Reading through the Bible together
Instead of thanking Jephthah for defeating the oppressors of Israel, the Ephraimites were jealous that Jephthah was successful without them. Previously we learned that the Ephraimites had an undue sense of self-importance (8:1), and this time their wounded pride led to an unnecessary confrontation.
Jephthah correctly contends that the Ephraimites have no right to be upset at him. With his previous disputation with the Ammonites, Jephthah had given a reasonable and fair defense for his actions. But unlike his dealings with the Ammonites, Jephthah does not suggest that it should be the Lord who renders judgment between Gilead and Ephraim. We are not even told what kind of response the Ephraimites gave. Jephthah simply musters the Gileadite army and goes to war against Ephraim. While Gideon had appeased the Ephraimites with words (8:2-3), Jephthah chose to punish his Israelite brethren for their arrogance. Not only are the Ephraimites defeated in battle, they are slaughtered in cold blood by the thousands (12:5-6).
It’s tempting to think that the Ephraimites got what they deserved. The question, however, is not what they deserved, but whether God willed that they be punished. Like Jephthah, too often we are quick to condemn our fellow believers when they have wronged us. We don’t mind letting God deal with the ‘Ammonites’ in our lives but have no hesitation of waging war on the brother or sister who offended us.
When Christ’s followers quarrel, Satan wins. When we allow pride to rule our hearts, no matter how right we think we are, we are a liability to the testimony of Jesus. Our daily surrender of self not only protects our hearts from sin, it also keeps us from becoming a weapon Satan can use to attack our brothers and sisters.
Justo E. Morales
Southern Adventist University