JUDGES 12: PRIDE KILLS
HOW DESTRUCTIVE CAN PRIDE REALLY BE?
“First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall” (Proverbs 16:18, Eugene Peterson’s The Message).
If ever a story illustrates this truth of this verse, it’s the story of Jephthah and the Ephraimites in Judges 12. Instead of congratulating Jephthah and being grateful their sons didn’t have to lose their lives in the battle with the Ammonites (Judges 11), the men of Ephraim threaten to burn Jephthah’s house down over his head because he didn’t ask them to help in the battle. Their self-important pride was wounded because Jephthah left them out of the glory of victory. The Ephraimites weren’t the only ones with bruised egos; Jephthah’s ego was also wounded. Since Jephthah was still grieved by the incineration of his only daughter (Judges 11:34-39), he was in no mood for diplomacy with these arrogant Ephraimites who were attacking his motives and integrity. Taking no guff from them, he responds by going to war against them and defeats them handily.
Sadly, there is no appeal to God in deciding this squabble. Make no mistake about it—God did not sanction this war and was not involved in the battle in any way. The actions that take place are a sad picture of human sinfulness! There is nothing spiritually positive that comes from this intertribal feud, only a severe ripping at the fabric of the Jewish clans.
The book of Judges tells us that things are growing progressively worse among God’s people. Wounded pride often results from a feeling of inferiority. Jephthah still feels the sting of rejection by his own half-brothers early in his life (Judges 11:1-2). Then, when his fellow Israelites from the tribe of Ephraim reject him, his sense of woundedness only intensifies. This chip on Jephthah’s shoulder makes him contentious and short-fused. The Ephraimite accusation only adds fuel to Jephthah’s smoldering ego.
So, when the men of Ephraim come looking for a fight, Jephthah’s anger bursts into a raging fire and consumes them. This war was unnecessary. The Israelite tribes seem to be coming apart at the seams. It’s only because of God’s patience, compassion, and mercy, that the people don’t completely destroy themselves.
How many marriages, friendships, businesses, churches and nations have been destroyed because people couldn’t get past their jealousy, envy and wounded pride (see James 3:14-18)? Not all conflict resulting from wounded pride leads to war and death, but the emotional and spiritual damage can be enormous. How different Jesus was from the Ephraimites. He had no self-inflated ego, no jealousy over the success of others, no arrogant sense of pride that caused him to attack others to promote himself.
How unlike Jephthah Jesus was. Jesus also was despised and rejected—even members of his own family thought he was crazy. But he knew who he was—the Son of God. Although the rejection hurt his heart, it did not fill him with self-doubt or cause him to become bitter and contentious. Jesus contended with the Pharisees, but it was not motivated by low self-esteem or wounded pride. He confronted them to teach truth, hoping they might see the truth and repent. Instead of going to war with his opponents, he died for them. He died for us!
We don’t need to feed our egos with a false sense of self-importance. That kind of pride is too easily wounded, and it kills relationships. What we need is more humility, repentance, mercy and grace in our relationships.
Father, please forgive me when my selfish pride causes me to take offense, especially when that offense causes me to strike out in anger. Show me my own weakness and my own need for mercy and grace so that I extend that same mercy and grace to others. I long to be humble and forgiving toward others like Jesus is with me. Please help me. In Jesus' name. Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.