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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

SHIBBOLETH OR SIBBOLETH

Judges 12:6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.

In the eleventh chapter of Judges, we find that Jephthah was the son of Gilead, born to him of a harlot. Because he was born of a "strange woman", Jephthah's brothers denounced him and cast him out of the household so he could not be an heir of Gilead. Subsequently, the children of Ammon, who had some major conflicts with the children of Israel, came up to make war against Israel. The elders of Israel went to Jephthah and convinced him to lead Israel against the Ammonites. With God's guidance, Jephthah was successful in their defeat.

Ephraim, one of the tribes of Israel, went up to fight against Jephthah and his army of Israel. The reason was because they were not asked by Jephthah to go to battle with the Ammonites. Jephthah's answer was that he had called them to help in the battle but they did not respond. This difference of opinion evidently became heated to the extent that a battle followed in which the Ephraimites were soundly defeated. However, some men of Ephraim escaped and pretended to be of the army of Jephthah. Seemingly, there was some doubt about these men and they were questioned. They were asked, "Art thou an Ephraimite?" Their reply was, "Nay." Then one was asked to say Shibboleth, and he said Sibboleth.

Ephraimites could not pronounce the word Shibboleth correctly. Whether it was due to a regional accent or some other physical characteristic, the men of Ephraim could not pronounce this word correctly. Because the Ephaimite could not pronounce this word correctly, he was slain along with 41,999 other men of Ephraim. Correct language, regional dialects, and even "pig latin," have been included in suchmilitary tactics, andused effectively to identify infilterating enemies in warfare ever since this incident.

The inability to pronounce one syllable of a word cost the lives of 42,000 men. Small, seemingly insignificant actions sometimes have great consequences. There is a sin today that seems small to most people - the sin of loving not. The difference between loving and loving not is only one syllable word - similar to the small difference between Shibboleth and Sibboleth.

Is there great consequences for those that love not? The apostle John wrote: ...He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:14-15). Murder, the taking of the life of another, is a major sin in the eyes of most people. However, this passage says that you don't have to take the life of another to be a murderer - you only have to hate them. To love not another doesn't seem to be a major sin. Yet this lack of love, as noted in this passage, is often considered, by God, to be the same as murder. In other words, the consequence of murder and the lack of love for others is the same. Neither will have the reward of eternal life.

Verse 15 of this same chapter says, But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? We all have the promise of eternal life if we love God. But how do we do this? Many passages in God's Word tell us that we must keep His commandments to prove our love to Him.We do this by demonstrating our love for others. This is what God asks us to do. To love God, is to obey God, and God gives us this commandment, to love all others.

Verse 23 states, And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another. Do we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Do we say by our actions that we love one another, or by our manner of life do we say that we love not one another? It's a small thing. How do you pronounce it, Love, or Love Not. Your eternal life or death depends on it, just as the physical life or death of the Ephraimites depended on their pronunciation - Shibboleth or Sibboleth?