Judges 12:1 – The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.”
This passage in Judges demonstrates the utter silliness and depravity that was happening in Israel during the days of the Judges. Jephthah won a great military victory to rescue Israel from the oppressors. He was brash, however, and vowed to sacrifice the first thing he saw when he got home. His daughter was what he saw first, and he actually carried out this evil vow. This shows that Jephthah no more followed the ways of God than did the evil nation who was oppressing Israel.
Then, when we think things have gotten as bad as they could be, the men of Ephraim come to Jephthah, and threaten to kill him because he did not include them in his plan to fight. They were offended that Jephthah did not let them go with him to war, and they want to do him violence because of it. Jephthah does not respond kindly to it, and 42,000 men of Ephraim die.
If nothing else is to be gained here, this story shows us the utter evil of human jealousy. The men of Ephraim should have been happy with Jephthah. They should have congratulated him on his success. If they wanted to condemn him for something, it should be for how he made such an evil sacrifice. Instead, they are upset that they were not involved in the glory of battle and the spoils of victory. They act with evil intent, and they suffer greatly because they covet Jephthah’s victory.
How do you respond when you see someone else blessed? Do you respond with joy for them? Do you congratulate people for their successes, or do you begrudge what they receive? Be careful, lest your heart is like the hearts of these evil men of Ephraim. They caused civil war because they felt that they had been left out. Do not be like them. Do not demand that you be allowed to participate in every event, good or bad. Do not demand that you also be recognized when others are recognized. Do not fight for fame or glory on earth. Check your heart, and drive from it, by God’s help, any evidence of self glorification, selfish jealousy, or covetousness.
Lord, I look at this event, and I see the evil in men’s hearts. It does not take me long, however, to see that my heart can be like that too. I have a heart that will fight for my own glory if I feel I have been slighted. This is sin. I have no reason to fight for the sake of my own name or earthly treasure. I have no reason to begrudge others rewards that they receive in this life. I pray that you will forgive me for such feelings, and help me to root out all forms of pride, covetousness, and jealousy.