Judges 12:4
Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, You Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) All the men of Gilead.—This probably implies the Eastern tribes generally.

And the men of Gilead smote Ephraim because they said . . .—The translation and the meaning are here highly uncertain. It seems to be implied that in spite of Jephthah’s perfectly reasonable answer the Ephraimites advanced to attack Gilead, and goaded the Gileadites to fury by intolerable taunts, which prevented the Gileadites from giving any quarter when they had won the victory.

Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim.—If the English Version is here correct, the meaning is, “You people of the eastern half of the tribe of Manasseh are a mere race of runaway slaves, who belong neither to Ephraim nor to Manasseh” (1Samuel 25:10). It is very possible that fierce jealousies may have sprung up between the Eastern Manassites and their tribal brethren of the West, and that these may have mainly originated in the fact that the Eastern Manassites less and less acknowledged the lead of Ephraim, but changing their character and their habits, threw in their lot more and more with the pastoral tribes of Reuben and Gad. The taunt sounds as if it had sprung from a schism in clanship, a contemptuous disclaimer on the part of Ephraim of any ties with this Eastern half-tribe. Indeed, the taunt may have been so far true that very probably any who fell into debt or disgrace in Ephraim and Eastern Manasseh might be as likely to fly to Western Manasseh as an English defaulter might escape to New York. And if the Ephraimites indulged in such shameful jibes, it might well be deemed sufficient to account for the ruthless character of the fighting. But the rendering of the English Version is very uncertain, and the versions vary in the view they take of the meaning, punctuation, and even of the reading of the passage. On the whole, the best view is to render the words thus: The men of Gilead smote Ephraim [not only in the battle, but in the far more fatal pursuit] because they [the men of Gilead] said, Ye are fugitives of Ephraim (see on Judges 12:5). Then follows the geographical explanation and historical illustration of the clause, which is, “It was possible for the Gileadites to inflict this vengeance, for (1) Gilead [lies] between Ephraim and [Eastern] Manasseh.” [Part, at any rate, of Gilead belonged to Gad, and lies geographically between the district of Eastern Manasseh and the district of Ephraim, as is sufficiently clear since Ephraim has advanced “northwards,” or towards Tsaphon (Judges 12:1), for the attack.] Then (2) there follows the seizure of the fords, which led to the total slaughter of all these Ephraimite fugitives. One slight circumstance which adds probability to this view is that “fugitives” (comp. Jeremiah 44:14) is a term which could hardly be applied to a whole tribe.

Jdg 12:4. The men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, &c. — That which provoked the army of Jephthah to kill so many of them was their insulting language, added to their threats, whereby they reproached the men of Gilead, (who were the chief managers of the late war,) as if they were but the scum and dregs of the tribe of Ephraim. Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim — A contemptuous expression, designed to provoke and kindle wrath. The word Ephraim is here taken largely, as comprehending the other neighbouring tribes, of which Ephraim was the chief, and especially their brethren of Manasseh, who lived next to them, and were descended from the same father, Joseph. By Gileadites, they seem here principally to mean, those Manassites who inhabited Gilead, beyond Jordan. And although other Gileadites were joined with them, yet they vent their passion principally against these, because they envied them most, as having had a chief hand in the victory. These they opprobriously call fugitives, that is, such as had deserted their brethren of Ephraim and Manasseh, planted themselves beyond Jordan, at a distance from their brethren, and were alienated in affection from them.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!Because they said ... - This passage is extremely obscure. Render: - "The men of Gilead smote Ephraim, for they (the Gileadites) said, Ye are. the fugitives of Ephraim. (Gilead lies between Ephraim and Manasseh; and Gilead took the fords of Jordan before Ephraim, and it came to pass, when the fugitives of Ephraim said Let me pass over, and the Gileadites asked him, art thou an Ephraimite, and he answered No, Then (the Gileadites) said to him say Shibboleth, etc. So they (the Gileadites) killed them at the fords of Jordan"). All that is included in the parenthesis is explanatory of the brief statement "They smote them, for they said, Ye are the fugitives of Ephraim;" i. e. in spite of denial they ascertained that they were the fugitives of Ephraim, and so pitilessly slaughtered them when they endeavored to return to their own country through Gilead. This part of Gilead, where the fords were, was clearly not in Manasseh, but in Gad. "Slew" Judges 12:6 implies "slaughtering" in cold blood, not killing in battle (see Jeremiah 39:6). The word in the original text is the proper word for slaying animals for sacrifice. Jud 12:4-15. Discerned by the Word Sibboleth, Are Slain by the Gileadites.

4-6. the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim—The remonstrances of Jephthah, though reasonable and temperate, were not only ineffectual, but followed by insulting sneers that the Gileadites were reckoned both by the western Manassites and Ephraimites as outcasts—the scum and refuse of their common stock. This was addressed to a peculiarly sensitive people. A feud immediately ensued. The Gileadites, determined to chastise this public affront, gave them battle; and having defeated the Ephraimites, they chased their foul-mouthed but cowardly assailants out of the territory. Then rushing to the fords of the Jordan, they intercepted and slew every fugitive. The method adopted for discovering an Ephraimite was by the pronunciation of a word naturally suggested by the place where they stood. Shibboleth, means "a stream"; Sibboleth, "a burden." The Eastern tribe had, it seems, a dialectical provincialism in the sound of Shibboleth; and the Ephraimites could not bring their organs to pronounce it.

