In Judges 12:1-7 an interesting scenario develops (See full text below). The Ephraimites, decendants of Joseph and one of the 12 tribes of Israel were offended with Jephthah’s victory over the Ammonites. (v.1) The root of their bitterness is perhaps their despising of Jepthah or his people the Gileadites. They threaten to burn his house down for not calling on them to fight against the Ammonites whom Jephthah and his army routed handily (v.1).
It is very likely that the Ephraimites were upset that they didn’t get to share in the spoils, the reward for the victor. In this case the 20 cities the LORD gave Jephthah would yield a large amount of spoils (see 11:33) and make for a lot to brag about and some amazing war stories.
Sadly, the Ephraimites are like so many Christians I have met and like me sometimes. They wanted the rewards of victory without the battle, without the risk, without the wounds of war. They wanted to shout “we did it”when in reality they “watched it” waiting to see the results. If Jephthah had lost they’d be second guessing he and his army of misfits up and down the land of Israel.
They had in fact been asked to help. They had been invited to fight under the banner of the LORD their God but they had passed. Maybe they ignored the text. Maybe the email got lost in their spam but regardless they didn’t come running to help. They left Jephthah who sought to avoid war to fend for himself so he took matters into He and the LORD’s hands. Mightily the LORD won the battle for him (vs. 2-3).
The Ephraimites were now seeking to be opportunists. Jephthah ‘s army was no doubt exhausted from their battles with the Ammonites. The men of Ephraim now stand poised to fight with their large army against Jephthah and take what the LORD had given him. They thought there would be little resistence but Jephthah wouldn’t be bullied. The Ephraimites were also defeated badly. They lost 42000 men of their army and went home with more casualties than if they had actually fought with Jephthah against the Ammonites (see v. 6)
So…..I can’t share in the rewards of victory if I don’t join the battle and if I won’t join the battle I may in fact suffer greater losses than if I did.
I can’t celebrate a victory for a game I didn’t play.
JUDGES 12: 1-7 – The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.”2 And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. 3 And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”4 Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.”5 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,”the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?”When he said, “No,”6 they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,”and he said, “Sibboleth,”for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell. 7 Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead.