Double Trouble: Counting the Cost of Jephthah

Baker, Robin (2017) Double Trouble: Counting the Cost of Jephthah. Journal of Biblical Literature. ISSN 0021-9231 (In Press)

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The Judges 10:6 list of the gods of the surrounding nations to which Israel adhered in preference to Yahweh is unprecedented in its detail. Moreover, it forms the literal center of the book of Judges according to the Masoretic verse count. In the composition’s rhetorical plan, similarly, it constitutes the fulcrum in the account of the relations between Yahweh and his people. The worship of these deities and the syncretistic application of aspects of their cults to normative Yahwism provoke the response from Israel’s god that he will deliver them no more and that they should “appeal to the gods you have chosen” for deliverance. This rupture in the relationship sets the scene for Jephthah’s rise. The Gileadites, in extremis, take the initiative to engineer a human solution to a divine problem by approaching Jephthah, a social outcast with proven leadership and combat skills. The article analyses the place and role of Jephthah in Judges, the repercussions of his brief ascendancy, his relationship with the minor judges, as well as with Ehud and Abimelech, and the meaning of the shibboleth incident. The conclusions challenge the widely held scholarly view, originally proposed by Martin Noth, that Jephthah is the common denominator between the judge-deliverer figures and the minor judges. In addition, it advances a new interpretation of the significance of the choice of the noun shibboleth as the password at the Jordan fords.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: cushan-rishathaim; religious syncretism; blood pollution; assyrian deportations; Ehud; abimelech; shibboleth; joseph and his brothers; book of judges; minor judges; jephthah
Subjects: V Historical & philosophical studies > V610 Theology
Departments: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Theology and Religious Studies
Depositing User: Robin Baker
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2017 08:47
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2017 10:02

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