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10 Tola was the next person to rescue Israel. He belonged to the Issachar tribe, but he lived in Shamir, a town in the hill country of Ephraim. His father was Puah, and his grandfather was Dodo. Tola was a leader[a] of Israel for 23 years, then he died and was buried in Shamir.


The next leader[b] of Israel was Jair, who lived in Gilead. He was a leader for 22 years. He had 30 sons, and each son had his own mule[c] and was in charge of one town in Gilead. Those 30 towns are still called The Settlements of Jair.[d] When he died, he was buried in the town of Kamon.

Israel Is Unfaithful to God

Before long, the Israelites began disobeying the Lord by worshiping Baal, Astarte, and gods from Syria, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia.

The Lord was angry with Israel and decided to let Philistia and Ammon conquer them. So the same year that Jair died, Israel's army was crushed by these two nations. For 18 years, Ammon was cruel to the Israelites who lived in Gilead, the region east of the Jordan River that had once belonged to the Amorites. Then the Ammonites began crossing the Jordan and attacking the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. Life was miserable for the Israelites. 10 They begged the Lord for help and confessed, “We were unfaithful to you, our Lord. We stopped worshiping you and started worshiping idols of Baal.”

11-12 The Lord answered:

In the past when you came crying to me for help, I rescued you. At one time or another I've rescued you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites.[e] 13-14 But I'm not going to rescue you any more! You've left me and gone off to worship other gods. If you're in such big trouble, go and cry to them for help!

15 “We have been unfaithful to you,” the Israelites admitted. “If we must be punished, do it yourself, but please rescue us from the Ammonites.”

16 Then the Israelites got rid of the idols of the foreign gods, and they began worshiping only the Lord. Finally, there came a time when the Lord could no longer stand to see them suffer.

The Ammonites Invade Gilead

17 The rulers of Ammon called their soldiers together and led them to Gilead, where they set up camp.

The Israelites gathered at Mizpah[f] and set up camp there. 18 The leaders of Gilead asked each other, “Who can lead an attack on the Ammonites?” Then they agreed, “If we find someone who can lead the attack, we'll make him the ruler of Gilead.”


11 1-5 The leaders of the Gilead clan decided to ask a brave warrior named Jephthah son of Gilead to lead the attack against the Ammonites.

Even though Jephthah belonged to the Gilead clan, he had earlier been forced to leave the region where they had lived. Jephthah was the son of a prostitute, but his half brothers were the sons of his father's wife.

One day his half brothers told him, “You don't really belong to our family, so you can't have any of the family property.” Then they forced Jephthah to leave home.

Jephthah went to the country of Tob, where he was joined by a number of men who would do anything for money.

So the leaders of Gilead went to Jephthah and said, “Please come back to Gilead! If you lead our army, we will be able to fight off the Ammonites.”

“Didn't you hate me?” Jephthah replied. “Weren't you the ones who forced me to leave my family? You're only coming to me now because you're in trouble.”

“But we do want you to come back,” the leaders said. “And if you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you the ruler of Gilead.”

“All right,” Jephthah said. “If I go back with you and the Lord lets me defeat the Ammonites, will you really make me your ruler?”

10 “You have our word,” the leaders answered. “And the Lord is a witness to what we have said.”

11 So Jephthah went back to Mizpah[g] with the leaders of Gilead. The people of Gilead gathered at the place of worship and made Jephthah their ruler. Jephthah also made promises to them.

12 After the ceremony, Jephthah sent messengers to say to the king of Ammon, “Are you trying to start a war? You have invaded my country, and I want to know why!”

13 The king of Ammon replied, “Tell Jephthah that the land really belongs to me, all the way from the Arnon River in the south, to the Jabbok River in the north, and west to the Jordan River. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they stole it. Tell Jephthah to return it to me, and there won't be any war.”

14 Jephthah sent the messengers back to the king of Ammon, 15 and they told him that Jephthah had said:

Israel hasn't taken any territory from Moab or Ammon. 16 When the Israelites came from Egypt, they traveled across the desert to the Red Sea[h] and then to Kadesh. 17 (A) They sent messengers to the king of Edom and said, “Please, let us go through your country.” But the king of Edom refused. They also sent messengers to the king of Moab, but he wouldn't let them cross his country either. And so the Israelites stayed at Kadesh.

18 (B) A little later, the Israelites set out into the desert, going east of Edom and Moab, and camping on the eastern side of the Arnon River gorge. The Arnon is the eastern border of Moab, and since the Israelites didn't cross it, they didn't even set foot in Moab.

19 (C) The Israelites sent messengers to the Amorite King Sihon of Heshbon. “Please,” they said, “let our people go through your country to get to our own land.”

20 Sihon didn't think the Israelites could be trusted, so he called his army together. They set up camp at Jahaz, then they attacked the Israelite camp. 21 But the Lord God helped Israel defeat Sihon and his army. Israel took over all of the Amorite land where Sihon's people had lived, 22 from the Arnon River in the south to the Jabbok River in the north, and from the desert in the east to the Jordan River in the west.

23 The messengers also told the king of Ammon that Jephthah had said:

The Lord God of Israel helped his nation get rid of the Amorites and take their land. Now do you think you're going to take over that same territory? 24 If Chemosh your god[i] takes over a country and gives it to you, don't you have a right to it? And if the Lord takes over a country and gives it to us, the land is ours!

25 (D) Are you better than Balak the son of Zippor? He was the king of Moab, but he didn't quarrel with Israel or start a war with us.

