The Ephraimite forces were called out, and they crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over your head.”
Yesterday in chapter 11 we read of the mighty warrior Jephthah who was an outcast, the son of Gilead and a prostitute, yet chosen by God to deliver Israel from the Ammonites. Recall after the death of Jair and 45 years of peace the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. As a result
7 He became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, 8 who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites. 9 The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim; Israel was in great distress.
So what is going on here? After all Jephthah delivered the Ephraimites from the oppression of the Ammonites so they should have been giving thanks to him and to God. Instead their pride was wounded because they did not answer the call to battle.
2 Jephthah answered, “I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn’t save me out of their hands. 3 When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?”
The Ephraimites could have seen the error of their position and returned home. They did not and fought the forces of Gilead. By the time it was over, forty-two thousand Ephraimites were dead (v6). After that Jephthah judged Israel for six years before he died.
Instead of Israel turning to sin again after the death of Jephthah more judges were raised up by God. Maybe the horrible deaths of forty-two thousand from the tribe of Ephraim had an impact on all of Israel. I don’t know, but here is what happened after Jephthah died. First Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel for seven years before he died. Second, after Ibzan died, Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel ten years before he died. Third, after Elon died, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, judged Israel for eight years before he died. All total between Jephthah and Abdon Israel had 31 years of peace.
It was not to last for Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years (13:1). Forty long years. It was then God raised up a new judge, a man of incredible physical strength, Samson.
2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. 5 You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
NOTE: A Nazarite was a person separated from others, consecrated to God’s service usually for a period of time. Only Samson and Samuel were lifelong Nazarites. More on being or becoming a Nazarite is found in Numbers 6.
Eventually Samson judged Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines (Judges 15:20). This was still in the days of the Philistines who still had power and dominion over Israel. Samson had not full delivered Israel from the Philistines, but had only taken the lead in delivering Israel (13:5).
Samson’s twenty years likely overlapped the forty years of Eli’s time as a judge as told in 1 Samuel 1:1-4:18. Then it was Samuel who judged for fourteen years (1 Samuel 7:2-8:1) until Saul was made king and it was under king Saul that Israel was to finally be delivered from the dominion of the Philistines.
15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”
1 Samuel 9:15-16
It is interesting to me how God chose a man from the tribe of Benjamin to be the first king of Israel after the other tribes had almost completely wiped out them out in the final chapters of Judges except for 600 men due to their refusal to turn over men who had committed a great sin.
Thankfully God abounds in love and mercy if we will only turn to Him.
So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
1 Samuel 7:3
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
1 John 4:14-15
The real question is, “Who will and who will not turn to Christ in time to be saved?” Who will wait too long and be eternally separated from God?