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by Wayne Blank
But at the same time, accents are very often noticeable between nations even though it's the same language that originated from the same place e.g. British English is very different from American or Canadian English, which are different from the English spoken in Australia or New Zealand. Differences can exist even between regions of the same country e.g. the difference of the English spoken in Alabama to that spoken in New York City, or that spoken in Newfoundland to that spoken in Ontario.
"Shibboleth" has become one of the most well-known examples in Bible History of accent differences within the Hebrew language of that time. Those living east of the Jordan River had a different accent from those just across the river. One of the differences was that some used "sh" where others used "si" - using an English example, "simple" would be pronounced as simple by some and shimple by others. Along the same line, the Hebrew word that was pronounced sibboleth by those west of the Jordan was pronounced shibboleth by those east of the Jordan.
Under most circumstances, the accent difference was harmless and unimportant, but in one particular instance, it proved deadly. When the Ephraimites from the west of the Jordan invaded Gilead, they were defeated by the Gileadites. When they tried to retreat back across the Jordan, their escape was blocked by the Gileadites who took control of the fords. They were able to detect friend from foe by the accent difference - a difference that cost many men their lives.
"And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire."
Fact Finder: Within Israel in the time of the New Testament there were differences in accent between northerners, from up in Galilee, and southerners, in Jerusalem and Judea. For example, could people in Judea tell, by his accent, that the apostle Peter (and therefore most of the other apostles, and even Jesus Christ himself) was from up in Galilee?