士师记 12

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1 以法莲聚集,到了北方,对耶弗他:你去与亚扪争战,为甚麽没有招我们同去呢?我们必用烧你和你的房屋

2 耶弗他对他们:我和我的民与亚扪;大大争战;我招你们来,你们竟没有来我脱离他们的

3 我见你们不来我,我就拚命前去攻击亚扪人,耶和华将他们交在我中。你们今日为甚麽上我这里来攻打我呢?

4 於是耶弗他招聚基列人,与以法莲人争战。基列人击杀以法莲,是因他们:你们基列人在以法莲玛拿西中间,不过是以法莲逃亡的人。

5 基列人把守约但河的渡口,不容以法莲人过去。以法莲逃走的人若:容我过去。基列人就问他:你是以法莲人不是?他若:不是,

6 就对他:你示播列;以法莲人因为咬不真字音,便西播列。基列人就将他拿住,杀在约但河的渡口。那时以法莲人被杀的有四万人。

7 耶弗他作以色列的士师年。基列人耶弗他死了,葬在基列的一座城里。

8 耶弗他以,有伯利恒人以比赞作以色列士师。

9 他有三十儿子三十女儿女儿都嫁出去了。他给众子从外乡娶了三十媳妇。他作以色列的士师年。

10 以比赞死了,葬在伯利恒

11 以比赞之,有西布伦人以伦,作以色列的士师年。

12 西布伦人以伦死了,葬在西布伦地的亚雅仑。

13 以伦之,有比拉顿人希列的儿子押顿作以色的士师。

14 他有四十儿子三十个孙子,着七十匹驹。押顿作以色列的士师年。

15 比拉顿人希列的儿子押顿死了,葬在以法莲地的比拉顿,在亚玛力人的地。


Exploring the Meaning of 士师记 12      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 12: Jephthah’s conflict with Ephraim; Ibzan, Elon and Abdon.

After Jephthah’s victory over the Ammonites, the men of Ephraim came to Jephthah, demanding to know why he hadn’t asked them to join the battle. Jephthah answered that when his people had struggled against Ammon in the past, Ephraim had not answered their calls for help.

Jephthah and Ephraim went to war over this dispute, and Ephraim was defeated. Jephthah’s men, the men of Gilead, stood by the fords of the Jordan to catch fleeing Ephraimites. When a man asked to cross, they would tell him to say “Shibboleth”. The men who pronounced the word as “Sibboleth” were from Ephraim, and were put to death. In total, forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed in the war.

Jephthah died after judging Israel for six years, and was buried in Gilead.

*****

The spiritual meaning of Ephraim is to understand the truths of the Word. Wherever Ephraim is referenced in a negative sense, as in this chapter, the spiritual meaning becomes an understanding of the Word which has been destroyed. The Word commands us to live by what we understand and believe; in this story, Ephraim did not heed Jephthah’s words (see Swedenborg’s work, Doctrine of Sacred Scripture 79[3]).

The escaping Ephraimites were exposed by their accent, as they could not pronounce the ‘sh’ sound of “Shibboleth”. The letter ‘h’ stands for the genuine truth of the Word, which is the love of the Lord and for the neighbour. A purely intellectual understanding of the Word fails to comprehend this living heart that makes the Word what it is, and consequently, can only say “Sibboleth” (see Swdenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 4280).

The Word tells us that forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed - that seems an colossal number of casualties! But the Word does not report facts from a historical standpoint; it presents living truths, even in numbers. Forty-two is six multiplied by seven, so its spiritual meaning can be understood as a combination of both numbers. In the creation story, the Lord worked for six days and rested on the seventh. This idea relates to our regeneration, which involves our struggles during temptation, as well as the peace that comes from spiritual growth. The fact that the number of casualties was in the thousands emphasizes the significance of the spiritual meaning (Arcana Caelestia 8539[2]).

Jephthah judged Israel six years. The number six here carries the same meaning of conflict and work during temptation. The temptation in this chapter would be to understand the Word purely in an intellectual or dead way (Ephraim in a bad sense), rather than living by the truths it teaches.

*****

After Jephthah, there were three minor judges of Israel. The first was Ibzan, who gave away thirty daughters to marry abroad, and brought in thirty foreign daughters for his thirty sons. The Bible does not tell us any more about Ibzan, except the curious fact that he came from Bethlehem. It’s uncertain whether this is the same town where the Lord would be born, or another town of the same name.

Ibzan, whose name means ‘illustrious’, stands for a generous and willing spirit, able to take in new perspectives and to share his blessings with others. This concept is called mutual love, which is a key quality of heaven (Arcana Caelestia 2738).

The next judge, Elon, came from Zebulun, and led Israel for ten years. Even these few details that we learn about him present a sense of integrity in their spiritual meanings: his name means an ‘oak’, a tree which is associated with nobility, strength, and longevity, each of which are fitting qualities of a leader; he came from Zebulun, which represents the unity of good and truth (Arcana Caelestia 4592[13]); and the number ten (the number of years that he judged Israel) symbolizes completeness, and also our spiritual ‘remains’ (see Sweenborg’s work, Doctrine of Life 56).

The third and final judge, Abdon, had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy young donkeys. Abdon’s name means “to serve”, which is the third spiritual principle after love and truth. To serve is to offer our life to God through charity toward others. A young donkey represents the untamed level of our lives before regeneration, which needs spiritual care (Arcana Caelestia 5084[8]).

These last three ‘minor’ judges remind us of the qualities which guard against the next major opponent of Israel: the Philistines, who represent faith without regard to charity or good works.

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