For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough


“And after him (Jephthah) Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel,” Jgs 12:8.

Like all the judges of Israel, Ibzan is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His name means their whiteness, the color of purity in general, and of that which marked the life of the Lord in particular.

His being “of Bethlehem” further confirms the accuracy of the typological picture, for Bethlehem, meaning house of bread, will be for ever associated with Him Who came to earth as the “true bread from heaven.”

“And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons.  And he judged Israel seven years,” Jgs 12:9.

Thirty is simply a multiple of, and has the same meaning as three, the number of manifestation and resurrection, so that Ibzan’s thirty sons and thirty daughters, and thirty daughters-in-law, speak of the abundant spiritual life of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Source.

As already noted, sons represent activity of the will, and daughters, passivity.  Perfect balance in these two spheres is indicated in there being the same number of each.  This perfect balance marked the Lord’s life, for no will was ever more perfectly subject to the Father’s will, yet there was also never a life in which the activity of the will was more devoted to the carrying out of that same will. 

That same balance ought to mark our lives, but unfortunately all too often they are marked by imbalance - there is either the submission that refrains from doing wrong, but that fails to engage in any activity for God, or there is an activity divorced from a quiet waiting upon God in order to learn His will, so that the activity is that of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.

In connection with service, there is the ever present danger that activity may outrun submission, so that we run unsent, having “a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge,” Ro 10:2.  It is significant that in the case of Ibzan’s family this danger was prevented, the balance being symbolically preserved by his taking in thirty daughters-in-law when his own daughters went abroad as wives.  We would do well to exercise the same care to preserve the balance in our own lives.

Since seven is the Biblical number of perfection or completeness, his judging Israel for seven years speaks of the perfection of his judgeship, and makes it the foreshadowing of the perfection of Christ’s care for the Church, and of His coming rule over the millennial earth. 

He is a wise believer who strives for the same perfection in connection with all that God entrusts to his stewardship.

“Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Bethlehem,” Jgs 12:10.

As Bethlehem was associated with this man’s birth, so was it also with his death.  This speaks of consistency.  There was no fluctuation in the faithfulness of his life, nor was there in the life of the One of Whom he is a type: the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The practical lesson God would teach us in this is that as our new life began with the spiritual “Bread” of which Bethlehem speaks, so should it continue, and so should it end.  Sadly, the story of many a Christian life is far otherwise.  May the grace be given each one of us to “continue steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine” to the end of the journey, so that the eternal record of our lives may be like that of Ibzan, it being true of us, as of him, that the life which began spiritually at “Bethlehem,” continued there, and ended also at “Bethlehem.”

It is generally understood that his judgeship, and that of his two immediate successors, was confined to the northeast of Israel, a fact which reminds us that God would have us see in the judges that which would encourage us to faithfulness, not in the broad sphere of the Church worldwide, but in the place where it has pleased Him to set us, in our own families, our neighborhoods, our own local assembly, for in these closing days of the age it is folly to be looking for recovery worldwide.  Scripture makes it clear that the age will end with the professing church having become largely apostate as portrayed in the deplorable state of Laodicea.


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough