What is the meaning of shibboleth in the Bible?


Clarify Share Report Asked October 04 2018 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
A word occurring only once in the Bible (in Judges 12:6), shibboleth literally means "ear of corn" or "river." However, it is not the literal meaning of shibboleth that marks its significance but i...

October 04 2018 1 response Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
This one single word seems to me like an excellent password today. May I suggest it? The poet, John Milton, wrote: 

And he said Sibboleth.—

“And how ingrateful Ephraim

Had dealt with Jephthah—who by argument

Not worse than by his shield and spear

Defended Israel from the Ammonite

Had not his prowess quelled their pride

In that sore battle where so many died,

Without reprieve, adjudged to death

For want of well pronouncing Shibboleth.”

Milton, the poet, Samson Agonistes, 282-289. (Milton lived from December 9, 1608 – November 8, 1674) and was an English poet).

Judges12:6 say Shibboleth The Gileadites use differences of dialect as a test of identity. The Ephraimites were unable to properly articulate the sh of shibboleth. The Ephraimites likely could not even hear the distinction between shibboleth and shibboleth.

The Hebrew word shibboleth refers either to an ear of corn or to a flowing river or stream. The Ephraimite dialect apparently did not differentiate the sound “sh” from “s.” Unique features that mark a distinction between dialects like this are called isoglosses. -FSB

The headlines of that day could have read "Fatal Phonetics, Hill-country Accent cost 42,000 Lives." 42,000 Jews dropped their h's--something like Brits do today. "If I had a hammer" becomes "If I 'ad a 'ammer." --Stephen M. Miller

My favorite light blue, thick, single-volume OT commentary is Jamieson, Fausset & Brown (JFB). It says, "The method adopted for discovering an Ephraimite was by the pronunciation of a word naturally suggested by the place where they stood. Shibboleth, means "a stream"; Sibboleth, "a burden." The Eastern tribe had, it seems, a dialectical provincialism in the sound of Shibboleth; and the Ephraimites could not bring their organs to pronounce
it. " JFB

December 14 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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