Ibzan, the 9th Judge of Israel, succeeded Jephthah the Gileadite, a mighty warrior who won the battle against the Ammonites. Ibzan was from Bethlehem, and he had 30 sons and 30 daughters. His children gave him enormous clout as his sons and daughters married people outside his clan, thus creating many alliances with other Israelites. He led Israel for seven years (1081-1075 B.C.) and died, and was buried in his native town of Bethlehem. The events surrounding his life are mentioned in the Book of Judges, Chapter 12, verses 8 to 10.
The History of Ibzan
The name Ibzan is of Hebrew origin, meaning Illustrious or Splendid. However, according to Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary, the name means father of a target or father of coldness. According to some biblical scholars, the Bethlehemite was a polygamist, and his marriages to many women cemented clan alliances and extended his political sphere of influence. His large family and the specific reference to the marriages of his children to other clans indicated his wealth and social status.
Some researchers that the Bethlehem referred to here is a place that was part of the territory occupied by the tribe of Zebulun and not the famed Bethlehem, which is in Judea, as Bethlehem here is not followed by “Ephratah” or by “Judah.” However, Titus Flavius Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish historian, affirms that Ibzan’s Bethlehem is in Judah.
Ibzan was one of the minor judges in the Bible whose activities included arbitration and dispute resolution since there were no military campaigns during his reign. His governance followed the eventful and turbulent reign of Jephthah. The other two minor judges who succeeded him, Elon and Abdon, were from the territories of Zebulun and Ephraim, respectively. Some of the other minor judges of Israel acted as deliverers from foreign rule.
Some historical experts believe that the extent of the rule of Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon was limited mainly to Transjordan (connected with the Ammonite oppression).
The Legacy of Ibzan
He is not remembered for his military success as there was no thrilling war story during his administration. Instead, he is noted for arranging the marriages of his children to people outside his clan, for extending his influence over the tribes of Israel to solidify his power and authority, and for uniting the tribes through family ties. Many compare his blessed life to Jephthah’s supposedly cursed life.
Ibzan’s seven years of judgeship is a mere blip on the timeline. However, his attempts to integrate the various tribes played a vital role in the political future of Israel as they came together to accomplish great things.
Meaning of Minor Judge
The classification of a minor judge is only suggestive of the short relative time of their appearance in the biblical narrative. It means that the Scriptures choose not to say much about them, though they were not minor in importance.
Our series on Bible heroes, who trusted God in the middle of difficult times, were powerfully used by the Almighty despite their faults and failings, will inspire you to believe the Supreme Being for the impossible.