After Abimelech's death, Tola, the son of Puah and descendant of Dodo, came to rescue Israel. He was from the tribe of Issachar but lived in the town of Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim.
He was Israel's judge for twenty-three years. When he died, he was buried in Shamir.
After Tola died, a man from Gilead named Jair judged Israel for twenty-two years.
His thirty sons rode around on thirty donkeys, and they owned thirty towns in the land of Gilead, which are still called the Towns of Jair.
When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.
Again the Israelites did evil in the LORD's sight. They worshiped images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia. Not only this, but they abandoned the LORD and no longer served him at all.
So the LORD burned with anger against Israel, and he handed them over to the Philistines and the Ammonites,
who began to oppress them that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites east of the Jordan River in the land of the Amorites (that is, in Gilead).
The Ammonites also crossed to the west side of the Jordan and attacked Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. The Israelites were in great distress.
Finally, they cried out to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal."
The LORD replied, "Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines,
the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me, and I rescued you.
Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore.
Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!"
But the Israelites pleaded with the LORD and said, "We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies."
Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the LORD. And he was grieved by their misery.
At that time the armies of Ammon had gathered for war and were camped in Gilead, preparing to attack Israel's army at Mizpah.
The leaders of Gilead said to each other, "Whoever attacks the Ammonites first will become ruler over all the people of Gilead."
Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute.
Gilead's wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. "You will not get any of our father's inheritance," they said, "for you are the son of a prostitute."
So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a large band of rebels following him.
At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel.
When the Ammonites attacked, the leaders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. They said,
"Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!"
But Jephthah said to them, "Aren't you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now when you're in trouble?"
"Because we need you," they replied. "If you will lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead."
Jephthah said, "If I come with you and if the LORD gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?"
"The LORD is our witness," the leaders replied. "We promise to do whatever you say."
So Jephthah went with the leaders of Gilead, and he became their ruler and commander of the army. At Mizpah, in the presence of the LORD, Jephthah repeated what he had said to the leaders.
Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon, demanding to know why Israel was being attacked.
The king of Ammon answered Jephthah's messengers, "When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they stole my land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River and all the way to the Jordan. Now then, give back the land peaceably."
Jephthah sent this message back to the Ammonite king:
"This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not steal any land from Moab or Ammon.
When the people of Israel arrived at Kadesh on their journey from Egypt after crossing the Red Sea,
they sent messengers to the king of Edom asking for permission to pass through his land. But their request was denied. Then they asked the king of Moab for similar permission, but he wouldn't let them pass through either. So the people of Israel stayed in Kadesh.
"Finally, they went around Edom and Moab through the wilderness. They traveled along Moab's eastern border and camped on the other side of the Arnon River. But they never once crossed the Arnon River into Moab.
"Then Israel sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled from Heshbon, asking for permission to cross through his land to get to their destination.
But King Sihon didn't trust Israel to pass through his land. Instead, he mobilized his army at Jahaz and attacked them.
But the LORD, the God of Israel, gave his people victory over King Sihon. So Israel took control of all the land of the Amorites, who lived in that region,
from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River, and from the wilderness to the Jordan.
"So you see, it was the LORD, the God of Israel, who took away the land from the Amorites and gave it to Israel. Why, then, should we give it to you?
You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the LORD our God gives us.
Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he try to make a case against Israel for disputed land? Did he go to war? No, of course not.
But now after three hundred years you make an issue of this! Israel has been living here all this time, spread across the land from Heshbon to Aroer and in all the towns along the Arnon River. Why have you made no effort to recover it before now?
I have not sinned against you. Rather, you have wronged me by attacking me. Let the LORD, who is judge, decide today which of us is right -- Israel or Ammon."
But the king of Ammon paid no attention to Jephthah's message.
At that time the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and led an army against the Ammonites.
And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, "If you give me victory over the Ammonites,
I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."
So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave him victory.
He thoroughly defeated the Ammonites from Aroer to an area near Minnith -- twenty towns -- and as far away as Abel-keramim. Thus Israel subdued the Ammonites.
When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter -- his only child -- ran out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy.
When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. "My daughter!" he cried out. "My heart is breaking! What a tragedy that you came out to greet me. For I have made a vow to the LORD and cannot take it back."
And she said, "Father, you have made a promise to the LORD. You must do to me what you have promised, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites.
But first let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin."
"You may go," Jephthah said. And he let her go away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children.
When she returned home, her father kept his vow, and she died a virgin. So it has become a custom in Israel
for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah's daughter.
Then the tribe of Ephraim mobilized its army and crossed over to Zaphon. They sent this message to Jephthah: "Why didn't you call for us to help you fight against Ammon? We are going to burn down your house with you in it!"
"I summoned you at the beginning of the dispute, but you refused to come!" Jephthah said. "You failed to help us in our struggle against Ammon.
So I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the LORD gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you come to fight me?"
The leaders of Ephraim responded, "The men of Gilead are nothing more than rejects from Ephraim and Manasseh." So Jephthah called out his army and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them.
Jephthah captured the shallows of the Jordan, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. "Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?" they would ask. If the man said, "No, I'm not,"
they would tell him to say "Shibboleth." If he was from Ephraim, he would say "Sibboleth," because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. Then they would take him and kill him at the shallows of the Jordan River. So forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.
Jephthah was Israel's judge for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead.
After Jephthah, Ibzan became Israel's judge. He lived in Bethlehem,
and he had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He married his daughters to men outside his clan and brought in thirty young women from outside his clan to marry his sons. Ibzan judged Israel for seven years.
When he died, he was buried at Bethlehem.
After him, Elon from Zebulun became Israel's judge. He judged Israel for ten years.
When he died, he was buried at Aijalon in Zebulun.
After Elon died, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, became Israel's judge.
He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He was Israel's judge for eight years.
Then he died and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)