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Judges 11:12-28

Context
Jephthah Gives a History Lesson

11:12 Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king, saying, “Why have 1  you come against me to attack my land?” 11:13 The Ammonite king said to Jephthah’s messengers, “Because Israel stole 2  my land when they 3  came up from Egypt – from the Arnon River in the south to the Jabbok River in the north, and as far west as the Jordan. 4  Now return it 5  peaceably!”

11:14 Jephthah sent messengers back to the Ammonite king 11:15 and said to him, “This is what Jephthah says, ‘Israel did not steal 6  the land of Moab and the land of the Ammonites. 11:16 When they left 7  Egypt, Israel traveled 8  through the desert as far as the Red Sea and then came to Kadesh. 11:17 Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Please allow us 9  to pass through your land.” But the king of Edom rejected the request. 10  Israel sent the same request to the king of Moab, but he was unwilling to cooperate. 11  So Israel stayed at Kadesh. 11:18 Then Israel 12  went through the desert and bypassed the land of Edom and the land of Moab. They traveled east of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon River; 13  they did not go through Moabite territory (the Arnon was Moab’s border). 11:19 Israel sent messengers to King Sihon, the Amorite king who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, “Please allow us to pass through your land to our land.” 14  11:20 But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. He 15  assembled his whole army, 16  camped in Jahaz, and fought with Israel. 11:21 The Lord God of Israel handed Sihon and his whole army over to Israel and they defeated them. Israel took 17  all the land of the Amorites who lived in that land. 11:22 They took all the Amorite territory from the Arnon River on the south to the Jabbok River on the north, from the desert in the east to the Jordan in the west. 18  11:23 Since 19  the Lord God of Israel has driven out 20  the Amorites before his people Israel, do you think you can just take it from them? 21  11:24 You have the right to take what Chemosh your god gives you, but we will take the land of all whom the Lord our God has driven out before us. 22  11:25 Are you really better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he dare to quarrel with Israel? Did he dare to fight with them? 23  11:26 Israel has been living in Heshbon and its nearby towns, in Aroer and its nearby towns, and in all the cities along the Arnon for three hundred years! Why did you not reclaim them during that time? 11:27 I have not done you wrong, 24  but you are doing wrong 25  by attacking me. May the Lord, the Judge, judge this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites!’” 11:28 But the Ammonite king disregarded 26  the message sent by Jephthah. 27 

1 tn Heb “What to me and to you that…?”

2 tn Or “took”; or “seized.”

3 tn Heb “he” (a collective singular).

4 tn Heb “from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan.” The word “River” has been supplied in the translation with “Arnon” and “Jabbok,” because these are less familiar to modern readers than the Jordan.

5 tc The translation assumes a singular suffix (“[return] it”); the Hebrew text has a plural suffix (“[return] them”), which, if retained, might refer to the cities of the land.

6 tn Or “take”; or “seize.”

7 tn Heb “For when they went up from.”

8 tn Or “went.”

9 tn Heb “me.” (Collective Israel is the speaker.)

10 tn Heb “did not listen.”

11 tn Heb “Also to the king of Moab he sent, but he was unwilling.”

12 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Israel; the pronoun in the Hebrew text represents a collective singular) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

13 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

14 tn Heb “to my place.”

15 tn Heb “Sihon.” The proper name (“Sihon”) has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun (“he”) because of English style; a repetition of the proper name here would be redundant in English.

16 tn Heb “all his people” (also in the following verse).

17 tn That is, took as its own possession.

18 tn Heb “from the Arnon to the Jabbok, and from the desert to the Jordan.” The word “River” has been supplied in the translation with “Arnon” and “Jabbok,” because these are less familiar to modern readers than the Jordan.

19 tn Heb “Now.”

20 tn Or “dispossessed.”

21 tn Heb “will you dispossess him [i.e., Israel; or possibly “it,” i.e., the territory]?” There is no interrogative marker in the Hebrew text.

22 tn Heb “Is it not so that what Chemosh your god causes you to possess, you possess, and all whom the Lord our God dispossesses before us we will possess?” Jephthah speaks of Chemosh as if he is on a par with the Lord God of Israel. This does not necessarily mean that Jephthah is polytheistic or that he recognizes the Lord as only a local deity. He may simply be assuming the Ammonite king’s perspective for the sake of argument. Other texts, as well as the extrabiblical Mesha inscription, associate Chemosh with Moab, while Milcom is identified as the god of the Ammonites. Why then does Jephthah refer to Chemosh as the Ammonite god? Ammon had likely conquered Moab and the Ammonite king probably regarded himself as heir of all territory formerly held by Moab. Originally Moab had owned the disputed territory (cf. Num 21:26-29), meaning that Chemosh was regarded as the god of the region (see R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 203-4). Jephthah argues that Chemosh had long ago relinquished claim to the area (by allowing Sihon to conquer it), while the Lord had long ago established jurisdiction over it (by taking it from Sihon and giving it to Israel). Both sides should abide by the decisions of the gods which had stood firm for three hundred years.

23 tn The Hebrew grammatical constructions of all three rhetorical questions indicate emphasis, which “really” and “dare to” are intended to express in the translation.

sn Jephthah argues that the Ammonite king should follow the example of Balak, who, once thwarted in his attempt to bring a curse on Israel, refused to attack Israel and returned home (Num 22-24).

24 tn Or “sinned against you.”

25 tn Or “evil.”

26 tn Heb “did not listen to.”

27 tn Heb “Jephthah’s words which he sent to him.”



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