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Judges 12:6

    Judges 12:6 Translations

    King James Version (KJV)

    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.

    American King James Version (AKJV)

    Then said they to 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.

    American Standard Version (ASV)

    then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth; for he could not frame to pronounce it right: then they laid hold on him, and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. And there fell at that time of Ephraim forty and two thousand.

    Basic English Translation (BBE)

    Then they said to him, Now say Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth, and was not able to say it in the right way; then they took him and put him to death at the crossing-places of Jordan; and at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites were put to death.

    Webster's Revision

    then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth; for he could not frame to pronounce it right: then they laid hold on him, and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. And there fell at that time of Ephraim forty and two thousand.

    World English Bible

    then they said to him, "Now say 'Shibboleth;'" and he said "Sibboleth;" for he couldn't manage to pronounce it right: then they laid hold of him, and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time, forty-two thousand of Ephraim fell.

    English Revised Version (ERV)

    then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth; for he could not frame to pronounce it right; then they laid hold on him, and slew him at the fords of Jordan: and there fell at that time of Ephraim forty and two thousand.

    Clarke's Commentary on Judges 12:6

    Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth - The original differs only in the first letter ס samech, instead of ש sheen; אמר נא שבלת ויאמר סבלת emar na Shibboleth, vaiyomer Sibboleth. The difference between ש seen, without a point, which when pointed is pronounced sheen, and ס samech, is supposed by many to be imperceptible. But there can be no doubt there was, to the ears of a Hebrew, a most sensible distinction. Most Europeans, and, indeed, most who have written grammars of the language, perceive scarcely any difference between the Arabic seen and saad; but as both those letters are radical not only in Arabic but in Hebrew, the difference of enunciation must be such as to be plainly perceivable by the ear; else it would be impossible to determine the root of a word into which either of these letters entered, except by guessing, unless by pronunciation the sounds were distinct. One to whom the Arabic is vernacular, hearing a native speak, discerns it in a moment; but the delicate enunciation of the characteristic difference between those letters ש seen and ס samech, and seen and saad, is seldom caught by a European. Had there been no distinction between the seen and samech but what the Masoretic point gives now, then ס samech would not have been used in the word סבלת sibboleth, but ש seen, thus שבלת: but there must have been a very remarkable difference in the pronunciation of the Ephraimites, when instead of שבלת shibboleth, an ear of corn, (see Job 24:24), they said סבלת sibboleth, which signifies a burden, Exodus 6:6; and a heavy burden were they obliged to bear who could not pronounce this test letter. It is likely that the Ephraimites were, in reference to the pronunciation of sh, as different from the Gileadites as the people in some parts of the north of England are, in the pronunciation of the letter r, from all the other inhabitants of the land. The sound of th cannot be pronounced by the Persians in general; and yet it is a common sound among the Arabians. To this day multitudes of the German Jews cannot pronounce ת th, but put ss in the stead of it: thus for בית beith (a house) they say bess. Mr. Richardson, in his "Dissertation on the Languages, Literature, and Manners of the Eastern Nations," prefixed to his Persian and Arabic Dictionary, p. ii., 4th. edition, makes some observations on the different dialects which prevailed in Arabia Felix, the chief of which were the Hemyaret and Koreish; and to illustrate the point in hand, he produces the following story from the Mohammedan writers: "An envoy from one of the feudatory states, having been sent to the tobba, (the sovereign), that prince, when he was introduced, pronounced the word T'heb, which in the Hemyaret implied, Be seated: unhappily it signified, in the native dialect of the ambassador, Precipitate thyself; and he, with a singular deference for the orders of his sovereign, threw himself instantly from the castle wall and perished." Though the Ephraimites had not a different dialect, they had, it appears, a different pronunciation, which confounded, to others, letters of the same organ, and thus produced, not only a different sound, but even an opposite meaning. This was a sufficient test to find out an Ephraimite; and he who spake not as he was commanded, at the fords of Jordan, spoke against his own life.

    For he could not frame to pronounce it right - This is not a bad rendering of the original ולא יכין לדבר כן velo yachin ledabber ken; "and they did not direct to speak it thus." But instead of יכין yachin, to direct, thirteen of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., with two ancient editions, read יבין yabin; "they did not understand to speak it thus." The versions take great latitude in this verse. The Vulgate makes a paraphrase: Dic ergo Shibboleth, quod interpretatur spica: qui respondebat Sibboleth; eadem litera spicam exprimere non valens. "Say therefore, Shibboleth; which interpreted is an ear of corn: but he answered, Sibboleth; not being able to express an ear of corn by that letter." In my very ancient copy of the Vulgate, probably the editio princeps, there is sebboleth in the first instance as the test word, and thebboleth as the Ephraimite pronunciation. But cebboleth is the reading of the Complutensian Polyglot, and is supported by one of my own MSS., yet the former reading, thebboleth, is found in two of my MSS. The Chaldee has שובלתא shubbaltha for the Gileaditish pronunciation, and סבלתא subbaltha for that of Ephraim. The Syriac has shelba and sebla. The Arabic has the same word, with sheen and seen; and adds, "He said Sebla, for the Ephraimites could not pronounce the letter sheen." These notices, however trivial at first view, will not be thought unimportant by the Biblical critic.

    Barnes' Notes on Judges 12:6

    Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth - This is a curious instance of dialectic difference of pronunciation between the East and West Jordanic tribes. It is an evidence of the sound "sh" having passed into the Hebrew from the East of Jordan, possibly from the Arabians, with whom the sound is common.

    Forty-two thousand - The number includes the slain in battle and those killed at the fords.

    Wesley's Notes on Judges 12:6

    12:6 Shibboleth - Which signifies a stream or river, which they desired to pass over: so it was a word proper for the occasion, and gave them no cause to suspect the design, because they were required only to express their desire to go over the Shibboleth or river. Sibboleth - It is well known, that not only divers nations, but divers provinces, or parts of the same nation who use the same language, differ in their manner of pronunciation. Could not frame - Or rather, he did not frame to speak right; so as he was required to do it. The Hebrew text doth not say, that he could not do it, but that he did it not, because suspecting not the design he uttered it speedily according to his manner of expression. There fell - Not in that place, but in that expedition, being slain either in the battle, or in the pursuit, or at Jordan. See the justice of God! They had gloried, that they were Ephraimites: But how soon are they afraid to own their country? They had called the Gileadites, fugitives: And now they are in good earnest become fugitives themselves. It is the same word, ver.5, used of the Ephraimites that fled, which they had used in scorn of the Gileadites. He that rolls the stone, or reproach unjustly on another, it may justly return upon himself.