26 For 300 years, Israelites have been living in Heshbon and Aroer and the nearby villages, and in the towns along the Arnon River gorge. If the land really belonged to you Ammonites, you wouldn't have waited until now to try to get it back.

27 I haven't done anything to you, but it's certainly wrong of you to start a war. I pray that the Lord will show whether Israel or Ammon is in the right.

28 But the king of Ammon paid no attention to Jephthah's message.

29 Then the Lord's Spirit took control of Jephthah, and Jephthah went through Gilead and Manasseh, raising an army. Finally, he arrived at Mizpah in Gilead, where 30 he promised the Lord, “If you will let me defeat the Ammonites 31 and come home safely, I will sacrifice to you whoever comes out to meet me first.”

32 From Mizpah, Jephthah attacked the Ammonites, and the Lord helped him defeat them.

33 Jephthah and his army destroyed the 20 towns between Aroer and Minnith, and others as far as Abel-Keramim. After that, the Ammonites could not invade Israel any more.

Jephthah's Daughter

34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, the first one to meet him was his daughter. She was playing a tambourine and dancing to celebrate his victory, and she was his only child.

35 (E) “Oh no!” Jephthah cried. Then he tore his clothes in sorrow and said to his daughter, “I made a sacred promise to the Lord, and I must keep it. Your coming out to meet me has broken my heart.”

36 “Father,” she said, “you made a sacred promise to the Lord, and he let you defeat the Ammonites. Now, you must do what you promised, even if it means I must die. 37 But first, please let me spend two months, wandering in the hill country with my friends. We will cry together, because I can never get married and have children.”

38 “Yes, you may have two months,” Jephthah said.

She and some other girls left, and for two months they wandered in the hill country, crying because she could never get married and have children. 39 Then she went back to her father. He did what he had promised, and she never got married.

That's why 40 every year, Israelite girls walk around for four days, weeping for[j] Jephthah's daughter.

The Ephraim Tribe Fights Jephthah's Army

12 The men of the Ephraim tribe got together an army and went across the Jordan River to Zaphon to meet with Jephthah. They said, “Why did you go to war with the Ammonites without asking us to help? Just for that, we're going to burn down your house with you inside!”

“But I did ask for your help,” Jephthah answered. “That was back when the people of Gilead and I were having trouble with the Ammonites, and you wouldn't do a thing to help us. So when we realized you weren't coming, we risked our lives and attacked the Ammonites. And the Lord let us defeat them. There's no reason for you to come here today to attack me.”

But the men from Ephraim said, “You people of Gilead are nothing more than refugees from Ephraim. You even live on land that belongs to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.”[k]

So Jephthah called together the army of Gilead, then they attacked and defeated the army from Ephraim. The army of Gilead also posted guards at all the places where the soldiers from Ephraim could cross the Jordan River to return to their own land.

Whenever one of the men from Ephraim would try to cross the river, the guards would say, “Are you from Ephraim?”

“No,” the man would answer, “I'm not from Ephraim.”

The guards would then tell them to say “Shibboleth,” because they knew that people of Ephraim could say “Sibboleth,” but not “Shibboleth.”

If the man said “Sibboleth,” the guards would grab him and kill him right there. Altogether, 42,000 men from Ephraim were killed in the battle and at the Jordan.

Jephthah was a leader[l] of Israel for six years, before he died and was buried in his hometown Mizpah[m] in Gilead.


Ibzan, the next leader[n] of Israel, came from Bethlehem. He had 30 daughters and 30 sons, and he let them all marry outside his clan.

Ibzan was a leader for seven years, 10 before he died and was buried in Bethlehem.


11 Elon from the Zebulun tribe was the next leader[o] of Israel. He was a leader for ten years, 12 before he died and was buried in Aijalon that belonged to the Zebulun tribe.


13-15 Abdon the son of Hillel was the next leader[p] of Israel. He had 40 sons and 30 grandsons, and each one of them had his own donkey.[q] Abdon was a leader for eight years, before he died and was buried in his hometown of Pirathon, which is located in the part of the hill country of Ephraim where Amalekites used to live.


  1. 10.2 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
  2. 10.3 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
  3. 10.4 each son had his own mule: A sign that the family was wealthy.
  4. 10.4 The Settlements of Jair: Or “Havvoth-Jair.”
  5. 10.11,12 Maonites: Hebrew; one ancient translation “Midianites.”
  6. 10.17 Mizpah: In chapters 10–12, Mizpah is the name of a town in Gilead (see 11.29), not the same town as the Mizpah of chapters 20,21.
  7. 11.11 Mizpah: In chapters 10–12, Mizpah is the name of a town in Gilead (see 11.29), not the same town as the Mizpah of chapters 20,21.
  8. 11.16 Red Sea: Hebrew yam suph, here referring to the Gulf of Aqaba, since the term is extended to include the northeastern arm of the Red Sea (see also the note at Exodus 13.18).
  9. 11.24 Chemosh your god: Chemosh was actually the national god of Moab, not Ammon. The land that Ammon was trying to take over had belonged to the Moabites before belonging to the Amorites (see Numbers 21.26). So the Ammonites may have thought that Chemosh controlled it.
  10. 11.40 weeping for: Or “remembering.”
  11. 12.4 You people of Gilead … Ephraim and Manasseh: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  12. 12.7 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
  13. 12.7 his hometown Mizpah: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  14. 12.8 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
  15. 12.11 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
  16. 12.13-15 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
  17. 12.13-15 each … donkey: A sign that the family was wealthy.

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