Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 90: Judges 10-12; Psalm 76; John 10

Say "Shibboleth," or, Jephthah and Identifying the Outsiders...
Sometimes, Judges glosses over the human drama to make God's point that the goal of Israel above all else is fidelity to God. The story of Jephthah is a great example, and is-at least between the lines-a tale worthy of a cable television miniseries:

Jephthah driven out, and on his way to greatness
In the time of the Judges, Gilead had many sons-but one was born "on the wrong side of the blanket" as old-fashioned folks might say. He was Gilead's illegitimate son by a prostitute. Gilead's wives' sons drove Jephthah out of the family home, and the poor man had to run away and make a life in the wild places in the land of Tob. There, he became a leader of a band of thugs. He was a good outlaw, a man who could lead, a man of violence...and soon would be a necessity to the people of Gilead.

Jephthah meets his daughter, the first thing he sees, he has promised to offer up to God
The Ammonites rose up from being subject in order to attack Gilead/Israel. Victory is his. His only stumbling was to promise a burnt offering to God of the first thing he saw when coming home from a promised victory...his own daughter and only child.


Then the Ephraimites-their neighboring tribe-kindled a mini-civil war with Gilead as well. In both cases, Jephthah responds in good fashion, combining his zeal as a faithful servant of the covenant with his willingness to use violence to achieve the goals God sets before him. In this story is a quick witness to the fact that all is not always well among the tribes. As the Ephraimites attempt to flee from Jephthah's army, he posts sentinels at the fords of the Jordan. The password is "Shibboleth," but because of their regional accent the Ephraimite says "Sibboleth" instead. A simple test with deadly results.

That tactic also inspires a now-less-then-well-known reference to a password/litmus test: a shibboleth. I grew up near a community that used one to great effect around the turn of the 20th century. There was a town near my hometown that purposely chose to spell its name one way, and say it another. This was to identify locals (trusted) from strangers (untrusted). Local legend holds that this was to protect local moonshiners from out-of-state government revenue agents. In my day, it just allowed locals to have a chuckle over a stranger's struggling to "fit in." I didn't learn until later in my life that a Shibboleth was, and has been throughout history, a test that would mean life or death for the one targeted for questioning.

So, tell me.....

How would you say the name of this town?
No...it's pronounced "Chance--eee"

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