Tola, the Judge
10 After Abimelech died, God sent another judge to save the Israelites. His name was Tola. He was the son of Puah, who was the son of Dodo. Tola was from the tribe of Issachar and lived in the city of Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 Tola was a judge for the Israelites for 23 years. Then he died and was buried in the city of Shamir.
Jair, the Judge
3 After Tola died, God sent another judge. His name was Jair, and he lived in the area of Gilead. He was a judge for the Israelites for 22 years. 4 Jair had 30 sons who rode 30 donkeys.[a] These 30 sons controlled 30 towns in the area of Gilead. These towns are called the Towns of Jair to this very day. 5 Jair died and was buried in the city of Kamon.
The Ammonites Fight Against Israel
6 Again the Israelites did what the Lord said was wrong. They began worshiping the false gods Baal and the Ashtoreth. They also worshiped the gods of the people of Aram, the gods of the people of Sidon, the gods of the Moabites, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. The Israelites left the Lord and stopped serving him.
7 So the Lord became angry with the Israelites and allowed the Philistines and the Ammonites to defeat them. 8 In that same year those people destroyed the Israelites who lived on the east side of the Jordan River, in the area of Gilead. That is the land where the Amorites had lived. The Israelites suffered for 18 years. 9 The Ammonites then went across the Jordan River to fight against the people of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. The Ammonites brought many troubles to the Israelites.
10 So the Israelites cried to the Lord for help. They said, “God, we have sinned against you. We left our God and worshiped the false god Baal.”
11 The Lord answered the Israelites, “You cried to me when the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, and the Philistines hurt you. I saved you from these people. 12 You cried to me when the people of Sidon, the Amalekites, and the Midianites[b] hurt you. I also saved you from those people. 13 But you left me and started worshiping other gods, so I refuse to save you again. 14 You like worshiping those gods, so go call to them for help. Let them save you when you are in trouble.”
15 But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do whatever you want to do to us, but please save us today.” 16 Then the Israelites threw away the foreign gods and began to worship the Lord again. So he felt sorry for them when he saw them suffering.
Jephthah Is Chosen as a Leader
17 The Ammonites gathered together for war. Their camp was in the area of Gilead. The Israelites gathered together. Their camp was at the city of Mizpah. 18 The leaders of the people living in the area of Gilead said, “Whoever leads us in the attack against the Ammonites will become the head of all the people living in Gilead.”
11 Jephthah was from the tribe of Gilead. He was a strong soldier. But Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. His father was a man named Gilead. 2 Gilead’s wife had several sons. When they grew up, they did not like Jephthah. They forced Jephthah to leave his hometown. They said to him, “You will not get any of our father’s property, because you are the son of another woman.” 3 So Jephthah went away because of his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. In the land of Tob, some rough men began to follow Jephthah.
4 After a time the Ammonites fought with the Israelites. 5 The Ammonites were fighting against Israel, so the elders in Gilead went to Jephthah. They wanted Jephthah to leave the land of Tob and come back to Gilead.
6 The elders said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader so that we can fight the Ammonites.”
7 But Jephthah said to the elders of the land of Gilead, “You forced me to leave my father’s house. You hate me. So why are you coming to me now that you are having trouble?”
8 The elders from Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is the reason we have come to you now. Please come with us and fight against the Ammonites. You will be the commander over all the people living in Gilead.”
9 Then Jephthah said to the elders from Gilead, “If you want me to come back to Gilead and fight the Ammonites, I will do it. But if the Lord helps me win, I will be your new leader.”
10 The elders from Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord is listening to everything we are saying. And we promise to do everything you tell us to do.”
11 So Jephthah went with the elders from Gilead, and the people made him their leader and commander. Jephthah repeated all of his words in front of the Lord at the city of Mizpah.
Jephthah Warns the King of Ammon
12 Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites with this message: “What is the problem between the Ammonites and the Israelites? Why have you come to fight in our land?”
13 The king of the Ammonites said to the messengers of Jephthah, “We are fighting Israel because the Israelites took our land when they came up from Egypt. They took our land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River to the Jordan River. Now, tell the Israelites to give our land back to us without fighting for it.”
14 So the messengers of Jephthah took this message back to Jephthah.[c] Then Jephthah sent the messengers to the king of the Ammonites again. 15 They took this message:
“This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of the Moabites or the land of the Ammonites. 16 When the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, they went into the desert. They went to the Red Sea. Then they went to Kadesh. 17 The Israelites sent messengers to the king of Edom. The messengers asked for a favor. They said, ‘Let the Israelites cross through your land.’ But the king of Edom didn’t let us go through his land. We also sent the same message to the king of Moab. But the king of Moab would not let us go through his land either. So the Israelites stayed at Kadesh.
18 “Then the Israelites went through the desert and around the edges of the land of Edom and the land of Moab. They traveled east of the land of Moab. They made their camp on the other side of the Arnon River. They did not cross the border of the land of Moab. (The Arnon River was the border of the land of Moab.)
19 “Then the Israelites sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites. Sihon was the king of the city of Heshbon. The messengers asked Sihon, ‘Let the Israelites pass through your land. We want to go to our land.’ 20 But King Sihon of the Amorites would not let the Israelites cross his borders. So Sihon gathered all of his people and made a camp at Jahaz. Then the Amorites fought with the Israelites. 21 But the Lord, the God of Israel, helped the Israelites defeat Sihon and his army. So the land of the Amorites became the property of the Israelites. 22 The Israelites got all the land of the Amorites from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River. The land also went from the desert to the Jordan River.
