So it's no surprise that when God moved in some miraculous way among another tribe of Israel, it ruffled a few Ephraimite feathers. Like in Judges 6-8 when God used Gideon of Manasseh and just 300 men to defeat the Midianites, who for seven years violently tormented and terrorized the nation each time its harvests were ripe.
After Gideon's triumph, the tribe of Ephraim should have been rejoicing. Instead they decided to complain that they had not been included among the 300 men who helped to secure the victory. They hadn't tried to join the ranks when it was time to fight. But now that it was time to honor the victors, they couldn't stand that they were not counted among those praised. Gideon pacified them by complimenting the way they finished off the Midianite princes who ended up in Ephraimite territory.
The same events repeated themselves just four chapters later in Judges 12. God calls Jephthah, another unlikely man from Manasseh to release Israel from Ammonite oppression. Once more the Ephraimites ignored the battle call, yet when Jephthah returned from battle victorious, the men of Ephraim wanted to know why they had not been consulted to help. In fact they threatened to burn Jephthah's house in revenge for stealing the lime light. This time Jephthah wasn't as quick to stroke their egos as Gideon had been.
When the Ephraimites insult Jephthah and his fellow men of Gilead by calling them half-breed Israelites who don't belong, Jephthah fights back. Jephthah lived on the east side of the Jordan in the territory of the tribe of Manasseh, and the offended Ephraimites lived west of the Jordan River. Jephthah began to fight and employed a keen tactic. He blocked the crossing of the Jordan River, killing every Ephraimite who attempted to cross and get home.
Over the years, Ephraim's tribe picked up a dialect that pronounced "sh" as "s" This created a unique distinction among the Ephraimites when saying "Shibboleth," the Hebrew word for "river." The result, 42,000 Ephraimite men were killed trying to get home because no matter how they acted or looked, Jephthah knew who they were by how they talked.
I thought about that story a lot today. I think that is true for more than just the Ephraimites, and I wonder what do my words say about me?
Promise for Today:
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34b