Bible study 222 – Judges 12: “Jephthah 3 – Shibboleth”

The Ephraimites make a rather puzzling accusation against Jephthah: “Why did you cross over [the river Jordan] to fight against the Ammonites, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down over you!” But Jephthah defeats them in battle, and then closes off all routes of escape over the Jordan. He posts guards at every crossing, who ask everyone who wants to cross to pronounce the word “Shibboleth”. This enables Jephthah to single out the Ephraimites, who mispronounce it because of their dialect, and execute all 42,000 of them. I have seen the word “Shibboleth” before, referring to in-group words and concepts; but I didn’t know of its bloody etymology.

After Jephthah dies, Israel is judged by Ibzan, Elon and Abdon.

Judges 12:6
… they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. (…)

Full text.


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