Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
jdg 12:1Northward - Over Jordan, where Jephthah was, in the northern part of the land beyond Jordan. And said - Through pride and envy, contending with him as they did before with Gideon. Over - Not over Jordan, for there he was already; but over the borders of the Israelites land beyond Jordan.
jdg 12:2When I called - Hence it appears, that he had craved their assistance, which they had denied; though that be not elsewhere expressed.
jdg 12:3Put my life - That is, I exposed myself to the utmost danger; as a man that carries a brittle and precious thing in his hand, which may easily either fall to the ground, or be snatched from him. Wherefore - Why do you thus requite my kindness in running such hazards to preserve you and yours?
jdg 12:4Ye Gileadites - These words are a contemptuous expression of the Ephraimites concerning the Gileadites, whom they call fugitives of Ephraim; the word Ephraim being here taken largely, as it comprehends the other neighbouring tribes, of which Ephraim was the chief; and especially their brethren of Manasseh, who lived next to them, and were descended from the same father, Joseph. By Gileadites here they seem principally to mean the Manassites beyond Jordan, who dwelt in Gilead. And although other Gileadites were joined with them, yet they vent their passion against these; principally, because they envied them most; as having had a chief hand in the victory. These they opprobriously call fugitives, that is, such as had deserted their brethren of Ephraim and Manasseh, planted themselves beyond Jordan, at a distance from their brethren, and were alienated in affection from them.
jdg 12:5Said Nay - To avoid the present danger.
jdg 12:6Shibboleth - Which signifies a stream or river, which they desired to pass over: so it was a word proper for the occasion, and gave them no cause to suspect the design, because they were required only to express their desire to go over the Shibboleth or river. Sibboleth - It is well known, that not only divers nations, but divers provinces, or parts of the same nation who use the same language, differ in their manner of pronunciation. Could not frame - Or rather, he did not frame to speak right; so as he was required to do it. The Hebrew text doth not say, that he could not do it, but that he did it not, because suspecting not the design he uttered it speedily according to his manner of expression. There fell - Not in that place, but in that expedition, being slain either in the battle, or in the pursuit, or at Jordan. See the justice of God! They had gloried, that they were Ephraimites: But how soon are they afraid to own their country? They had called the Gileadites, fugitives: And now they are in good earnest become fugitives themselves. It is the same word, Jdg 12:5, used of the Ephraimites that fled, which they had used in scorn of the Gileadites. He that rolls the stone, or reproach unjustly on another, it may justly return upon himself.
jdg 12:9Took in - That is, took them home for wives to his sons. What a difference between his and his predecessor's family! Ibzan had sixty children, and all married: Jephthah but one, and she dies unmarried. Some are increased, others diminished: all is the Lord's doing.
jdg 12:15Mount of the Amalekites - So called from some remarkable exploit, done by, or upon the Amalekites in that place. It is strange, that in the history of all these judges, there is not so much as once mention of the high - priest, or of any other priest or Levite, appearing either for council or action in any public affair, from Phinehas to Eli, which may well be computed two hundred and fifty years! Surely this intimates, that the institution was chiefly intended to be typical, and that the benefits which were promised by it, were to be chiefly looked for in its anti - type, the everlasting priesthood of Christ, in comparison of which that priesthood had no glory.