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IBZAN (ĭb'zăn, Heb. ’ivtsān). The tenth judge of Israel, who ruled for seven years. He was a native of Bethlehem (whether of Judah or Zebulun is not stated). He had thirty sons and thirty daughters (Judg.12.8-Judg.12.10).

IBZAN ĭb’ zăn (אִבְצָ֖ן, swift, hasty [?]. One of the minor judges (Judg 12:8-10), who judged Israel for seven years. Beside this, three other facts are known; he came from Bethlehem, he was buried in that city, and he had thirty sons and thirty daughters for whom he secured an equal number of husbands and wives from abroad.

The Heb. word for “Judge” is similar to our meaning for “king.” This can be seen from the poetic parallelism of the 14th cent. b.c. Ugaritic texts as well as Biblical passages as Isaiah 40:23 and Amos 2:3. Their activities show that they were much more than “magistrates”; primarily they were “deliverers” (Judg 2:16) and infrequently arbitrators (4:4, 5; 1 Sam 7:15-17).

Josephus (Antiq. V. vii. 13) states that Ibzan’s Bethlehem is in Judah, but this is prob. incorrect because this Bethlehem is generally distinguished by adding the words “of Judah” or “Ephratah.” Joshua 19:15 knows of a Bethlehem in Zebulun, modern Beit Lahm, W of Nazareth and N of Megiddo.

Probably stemming from this same confusion, Jewish tradition identified Ibzan as the Boaz of the Ruth story, making him an ancestor of David (Talmud, Baba’ Batra’ 91a).

Keil makes a good case for limiting the extent of the rule of Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon primarily to the Trans-jordanian situation with the Ammonite oppression. The author of Judges first gives a short summary of the subject matter for the whole section by introducing the Philistine and the Ammonite threat simultaneously in Judges 10:7-9. He next eliminates as quickly as possible that which falls outside the scope of his real theme in chs. 11 and 12, leaving him free to return to the Philistines as his main concern in ch. 13 and the theme that carries on the narrative to its real goal. Therefore, the forty years of the Philistine oppression cover the same time and go beyond the thirty-one years total for the four judges summoned by the Transjordanian people (Judg 12:5ff.).

The large family and the special reference to these marriages from abroad certainly indicates the wealth and social status of Ibzan.


M. Noth. IPN (1928), 226, n. 1; C. F. Keil, Joshua, Judges, Ruth (1956, reprint), 276-292, 397, 398; C. Gordon, Before The Bible (1962), 195-300.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The 10th judge of Israel. His city is given as Bethlehem (whether of Judah or Zebulun is not stated). He judged Israel 7 years, and when he died he was buried in his native place. The only personal details given about him in the Biblical narrative are that he had 30 sons and a like number of daughters. He sent all of his sons "abroad" for wives and brought husbands from "abroad" for all his daughters. The exact meaning of ha-chuts, "abroad," is mere matter of speculation, but the great social importance of the man and, possibly, alliances among tribes, are suggested in the brief narrative (Jud 12:8-10). Jewish tradition identifies Ibzan with Boaz of Bethlehem-Judah (Talmud, Babha’, Bathra’, 91a).