A dispute about participating in a war causes a war
And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward,
and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the
children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine
house upon thee with fire.
After the Ammonite slaughter
, the men of Ephraim said to Jephthah,
Why didn't you ask us to fight with you against the Ammonites?
Because you didn't ask us, we will burn your house (with fire). 
And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the
children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their
Jephthah said to them,
I asked you to help, but you didn't do it.
And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and
passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into
my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against
God delivered the Ammonites into my hand.
So why are you fighting against me?
Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with
Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are
fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the
So Jephthah gathered the men of Gilead and fought Ephraim.
And the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, "You Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim."
42,000 killed for mispronouncing "Shibboleth"
And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and
it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go
over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he
Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he
could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages
of Jordan: and there fell
at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.
The Gileadites crossed the Jordan River before the Ephraimites.
When the Ephraimites came to the river, the men of Gilead said to them,
Are you an Ephraimite?
If they said, "No", then they said to him,
And they said, "Sibboleth", because they couldn't pronounce it correctly.
So the Gileadites killed 42,000 Ephraimites who were trying to cross the Jordan. 
And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite,
and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.
Jephthah judged Israel for six years. Then he died.
And after him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel.
And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and
took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. And he judged Israel
Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Bethlehem.
He was succeeded by Ibzan, who had 30 sons and 30 daughters,
and took in 30 daughters from abroad for his sons.
Ibzan judged Israel for seven years. Then he died.
And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten
And Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the country of
Elon was judge for ten years. Then he died.
And after him Abdon the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, judged Israel.
And he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten
ass colts: and he judged Israel eight years.
And Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died, and was buried in
Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites.
After Elon came Abdon, who had 40 sons and 30 nephews that rode on 70 ass colts.
Abdon judged Israel for eight years. Then he died.
- We will burn thine house upon thee with fire. (v.1)
After Jephthah finished burning his daughter for God to pay him back for helping
him slaughter twenty Ammonite cities, he ran into some Ephraimites who were angry
about being left out of the Ammonite slaughter. They were so pissed off about the whole thing that they threatened
to burn down Jephthah's house.
Jephthah claimed that he invited them to join him in the God-assisted slaughter, but they didn't come.
Clearly, there was only one thing for Jephthah to do: call for a holy civil war. So that's what he did, and
the men from Gilead defeated the Ephraimites.
- Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites. (v.4)
As the note for this verse in The Harper Collins Study Bible says, "The taunt presented as the cause of war is unclear."
- Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right.
After the battle, Jephthah posted guards at the Jordan River where the fleeing Ephraimites would have to cross.
When an Ephraimite came to the crossing, the Gileadites would ask him if he was an Ephraimite. If he said, "No", they'd
ask him to say "Shibboleth" (Ephraimites couldn't pronounce it correctly. It was like asking Donald Trump to
say "anonymous".) Then when the Ephraimite mispronounced
Shibboleth by saying Sibboleth, they'd kill him.
And the shibboleth test worked like a charm. 42,000 Ephraimites failed the test and were killed trying to cross the Jordan.
DWB: 54. 42,000 killed for failing the "shibboleth" test
- Dwindling in Unbelief
- God's 52nd Killing: 42,000 die for failing
the "Shibboleth" test (Judges 12:1-6)
- Who wins the Bible's
Quiverfull prize? (12:9, 14)
- Christians destroying the bible (Judges 12:6)
- Slate Blogs the Bible by David Plotz
- The Bible's grimmest story
- Christian Response
- Annotated Skeptic's Annotated Bible
- Thy speech bewrayeth thee (Judges 12)