"Say Now Shibboleth"

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Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 140

Context: In Canaan, in the time of the judges, Jephthah, a Gileadite and the appointed deliverer of the children of Israel, and the men of Gilead have conquered the hostile Ammonites. The Ephraimites, jealous of the victory, reprimand Jephthah for having moved against the Ammonites without asking for help. Jephthah replies that his call for assistance had gone unanswered and that the Lord had delivered his enemies to him. When civil war ensues between the Gileadites and the Ephraimites, Jephthah defeats the rival tribe, captures the fords of the Jordan, and sets up a linguistic method for detecting any fugitive Ephraimite who tries to cross the river:

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. . . .

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