According to this translation, these words are a scoffing and contemptuous expression of the Ephraimites concerning the Gileadites, whom they call fugitives of Ephraim; the word Ephraim being here taken largely, as it is elsewhere as Isaiah 7:2,5, so as it comprehends the other neighbouring tribes, of which Ephraim was in some sort the head or chief; and especially their brethren of Manasseh, who lived next to them, and were descended from the same father, Joseph; by reason whereof both these tribes are sometimes reckoned for one, and called by the name of the tribe of Joseph. And this large signification of Ephraim may seem probable from the following words, where, instead of

Ephraim, is put the Ephraimites and the Manassites. By

Gileadites here they seem principally to mean the Manassites beyond Jordan, who dwelt in Gilead, as appears from Deu 3:13 Joshua 17:1,5,6. And although other Gileadites were joined with them, yet they vent their passion against these; principally, because they envied them most; partly, because they seemed to have had a chief hand in the victory, Judges 11:29; and partly, because they were more nearly related to them, and therefore more obliged to desire their conjunction with them in the war. These they here opprobriously call

fugitives, i.e. such as had deserted their brethren of Ephraim and Manasseh, and for some worldly advantage planted themselves beyond Jordan, at a distance from their brethren, and were alienated in affection from them, and carried on a distinct and separate interest of their own, as appears by their monopolizing the glory of this success to themselves, and excluding their brethren from it. According to the Hebrew, the words lie and may be rendered thus, Therefore (so chi is oft rendered) they said, Fugitives of Ephraim are ye, (i.e. Ye Ephraimites are mere runaways; for the words next foregoing are,

the men, of Gilead smote Ephraim. And having told you what they said, because the pronoun they was ambiguous, he adds by way of explication,) who said it, even the Gileadites, (and they said it when they had got the advantage over them, and got between them and home, as the next verse shows,) being between Ephraim, and Manasseh; i.e. having taken the passages of Jordan, as it follows, which lay between Ephraim and that part of Manasseh which was beyond Jordan. Or these latter words may be rendered thus, And the Gileadites were between Ephraim and Manasseh. So there is only an ellipsis of two small words, which are oft defective, and to be understood in Scripture. Or thus, And the Gileadites were in the midst of the Ephraimites, and in the midst of the Manassites, to wit, those Manassites who ordinarily lived within Jordan, who possibly were confederate with the Ephraimites in this quarrel. And so the meaning is, they followed close after them, and overtook them, and fell upon the midst of them, and smote them; and they sent a party to intercept them at the passages of Jordan, as it here follows. Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim,.... The Ephraimites not being pacified with the account Jephthah gave of the war between him and the children of Ammon, but continuing in their tumultuous outrage; he, being a man of spirit and courage, got as many of the Gileadites together as he could, and gave them battle:

and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim; had the advantage of them, worsted them, killed many of them, and put the rest to flight:

because they said, ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites; what provoked them to fall upon them with the greater fury, and use them the more severely when, they had the better of them, was their reproachful language to them, insulting the Gileadites, who perhaps were chiefly, if not all, of the half tribe of Manasseh beyond Jordan, of which Jephthah was, that they were the scum of the house of Joseph, that they had run away from their brethren, and dwelt in a corner of the land by themselves; and were of no account at all among Ephraim and Manasseh, and disclaimed by them both, and not esteemed by either. The Targum is,"the fugitives of Ephraim said, what are ye Gileadites accounted of among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites?''on which Kimchi remarks, that those Ephraimites that came in this tumultuous manner, and insulted Jephthah, were a most abject company of men, the refuse of the tribe of Ephraim, shepherds who through necessity were obliged to come over Jordan with their flocks and herds for pasture: but the words may be rendered, "for they said, fugitives of Ephraim are ye, even the Gileadites, who were, or being between the Ephraimites and the Manassites"; that is, the Gileadites called the Ephraimites so, when they fled before them, and when they got at the fords of Jordan, which lay between Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh on the other side Jordan; and they are in the next verse expressly so called.

Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim {d} among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.

(d) You ran from us, and chose Gilead, and now in respect to us you are nothing.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. because they said … Manasseh] These words, which make no sense where they stand, and are omitted by some mss. of the LXX and marked with an asterisk in Syro-Hex., probably belonged in part to Jdg 12:6 ‘… and slew him at the fords of Jordan, for they said, Ye are fugitives of Ephraim.’ The words in italics may have been left out by a copyist, and then written on the margin, whence they were restored to the text, but in the wrong place. Afterwards Gilead is in the midst of E., in the midst of M. (so the text runs) was added as a gloss on the previous sentence which became unintelligible in its new position.Verses 4, 5. - The English version of these somewhat obscure verses is obviously wrong, and devoid of sense. The obscurity arises partly from verses 5 and 6 being merely an amplification, i.e. a narrative in detail of what is more briefly related in ver. 4; and from the insertion of the explanatory words, "Gilead lies in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh," in ver. 4. The literal translation of the two verses is as follows: - And the men of Gilead smote Ephraim (at the fords of Jordan), for, said they, ye are fugitives of Ephraim. (Gilead lies in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh, i.e. between Manasseh and Ephraim, so that in coming from Manasseh, where they had taken refuge, to return to Ephraim they were obliged to pass through Gilead, and the Gileadites had taken the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites; and it was so, that when the fugitives of Ephraim said, Let me pass over, that the men of Gilead said, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay, then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth, etc., i.e. they put him to the test of pronunciation; and if they found by his pronunciation of the word Shibboleth, viz., Sibboleth, that he was an Ephraimite, in spite of his denial, then they took him and slew him (killed him in cold blood) at the passages of Jordan. ) And there fell at that time, etc. The direct narrative goes on here from ver. 4. Omitting the long explanatory parenthesis from the latter part of ver. 4 to the latter part of ver. 6, the narrative runs (ver. 4), And the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, for, said they, ye are fugitives of Ephraim; and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. The parenthesis explains why the Ephraimites had to pass through Gilead, and how the Gileadites ascertained in each case whether a man was an Ephraimite or not. The father granted this request.
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