The list in Judg 10:6 of the gods of the surrounding nations to which Israel adhered in preference to YHWH 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 YHWH 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. This article analyzes 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.

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