Ibzan, Father of 60 children

Getting Started: Read Judges 12:8-15

Ibzan followed Jephthah as a judge over Israelites. He was the 9th judge in the Promised Land. Ibzan’s home was Bethlehem in the tribal land of Judah. Some Jewish publications suggested that Ibzan lived at the same time as Ruth and Boaz; but, that suggestion isn’t confirmed in the Bible. Ibzan was judge seven years, approximately 1094-1087 BC. To put the year of Ibzan’s judgeship in the timeline of Israelite history, Saul became king in 1046 BC.

Most likely, Ibzan was a judge in the sense of making judicial decisions rather than being a war leader; i.e., fighting against a national enemy of Israel. There seems to be no single national threat to Judah during Izban’s tenure as a judge.

Ibzan fathered 30 sons and 30 daughters. To have 60 children, probably Ibzan had multiple wives. In order to support wives and children, Ibzan would have been wealthy. Further, his adult name (Izban) meant “illustrious” or “splendid,” suggesting that he was a man of status in his tribe and perhaps in the larger nation.

Unlike many Israelites who structured marriages for his children within the clan, i.e. to first and second cousins, Ibzan found spouses for children outside his clan. This is one of the few times in the Old Testament that daughters were associated with a father on an equal basis as sons. Apparently, Ibzan valued his daughters as well as his sons. He used the same strategy for getting spouses for daughters and sons.

How is the church to interpret Izban’s behavior of treating sons and daughters equally? In the 21st century, some denominations and some individual churches are more absolute about the role of women in the church. For example, in the Constitution of my denomination both men and women can be pastors and bishops. The pastor of my individual church disagrees. He has allowed only men to be ordained as pastors; however, many women have ministerial responsibilities.

The noteworthy fact about Izban was that he married sons and daughters outside the clan. That piece of information suggests that he treated sons and daughters the same way. Perhaps a parallel is that the church had a children’s or youth program for both boys and girls; or, the church had an active women’s and men’s ministry. A larger parallel may be that the church treats both genders equally.

If our denominations and churches interpret women’s role and responsibilities in the church wrong, is that apostasy (rebellion against God, defecting from the faith)? Likely, I wouldn’t call the error apostasy because the role of women in denominations/individual churches apostasy is a more likely preference.

As a health care professional, immediately, I thought that Ibzan went outside his clan to find spouses for his children because he wanted to diversify the gene pool in his family. Probably, I was wrong. A more probable reason  Ibzan chose to find his children’s spouses outside his clan was to expand his sphere of influence to other clans and Israelite tribes. He was an influential, wealthy, illustrious man; consequently, marriage to one of his children would have been beneficial to the child’s spouse. At the same time, Ibzan would have had advocates for his family in a wide range of families.

Recently, I read on the information page of a church bulletin that the church had grown large and it planned to form “daughter” churches in various communities to reduce the size of the congregation and to reduce driving time for congregates.

This information caused me to reflect back on another story several years ago. An orthodox church spun off at least three daughter churches in towns around my small city. When the pastor of one “daughter” church was interviewed, he commented that his church no longer considered themselves part of the parent church’s denomination.  I haven’t investigated the doctrine of the “daughter” church; however, I wonder if in giving up denomination affiliation, it also gave up central doctrines of the faith. My conclusion is that “daughter” churches can be good; but, care must be taken to provide doctrinal oversight in the churches.

Copyright December 14, 2019. Carolyn Adams Roth

Visit my website at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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