Jephthah has defeated the Ammonites and suffered the greatest loss in his life because of his own words. Now he is being hounded by the people of Ephraim because he didn’t “call us to go with you.”
We are not told how long it was before the men of Ephraim came to Jephthah. It may have even happened during the two months his daughter was mourning her virginity in the hills. What we do know is that this is not the first time they have been angry about being ‘left out’ of the battle. I would go so far as to say they were looking for trouble.
When Gideon finished fighting Midian the tribe of Ephraim accused him of not including them in his first attack. They were instrumental in holding the Midianites from completely escaping though when called upon. Now they are complaining because they weren’t involved in Jephthah’s battle against the Ammonites. Were they spoiling for a fight? Were they looking to find fault with their brothers? What was with their attitude?!
We really don’t get any answers to the question of why the tribe of Ephraim was so contrary. What we do see is that they paid a stiff price this time. When they accused Gideon of keeping them out of the action, he was able to defuse their anger with words. Jephthah resorts to a sword.
I’m curious though who called Ephraim to arms in the first place. Who was it that took such offense at the Gileadite’s victory? The removal of the Ammonites was a good thing for everyone in the region. Maybe the Ammonites were only oppressing the tribe of Manasseh in the area of Gilead and the tribe of Ephraim was benefit from this situation. We aren’t told that but their attitude makes me wonder.
The clan of Gilead was of the tribe of Manasseh. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were both descendants from Joseph. They were the closest in relation of all the tribes. But like any brothers, they had their rivalries; or so it appears.
They were also distinctly different too. They had their own accent and this was so obvious to one another that it was used to distinguish between the two peoples. I wonder if it was a genetic issue or a linguistic emersion result.
This reminds me of a story I once heard. I don’t know if it is true or not as I have not been able to find mention of it on Google, even though I did look. I’m simply going to relate the story as I heard it. During the Korean war it was said that you could distinguish a North Korean from a South Korean by having them remove their shoes. The spread in the big toe from the rest of the toes was said to happen only in one of the populations. I don’t remember which side was supposed to have that spread but it was said it was due to the differing footwear they traditionally wore. As I said, I couldn’t find documentation on this but I did find documentation showing that there is an increasing height difference between the two regions. It is proposed to be due to nutrition differences instead of genetic issues. This correlates to the differences between the men of Ephraim and those of Manasseh, or more specifically Gilead.
This difference was enough to condemn a man to death. Not because of the difference itself but because what that difference identified. It identified a person’s origin.
I was wondering if Jephthah was in an angry state when he first entered into this conflict. Was there not some better way to resolve this? Were the people from Ephraim intent on violence?
From Ephraim’s initial statement it seems they were intent on destruction. “We will burn your house over you with fire” (verse 1b). CRUEL words to start any argument with! Jephthah’s final words in his answer to them also reflects that they were ready to fight. “Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” (verse 3b).
Something else of interest to me is the fact that Manasseh had territory on both sides of the Jordan where Ephraim didn’t. I don’t know if that means that it was more acceptable for members of Manasseh to travel back and forth between the two parcels or not. But Ephraim had no business on the other side of the Jordan unless they were asked to come. So why were they trying to cross the Jordan? Was it simply to get to Jephthah’s men? Were they that bent on “revenge” for being left out of the battle?
I think their hatred goes deeper than that. I wanted to know the root of the conflict so I Googled it, of course. I found several bible commentaries discussing the divisions that arose between these two groups. Most favor the idea of Ephraim’s pride getting in the way. One site goes on to state that Gilead was too independent from Manasseh even and, as Ephraim was the leader of the two brothers, this caused Ephraim to believe their authority was being usurped. This analogy holds well for me considering what the men of Ephraim were saying about those of Gilead. “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh” (verse 4b).
The fact that 42,000 men of Ephraim fell during this incident tells me that they were committed to this course of action. Words alone were not going to resolve this breach. This was a sad day in family relations. I wonder if it was resolved afterwards. Jephthah judged in Israel for six years. Did his time see a reunited Ephraim and Manasseh? I hope so.
We ended the last time by noticing that Jephthah only judged Israel for six years before he died. I wonder what all went into his early death. Was it the stress of the loss of his daughter, turmoil in his home, conflict on both sides of him with his brothers, or something altogether?
Thinking about this story brings up something in me. It reminds me that it is VITAL to deal with family disputes. There has always been tension between my oldest brother and myself. I will admit that I am partly to blame as there is NEVER a one sided argument. BOTH PARTIES bear at least SOME of the responsibility. But hostilities can be avoided if the issues are dealt with when they are smaller. It is worth it! It might have saved at least some of those 42,000 lives. How many lives is your feud worth? How ‘life and death’ is your issue?
Father God, what issues have I allowed to grow in my relationship with my family that I could have prevented? I don’t want to see ‘lives lost’ over ANY of them. That includes spiritual lives. Some things ARE worth ‘fighting’ for. But even in the struggle there still has to be love. Love for the person, not the sin. Help me live that way with ALL my family. Let me shine Your light that will draw them to You where we can then come before You with our issues and let You help us in them. Break down the ‘battle lines’ and the ‘barricades’ in my heart. Renew a right spirit in me that is full of love, even for those in my family who have hurt me. Please help me with making right the hurts that I have caused. Help me give AND receive forgiveness. Thank You Holy Spirit for Your guidance in these areas. Lead me by the hand into a more peaceful existence with my family; physical and spiritual families.