Judges 12

Talks for Growing Christians

Jephthah Defeats Ephraim; Judges Ibzan, Elon and Abdon

Judges 12

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Lesson Number 20

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Believers should watch out for the sideline critic attitude.
  2. Believers should watch out for the "I've-had-it" attitude.
  3. Believers should watch out for the "Say Shibboleth" attitude.

Practical Application

  1. Let's not be part of a circular firing squad.


  1. Name the four judges in this section.
  2. Who was Samuel?
  3. Why were all of the sons and daughters of the judges mentioned?
  4. Jephthah made another rash decision in this lesson. What was it?
  5. What was the linguistic test?
  6. How can we avoid internal strife?


  1. Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon
  2. Hannah's son, who was dedicated to the Lord. He is sometimes called the last judge and the first prophet in Israel.
  3. To emphasize their community status and influence as well as their affluence.
  4. Jephthah wanted revenge over the Ephraimites who didn't support him during the battle, so he cut off the fords, capturing all who tried to escape. Then he set up a linguistic test, killing everyone who couldn't pass it. 42,000 of his fellow Israelites were killed.
  5. The Ephraimite was asked to say, "Shibboleth." If he said, "Sibboleth" he was killed with no mercy.
  6. We should guard our attitude toward other Christians.


  1. Ephraim had the sideline critic attitude. They should have come to fight the Ammonites, but they didn't. Then they had the nerve to criticize Jephthah from the sidelines. Avoid this attitude in yourself, in your family and in your church, lest there be internal strife.
  2. Ephraim was wrong to criticize Jephthah, but Jephthah was wrong to take the "I've-had-it" attitude. When the line is crossed, gifted people may leave the ministry, husbands may leave their wives, and all kinds of problems result. How much better it is to work it out. Civil war can often be avoided with a soft answer.
  3. Some people have been judged as unspiritual because they couldn't say "Shibboleth," or because they do a few things differently in worship. Let's not let our Shibboleths cause internal strife. Don't set up unbiblical tests of spirituality.


  1. When Christians shoot at each other instead of shooting at the enemy, civil war results. Internal strife only damages each other and the work of the Lord. Don't let this happen in your church. Read Galatians 5:15.

Key Verses

  • "Why didn't you call us to fight with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!" "If you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!" Galatians 5:15
  • "When I called you, you didn't come. Why are you fighting me?" Judges 12:1-3
  • "Say 'Shibboleth." Judges 12:5-6
  • "If you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!" Galatians 5:15

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