According to this translation, these words are a scoffing and contemptuous expression of the Ephraimites concerning the Gileadites, whom they call fugitives of Ephraim; the word Ephraim being here taken largely, as it is elsewhere as Isa_7:2,5, so as it comprehends the other neighbouring tribes, of which Ephraim was in some sort the head or chief; and especially their brethren of Manasseh, who lived next to them, and were descended from the same father, Joseph; by reason whereof both these tribes are sometimes reckoned for one, and called by the name of the tribe of Joseph. And this large signification of Ephraim may seem probable from the following words, where, instead of
Ephraim, is put the Ephraimites and the Manassites. By
Gileadites here they seem principally to mean the Manassites beyond Jordan, who dwelt in Gilead, as appears from Deu_3:13Jos_17:1,5,6. And although other Gileadites were joined with them, yet they vent their passion against these; principally, because they envied them most; partly, because they seemed to have had a chief hand in the victory, Jud_11:29; and partly, because they were more nearly related to them, and therefore more obliged to desire their conjunction with them in the war. These they here opprobriously call
fugitives, i.e. such as had deserted their brethren of Ephraim and Manasseh, and for some worldly advantage planted themselves beyond Jordan, at a distance from their brethren, and were alienated in affection from them, and carried on a distinct and separate interest of their own, as appears by their monopolizing the glory of this success to themselves, and excluding their brethren from it. According to the Hebrew, the words lie and may be rendered thus, Therefore (so chi is oft rendered) they said, Fugitives of Ephraim are ye, (i.e. Ye Ephraimites are mere runaways; for the words next foregoing are,
the men, of Gilead smote Ephraim. And having told you what they said, because the pronoun they was ambiguous, he adds by way of explication,) who said it, even the Gileadites, (and they said it when they had got the advantage over them, and got between them and home, as the next verse shows,) being between Ephraim, and Manasseh; i.e. having taken the passages of Jordan, as it follows, which lay between Ephraim and that part of Manasseh which was beyond Jordan. Or these latter words may be rendered thus, And the Gileadites were between Ephraim and Manasseh. So there is only an ellipsis of two small words, which are oft defective, and to be understood in Scripture. Or thus, And the Gileadites were in the midst of the Ephraimites, and in the midst of the Manassites, to wit, those Manassites who ordinarily lived within Jordan, who possibly were confederate with the Ephraimites in this quarrel. And so the meaning is, they followed close after them, and overtook them, and fell upon the midst of them, and smote them; and they sent a party to intercept them at the passages of Jordan, as it here follows.