Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Sedition. Hebrew, “the men of Ephraim shouted together” to arms. — North. Septuagint, “Sephena.” The Hebrew may either signify north, or some city. (Montfaucon) — It is probable that Ephraim went to quarrel with Jepthe at Abel, before he had returned to Maspha. (Calmet) — House. Hebrew and Septuagint add, “with or upon thee.” (Menochius)
Ver. 2. Strife, to defend our property. — I called. Drusius doubts whether he sent an express invitation to Ephraim, otherwise how durst they assert that they had not been summoned? (Calmet) — But we may rather give credit to Jephte. The condition of the nation was a sufficient invitation, as they knew that the greatest preparations were making for war on both sides, and it was their duty to come forward. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Hands exposed to all sorts of danger. I resolved to defend myself to the utmost, 1 Kings xix. 6., and Ecclesiastes x. 2. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Fugitive. Vile and timid, so that his brethren around him might destroy him at any time. (Menochius) — Galaad dwelt in the midst of the descendants of Joseph. (Haydock) — But Ephraim, in despite, had represented him as an outcast. Their envy deserved to be severely punished. (Calmet) — The same passion had nearly excited them to make war upon Gedeon, chap. viii. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Letter. Protestants, “Say now Shibboleth, and he said Sibboleth, for he could not frame to pronounce it right.” The interpretation of the first word is added by St. Jerome, (Haydock) and denotes also “a running water;” (Menochius) whereas the Ephraimites pronounced a word which signifies “a burden,” not being able to utter properly sh, or schin, for which the substituted s, or samec, sobloth. (Haydock) — In the same natioin, a variety of pronunciation frequently distinguishes the inhabitants of the different provinces. The Galileans were thus known from the rest of the Jews, Matthew xxvi. 23.
Ver. 7. His city. Maspha, in the country of Galaad, chap. xi. 34. (Calmet) — Hebrew, “in the cities;” whence the Rabbins have idly conjectured, that parts of his body were interred in different cities out of respect, or that they rotted off, in punishment of the sacrifice of his daughter. (Munster) — Grotius compares Jepthe with the renowned Viriatus. His character, both in peace and war, deserves the highest commendations; and in many respects, he was a striking figure of Jesus Christ. (Calmet) — The uncertainty of his birth, and the subsequent persecution which he endured from his brethren, foreshewed the deformity of the synagogues, and the conduct of the Jews (Haydock) towards their Messias, from whom alone they could expect salvation. Hence they are forced to have recourse to him, as the Israelites found themselves under a necessity of recalling Jepthe to lead them on to victory. Those who refused obedience to him, were deservedly exterminated, as the faithless Jews were by the arms of the Romans. Whether the daughter of Jepthe was immolated, or only consecrated to God, we may discover in her person a figure of the death and of the resurrection of our Saviour, who voluntarily made a sacrifice of his human nature to the justice of his father. See St. Augustine, q. 49.; Serarius, q. 26. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Bethlehem of Juda, where Booz also was born. (Calmet) — The Rabbins make him the same person with Abesan. (Serarius, q. 5.) — Maldonat (in Mat. ii. 1,) believes that this judge was of a city in Zabulon, Josue xix. 15. (Menochius) — In the 6th year of Abesan, the Philistines compelled the Israelites to pay tribute, (chap. xiii. 1,) and Samson was born in the year of the world 2860. (Salien)
Ver. 9. House, or family, though perhaps not under the same roof. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. Ahialon. Eusebius calls him Adon, and his successor Labdon. (Calmet) — Salien says that he entirely omits the 10 years of Ahialon’s administration, though his name occurs in the body of the Chronicle, as being in the Hebrew and not in the Septuagint. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Illel. Josephus reads “the son or servant of Helon,” whom some have confounded with Ahialon, though contrary to the Hebrew. (Calmet) — The author supposes that Abdon reigned in peace. But it seems that he and the two others preceding him in the government of the people, were forced to purchase rest by paying tribute. (Salien, in the year before Christ 1193.)
Ver. 14. Forty sons. At this we need not be surprised, in a country where polygamy prevailed. Priam had 50 sons, and the Turks have often as many. — Colts. This judge succeeded Ahialon, in the year of the world 2872, in the year before Christ 1182, the year after Troy was taken, having endured a ten years’ siege, by the treachery of Antenor, and of Æneas, Dictys, &c. Dares says the Greeks lost 886,000, and the Trojans 676,000, before the city was taken. (Salien)
Ver. 15. Amalec. The situation of this mountain, as well as of the town of Pharathon, is unknown. Some have supposed that Amalec had formerly had possession of this country, chap. v. 14. Septuagint Alexandrian reads “Mount Lanak.” But this place occurs no where else, and other copies agree with the Vulgate. (Haydock) — Amarias, who entered upon the pontificate the same year that Heli was born, died after a reign of 39 years, in the year of the world 2879, and left the care of the people to Achitob and Samson for 20 years. (Salien)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The Ephraimites quarrel with Jephte: forty-two thousand of them are slain: Abesan, Ahialon, and Abdon, are judges.
1 But behold there arose a sedition in Ephraim. And passing towards the north, they said to Jephte: When thou wentest to fight against the children of Ammon, why wouldst thou not call us, that we might go with thee? Therefore we will burn thy house.
2 And he answered them: I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon: and I called you to assist me, and you would not do it.
3 And when I saw this, I put my life in my own hands, and passed over-against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivered them into my hands. What have I deserved, that you should rise up to fight against me?
4 Then calling to him all the men of Galaad, he fought against Ephraim: and the men of Galaad defeated Ephraim, because he had said: Galaad is a fugitive of Ephraim, and dwelleth in the midst of Ephraim and Manasses.
5 And the Galaadites secured the fords of the Jordan, by which Ephraim was to return. And when any one of the number of Ephraim came thither in the flight, and said: I beseech you let me pass: the Galaadites said to him: Art thou not an Ephraimite? If he said: I am not:
6 They asked him: Say then, Shibboleth, which is interpreted, An ear of corn. But he answered, Sibboleth, not being able to express an ear of corn by the same letter. Then presently they took him and killed him in the very passage of the Jordan. And there fell at that time of Ephraim, two and forty thousand.
7 And Jephte, the Galaadite, judged Israel six years: and he died, and was buried in his city of Galaad.
8 After him Abesan of Bethlehem judged Israel:
9 He had thirty sons, and as many daughters, whom he sent abroad, and gave to husbands, and took wives for his sons, of the same number, bringing them into his house. And he judged Israel seven years:
10 And he died, and was buried in Bethlehem.
11 To him succeeded Ahialon, a Zabulonite: and he judged Israel ten years:
12 And he died, and was buried in Zabulon.
13 After him, Abdon, the son of Illel, a Pharathonite, judged Israel:
14 And he had forty sons, and of them thirty grandsons, mounted upon seventy ass-colts, and he judged Israel eight years:
15 And he died, and was buried in Pharathon, in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of Amalech.