Pride Often Leads to Conflict

Judges 12


Jerry A Collins



v     What is the root of pride and jealousy?

v     What is the usual result of pride and jealousy?

v     How are relationships impacted by pride and jealousy?


Don’t you get tired of people who think more highly of themselves than they should and they let you know about it? They have a bad case of superiority complex. They can look at you with disdain because you do not measure up to them. They want to throw their weight around—make a name for themselves and expect people to comply with their wishes. Arrogant and self-serving, they want to look good at your expense. They might pick on you or demean you or demand from you but it is all a big show to improve their image and to make them prominent. This is often the kindling for conflict. Wars have resulted from this. Murder, violence and harm, is the inevitable outcome of pride. Someone wins and someone loses. Ephraim’s superiority complex is the basis of conflict in the story of the champion, Jephthah. It is not the oppression of the Ammonites in the Transjordan or Jephthah’s victory over those oppressors but Ephraim’s reaction after Jephthah’s victory that gets our attention. Once again we see the outcome of pride and jealousy is conflict. This time, as it often is, it is expressed in a family feud. Let’s see what lessons we can learn from this incident in the life of these tribes.


If you believe you are superior, which proud people endeavor to maintain, then you are very susceptible to using threats or insults to show your superiority.

1. Ephraim crossed the Jordan and traveled to Jephthah’s headquarters to make their case against him vs 1. So they are now in Gileadite territory and they came in full battle gear. This was not a friendly visit and the tension is thick. We do know from 10:9 that the tribe of Ephraim had also been attacked by the Ammonites during the eighteen years of oppression. But apparently their land was never occupied by the Ammonites as was true of Jephthah’s Gileadites. It’s really too bad that after a common enemy had been thoroughly routed that this internal dispute erupts.

2. They dispute Jephthah’s unilateral action in the Transjordan why did you go fight the Ammonites and did not ask us to join you? One thing this reveals is the developing independence of the tribes east of the Jordan river. They were having to take matters into their own hands without the help of the tribes in the interior. These peripheral tribes faced threats on their borders constantly and the pressure to protect themselves was also constant. For instance, the 18 years of oppression by the Ammonites took a much larger toll on the tribes in the Transjordan than it did the tribes in the interior. This conflict between the Ephraimites and the Gileadites is a sad commentary on the lack of Israelite unity at this time.

3. They threaten Jephthah for his decision to go it alone and not ask the Ephraimites to fight with them. This threat is a personal one—We’ll burn your house down with you in it. They resort to threats to get him to comply with their wishes. They are going to shove their weight around to let everyone know who is superior and who is in charge. So, pride and jealousy and ego and arrogance never leads to anything good. This spirit resorts to bullying in order to maintain superiority. Fortunately, we, as believers, do not have to maintain our superiority. Threats and insults are not our weapons. Humility is our platform. Denying ourselves is our method. Taking up our cross is our duty. Pride is the root of all evil because it assumes value independent of God. Humility is the root of all virtue because it assumes value in dependence upon God. Pride will motivate you to threaten and insult to get your way and make your move. Don’t go there.


Now Jephthah makes his case and he is anything but diplomatic like Gideon was in 8:1-3. There these same Ephraimites had approached Gideon with  jealousy and pride—they contended with him vigorously for not calling them to fight against Midian then. Gideon stroked them with kind words elevating their victory over Oreb and Zeed beyond his own victory over the Midianites. This diplomacy worked and their anger toward him subsided 8:3.

1. Jephthah claims that Ephraim was a type of big-mouth-but-do-nothing 12:2. Epraim had sat back, enjoying the security afforded by the hill country west of the Jordan river and as such had neglected her responsibility in Gilead, East of the Jordan river. We do not have a record of Jephthah calling them to battle but Ephraim never denied it and we know the Jephthah has been truthful so far, keeping his oath to God for instance.

 2. Ephraim had no excuse and Jephthah had no other choice than to carry out the rescue operation vs 3. This assertion meant that he had to take matters into his own hands without their help and, at great risk with God’s help they had victory. So there was no reason for Ephraim to posture and threaten and bully—why then have you come up to me this day to fight against us?

3. Name calling was the next step in this family feud—not an uncommon order of events in the East where damaging one’s honor is as effective as physical blows—Gilead, you’re just a bunch of renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh vs 4. Not good! These remarks finally led to armed conflict, physical blows, a war, and the death of thousands. You can count on it—pride motivates threats and insults that inevitably lead to conflict. I remember during football practice in high school on the JV squad we scrimmaged the varsity. I was a defensive back guarding Vic Shallow a wide receiver. There had been several skirmishes that day and the coaches seemed to enjoy it. Vic would purposely ram his fist through my faceguard as he ran his route or if the ball was not coming his way grab me and try to shove me down-all which is illegal in a real game. I finally grabbed his arm and we both went flying to the ground tangled in arms and legs. About then the coaches had had enough and all of us ran extra laps. In the locker room a friend of his came to me in the shower and told me Vic wanted to meet me in the parking lot to finish business. I said I was not interested. Pride, jealousy, arrogance produces conflict. Just as it did for these tribes.


1. The Ephraimites were the losers in this war vs 4. In their retreat back across the Jordan their superiority complex—which may have even extended to their better Hebrew accent—was a definite liability 5-6.

2. Following the encounter in Gilead, a slight variation in the usage of 2 similar Hebrew consonants became a matter of life and death for the escaping Ephraimintes vs 6. It was in this same region that the Ephraimites had been called in another battle to seize these fords slaughtering the Midianites 7:24-25. Now 42000 of them were slaughtered by their own relatives.  

1. Watch out for a spirit of superiority in your life. Remember who you are.

2. Threats and insults are not the methods used by a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. Humility fosters dependence on God.

3. If you are not careful, pride can undermine your perspective and create outcomes you will regret.