May the Lord incline all his people to follow after things which make for peace!And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together,.... Or "cried" (r); got together by a cry or proclamation made: in the Hebrew text it is, "a man of Ephraim"; not a single man, but a body of men, who met together and joined as one man. It is highly probable that there were no less than 50,000 of them; for 42,000 of them were slain, Judges 12:6.

and went northward; or, "went over northward (s)"; that is, over the river Jordan, which lay between Gilead and Ephraim; and when they had crossed the river, they turned northward; for Mizpeh, where Jephthah lived, was in the north of the land, near Hermon and Lebanon, Joshua 11:3.

and said unto Jephthah, wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon? not over Jordan, but over that part of the land of Israel from the plain where Jephthah dwelt, to the country of the children of Ammon:

and didst not call us to go with thee? they quarrel with him just in the same manner as they did with Gideon: these Ephraimites were a proud and turbulent people, and especially were very jealous of the tribe of Manasseh, of which both Gideon and Jephthah were; the one of the half tribe on this side Jordan, and the other of the half that was on the other side; and they were jealous of both, lest any honour and glory should accrue thereunto, and they should get any superiority in any respect over them, since Jacob their father had given the preference to Ephraim; and this seems to lie at the bottom of all their proceedings:

we will burn thine house upon thee with fire; that is, burn him and his house, burn his house and him in it; which shows that they were in great wrath and fury, and argued not only the height of pride and envy, but wretched ingratitude, and a cruel disposition; who, instead of congratulating him as Israel's deliverer, and condoling him with respect to the case of his only child, threaten him in this brutish manner.

(r) Sept. "clamatus", i.e. "clamando convocatus", Piscator. "mnellius", Pimcator. (s) "transivit", Pagninus, Montanus; "transiverunt", Junius et Tremellius, Piscator.

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