23 “It was the Lord, the God of Israel, who forced the Amorites to leave their land. And he gave the land to the Israelites. Do you think you can make the Israelites leave this land? 24 Surely you can live in the land that your god Chemosh has given to you. So we will live in the land that the Lord our God has given to us. 25 Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor[d]? He was the king of the land of Moab. Did he argue with the Israelites? Did he actually fight with the Israelites? 26 The Israelites have lived in the city of Heshbon and the towns around it for 300 years. They have lived in the city of Aroer and the towns around it for 300 years. They have lived in all the cities along the side of the Arnon River for 300 years. Why have you not tried to take these cities in all that time? 27 The Israelites have not sinned against you. But you are doing a very bad thing against them. May the Lord, the true Judge, decide whether the Israelites or the Ammonites are right.”
28 The king of the Ammonites refused to listen to this message from Jephthah.
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah, and he passed through the area of Gilead and Manasseh. He went through the city of Mizpah in Gilead on his way to the land of the Ammonites.
30 Jephthah made a promise to the Lord. He said, “If you will let me defeat the Ammonites, 31 I will give you the first thing that comes out of my house when I come back from the victory. I will give it to the Lord as a burnt offering.”
32 Then Jephthah went to the land of the Ammonites. He fought the Ammonites, and the Lord helped him defeat them. 33 He defeated them from the city of Aroer to the city of Minnith. Jephthah captured 20 cities. Then he fought the Ammonites to the city of Abel Keramim. The Israelites defeated them. It was a very great defeat for the Ammonites.
34 Jephthah went back to Mizpah. He went to his house, and his daughter came out to meet him. She was playing a tambourine and dancing. She was his only daughter, and Jephthah loved her very much. He did not have any other sons or daughters. 35 When Jephthah saw that his daughter was the first thing to come out of his house, he tore his clothes to show his sadness. Then he said, “Oh, my daughter! You have ruined me! You have made me very sad! I made a promise to the Lord, and I cannot change it!”
36 Then his daughter said to Jephthah, “Father, you have made a promise to the Lord, so keep your promise. Do what you said you would do. After all, the Lord did help you defeat your enemies, the Ammonites.”
37 Then Jephthah’s daughter said to her father, “But do this one thing for me first. Let me be alone for two months. Let me go to the mountains. I will not marry and have children, so let me and my friends go and cry together.”
38 Jephthah said, “Go.” He sent her away for two months. Jephthah’s daughter and her friends stayed in the mountains. They cried for her because she would not marry and have children.
39 At the end of two months, Jephthah’s daughter returned to her father, and Jephthah did what he had promised. His daughter never had sexual relations with anyone. So this became a custom in Israel. 40 Every year the young women of Israel would go out for four days to remember the daughter of Jephthah from Gilead and to cry for her.
Jephthah and Ephraim
12 The men from the tribe of Ephraim called all their soldiers together. Then they went across the river to the city of Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why didn’t you call us to help you fight the Ammonites? We will burn your house down with you in it.”
2 Jephthah answered them, “The Ammonites have been giving us many problems. So my people and I fought against them. I called you, but you didn’t come to help us. 3 I saw that you would not help us, so I risked my own life. I went across the river to fight against the Ammonites. The Lord helped me defeat them. Now why have you come to fight against me today?”
4 Then Jephthah called the men of Gilead together. They fought against the men from the tribe of Ephraim because they had insulted the men of Gilead. They had said, “You men of Gilead are nothing but survivors of the men of Ephraim. Part of you belongs to Ephraim, and part of you belongs to Manasseh.” The men of Gilead defeated the men of Ephraim.
5 The men of Gilead captured the places where people cross the Jordan River. Those places led to the country of Ephraim. Any time a survivor from Ephraim came to the river and said, “Let me cross,” the men of Gilead would ask him, “Are you from Ephraim?” If he said, “No,” 6 they would say, “Say the word ‘Shibboleth.’” The men of Ephraim could not say that word correctly. They pronounced the word “Sibboleth.” So if the man said, “Sibboleth,” then the men of Gilead knew he was from Ephraim. So they would kill him at the crossing place. They killed 42,000 men from Ephraim.
7 Jephthah was a judge for the Israelites for six years. Then Jephthah from Gilead died and was buried in his town in Gilead.
Ibzan, the Judge
8 After Jephthah, a man named Ibzan was a judge for the Israelites. Ibzan was from the city of Bethlehem. 9 Ibzan had 30 sons and 30 daughters. He told his 30 daughters to marry men who were not his relatives. And he found 30 women who were not his relatives, and his sons married these women. Ibzan was a judge for the Israelites for seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried in the city of Bethlehem.
Elon, the Judge
11 After Ibzan, a man named Elon was a judge for the Israelites. Elon was from the tribe of Zebulun. He was a judge for the Israelites for ten years. 12 Then Elon from the tribe of Zebulun died and was buried in the city of Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
Abdon, the Judge
13 After Elon died, a man named Abdon son of Hillel was a judge for the Israelites. Abdon was from the city of Pirathon. 14 Abdon had 40 sons and 30 grandsons. They rode on 70 donkeys.[e] Abdon was a judge for the Israelites for eight years. 15 Then Abdon son of Hillel died and was buried in the city of Pirathon. Pirathon is in the land of Ephraim in the hill country where the Amalekites lived.
- Judges 10:4 30 sons who rode 30 donkeys This showed that these men were important leaders, possibly the mayors of the 30 towns in Gilead.
- Judges 10:12 Midianites This is from the ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text has “The Maonites.”
- Judges 11:14 So the messengers … Jephthah This is from the ancient Greek version.
- Judges 11:25 Balak son of Zippor See Num. 22-24 for his story.
- Judges 12:14 They rode on 70 donkeys This showed that they were important leaders, possibly mayors of their towns.