Turning Back on the Battle

“The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.”

As I was reading Psalm 78 recently, I found this verse (vs.9) intriguing and I wanted to know more about the story or incident to which Asaph was referring in this psalm. The reference in my study bible suggested that perhaps it was referring to Ephraim’s conflict with Jephthah in Judges 12, verses 1-7.  I do not claim to be a bible scholar, but the conflict described in Judges 12 does not make any mention of the children of Ephraim turning back in the day of battle, rather it is describing a conflict in which they arrive after the battle between Jephthah and the people of Ammon and they are angry that Jephthah did not wait on them while Jephthah accuses the tribe of Ephraim of not coming to his assistance when he called them.

Whatever battle it is to which Asaph was referring in Psalm 78 this passage in psalm is lamenting Israel’s faithlessness and this is just the first example the psalmist uses.  The passage brings to my mind the words to the song “Courageous” written by Casting Crowns for the movie “Courageous”.  The lyrics of this song speak straight to the heart of a nation whose foundation is crumbling as Biblical worldviews clash with current culture.

We were warriors on the front lines
Standing, unafraid
But now we’re watchers on the sidelines
While our families slip away

Where are you, men of courage?

You were made for so much more
Let the pounding of our hearts cry
We will serve the Lord.

 If ever there was a nation and a generation that readily had at their disposal the tools to arm themselves for spiritual battle it is our nation and our generation.  The internet to which great men of God post their sermons, books, and the accessibility of scripture which contains all that men need to arm themselves leave our generation without excuse, but I am afraid the distractions that vie for man’s time and attention have delayed and diverted the battle.  Will our generation find that like the children of Ephraim they have arrived too late for battle or perhaps being armed they will turn back?


About sheilacampbell

Like all people, my life is multi faceted. I have been a mom for twenty-eight years, raising three wonderful children to young adults. I have been also been a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. I love my Lord; I love the life He has given me and I write about the things I love.
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3 Responses to Turning Back on the Battle

  1. kaitiaki says:

    Sheila, I think the commentator was implying that the Ephraimites were making an excuse when they complained to Jephthah about being left out of the battle. Jephthah’s response certainly gives the impression that he would have welcomed their help rather than give grounds for their complaint. So, it was the obligation that the tribes had to support one another which is referred to in the psalm. Not so much an event in the heat of battle but coming to a meeting where they were requested for help and they went home rather than join in. Then to make matters worse complained that they had not been invited. If this was what happened then we can understand God being angry enough at this favored tribe (of the eldest son of Joseph) to quit Shilo, that was in their territory, and prefer Judah for his dwelling place. Not only did they lead Israel in the marches (right behind the ark of the covenant) but they had the tabernacle in their territory and it was one of the best parts of the land for growing things. And they decided not only to ignore a request from another tribe but they risked the ark when they knew God was fighting against them (I Sam 4: 1-4) instead of inquiring from Samuel what they had to do to put things right. Their haughty heart caused them to stumble (Psalm 78: 58-61) and many died. God took the ark away from them and (eventually) it came to rest in Judah (in Jerusalem).

    Another commentator argues that Ephraim was the leading tribe in rebelling against the command against God to go up and take Canaan which led to them spending 40 years in the wilderness – one year for each day of the scouting expedition. In that case the reference to Ephraim in the picture is meant to be figurative since it was not only Ephraim and the reference takes advantage of the fact that later Ephraim and Israel are used as synonyms when contrasted with Judah – leading ultimately to the reference in vv 58-61. It seems to me that this one is possible but the other is to be preferred (but that’s merely my opinion). Hope this is a help. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  2. kaitiaki says:

    oops. “… rebelling against the command of God … ” not “… against that command against God …” I’m not sure how i missed that – perhaps you can edit my reply and then this one won’t be needed 🙂

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