Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim; and the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, "You are fugitives from Ephraim, you Gileadites - in the heart of Ephraim and Manasseh." Then the Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. Whenever one of the fugitives from Ephraim said, "Let me go over," the men of Gilead would say to him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" When he said, "No," they said to him, then say Shibboleth;" and he said "Sibboleth," for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites fell at one time. Judges 12: 4-6 NRSV
Now we have Israelite vs. Israelite.
Ephraimites were mad because they were not included in the fighting, but unlike Gideon, Jephthah doesn't try to butter them up. Instead, he tries to kill them all. And he knows an important trait of the Ephraimites: their frenulum under their tongues prevented them from speaking correctly, so they were easily identified. This is also known as ankyloglossia or tongue-tie.
My grandmother was like the Ephraimites. She couldn't say "pizza." She said "pissa." As with all those with ankyloglossia, the tip of her tongue could not reach further than her lower teeth. Nowadays doctors tend to snip the frenulum if an infant has this trait.
But the saddest thing is not the use of this impediment as a means of identification and murder; it is that the land of God is now a battleground for tribe against tribe. Even the judges haven fallen.
God, you know our impediments and our weaknesses. But you don't use those against us but to glorify you. May we do the same. Amen.
Question of the day: Which one of your weaknesses quickly identifies you?
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims