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And the men of Ephraim were called together and crossed over the Jordan to Zaphon, and they said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the children of Ammon and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire!” Bible

“And the men of Ephraim.” This is like Judges 8:1. The men of Ephraim were prickly and jealous, but they often wait until the real fight is over to make their complaint.

“Zaphon.” The location is unknown; it also occurs in Joshua 13:27. It is in the Transjordan.

“We will burn your house over you with fire.” Jephthah has received a serious threat here in Judges 12:1, and one that is totally unwarranted, but it should serve as an important lesson for those people who want to serve God. Jephthah had just fought off the Ammonites, a serious enemy “from outside the camp,” outside the people of Israel (Judges 11:32-33). One would think that the people of Israel would be thankful and would want to show their appreciation. But no, an unidentified voice “called together” the people of the tribe of Ephraim to attack Jephthah for the “crime” of not having them participate in the war. But that isn’t even the truth of the situation. We learn from the next verse that Jephthah had called Ephraim, but they did not come to fight when they were called.

What likely happened in this situation was some tribal elders got upset that Ammon had been beaten in war, and they felt dishonored that they had not been part of the victory. Their feelings were entirely unjustified, but jealousy and envy move people to do very evil things, and this is an example of that.

The “camp of God,” which today is the Christian Church, has many people who are not truly godly, but instead are full of jealousy, pride, envy, and strife, and yet somehow rise to powerful positions in the Church. Too often the people of God who are moving powerfully for Him get attacked by those people in the Church, when we would expect the Church to applaud the work of godly people. In this situation, Jephthah can be a great example for us. He fought the enemy outside the camp, the Ammonites, then as the situation arose, he fought the enemy inside the camp, the tribe of Ephraim, and won that battle also.

Although we can bet that fighting with fellow Israelites was not something that Jephthah wanted to do, it needed to be done and he did it. The record is very factual. There is no hint that Jephthah gloated as he killed his fellow Israelites, and similarly there is no hint of him being depressed or feeling guilty about it. It was a distasteful task that had to be done and he did it.

Powerful Church leaders need to be aware that what happened to Jephthah was not rare or unusual. The Adversary has people both inside and outside God’s “camp,” and the wise leader is mentally prepared to deal with both, and move forward with the things of God, rather than be discouraged and give up the good work of the Lord.


Commentary for: Judges 12:1