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Judges 12:2, 3: Jephthah's Answer to Ephraim

Verse 2:[1] 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 hands.

[There was a dispute, אִ֣ישׁ רִ֗יב הָיִ֛יתִי] A man of dispute, or quarrel, was I (Montanus, Drusius, Glassius, Piscator, Pagnine, Malvenda); a man a fighter (Septuagint); a man of controversy (Junius). In controversy was I (Junius and Tremellius). The noun אִישׁ/man, whenever governing another substantive, denotes an efficient with respect to a certain action or effect. Now, this expression in Jeremiah 15:10 is taken passively, in such a way that אִישׁ/man denotes the object of quarrels and contentions; Woe to me, that thou hast borne me, my mother, אִ֥ישׁ רִ֛יב, a man of strife, וְאִ֥ישׁ מָד֖וֹן, and a man of contention, to the whole earth! that is, against whom is raise quarrel and contention by this entire land. And, on the other hand, in Isaiah 41:11 it is taken actively in the plural, אַנְשֵׁ֥י רִיבֶֽךָ׃, men of thy contention; that is, who, as thine adversaries, quarrel with thee (Glassius’ “Grammar” 125). [Others separate the אִישׁ/man from what follows, and thus render it, Behold, men, I was contending, or, I was fighting, etc. (Syriac, Arabic)].

[To me and to my people, etc.] Hebrew: I and my people and the sons of Ammon greatly[2] (Pagnine, Montanus, Septuagint, Junius). A grievous dispute was to me and my people with the Ammonites (Tigurinus, similarly Munster). I with my people, etc. (Drusius).

When I called you, etc.: Hence it appears that he craved their assistance, which they denied, though that be not elsewhere expressed.

Verse 3:[3] And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I (1 Sam. 19:5; 28:21; Job 13:14; Ps. 119:109) 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 me?

[I put my soul in my hands, וָאָשִׂ֙ימָה נַפְשִׁ֤י בְכַפִּי֙] I put (exposed [Junius and Tremellius]) my soul in my hand, or palm (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Arabic, Piscator, Drusius). That is, I hurled myself into mortal danger. It is a most familiar Hebraism: thus 1 Samuel 19:5; 28:21 (Malvenda out of Junius, Drusius). It is taken from this, that a thing precious and fragile (for example, balsam in a glass bottle), which one wants to preserved from a slip or from robbery, he is not wont to place in his hand. Moreover, nothing is more precious, or more fragile, than the soul or life (Bonfrerius).

I put my life in my hands, that is, I exposed myself to 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. The same phrase is used 1 Samuel 19:5; 28:21; Job 13:14; Psalm 119:109. Wherefore then are ye come up unto me? why do you thus requite my kindness in running into such hazard to preserve you and yours?

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יִפְתָּח֙ אֲלֵיהֶ֔ם אִ֣ישׁ רִ֗יב הָיִ֛יתִי אֲנִ֛י וְעַמִּ֥י וּבְנֵֽי־עַמּ֖וֹן מְאֹ֑ד וָאֶזְעַ֣ק אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְלֹֽא־הוֹשַׁעְתֶּ֥ם אוֹתִ֖י מִיָּדָֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: אֲנִ֛י וְעַמִּ֥י וּבְנֵֽי־עַמּ֖וֹן מְאֹ֑ד.

[3] Hebrew: וָֽאֶרְאֶ֞ה כִּֽי־אֵינְךָ֣ מוֹשִׁ֗יעַ וָאָשִׂ֙ימָה נַפְשִׁ֤י בְכַפִּי֙ וָֽאֶעְבְּרָה֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י עַמּ֔וֹן וַיִּתְּנֵ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה בְּיָדִ֑י וְלָמָ֞ה עֲלִיתֶ֥ם אֵלַ֛י הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה לְהִלָּ֥חֶם בִּֽי׃

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Matthew Henry: 'Jephthah's warm vindication of himself. He did not endeavour to pacify them, as Gideon had done in the like case; the Ephraimites were now more outrageous than they were them, and Jephthah had not so much of a meek and quiet spirit as Gideon had. Whether they would be pacified or no, Jephthah takes care,1. To justify himself, Judges 12:2, 3. He makes it out that they had no cause at all to quarrel with him, for, (1.) It was not in pursuit of glory that he had engaged in this war, but for the necessary defence of his country, with which the children of Ammon greatly strove. (2.) He had invited the Ephraimites to come and joi…

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