Vol 2 - No 27, November 16, 2006
The faith of Jephthah (spelled Jephthae in Hebrews 11:3232 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
Review: As noted in our last study, Israel had 40 years of peace during the time Gideon (aka Jerubbaal) judged but as soon as he died wickedness and idol worship prevailed again - Judges 8:32 - 3532 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.
34 And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:
35 Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.
. Gideon had 70 sons by his wives and one, Abimelch, by his concubine in Shechem, Judges 8:3131 And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
. After Gideon's death and the fall of Israel into sin Abimelech made a deal with his mother's people, the men of Sechem, who gave him money to hire ruthless men. With these men he murdered 69 of his half brothers, leaving only Jotham who survived by hiding - Judges 9:1 - 51 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother's father, saying,
2 Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.
3 And his mother's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.
4 And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.
5 And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself.
. The men of Shechem then proclaimed Abimelech king, Judges 9:66 And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.
, but after three (3) years God allowed an evil spirit to come between them and Abimelech was subsequently killed in a bizarre manner during battle - Judges 9:53 & 5453 And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull.
54 Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A women slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
. After Abimelech's death Tola and Jair are mentioned as having judged and defended Israel for two (2) consecutive terms totaling 45 years - Judges 10:1 - 51 And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim.
2 And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.
3 And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.
4 And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead.
5 And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.
Israel repents: After Jair's death Israel fell into debauchery and wallowed in seven (7) gross forms of idolatry that existed amongst their heathen neighbors, Judges 10:66 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him.
. As a result God delivered them into bondage to both the Philistines and the Amorites, Judges 10:77 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.
, whereupon Israel endured terrible persecution. Then, it is most noteworthy that instead of asking for physical deliverance from their human tormentors they instead recognized and admitted their sin of forsaking God and worshiping idols - Judges 10:1010 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.
. After a reminder of what God had done for them in the past they put away their idols and the Lord took pity upon them - Judges 10:8 - 168 And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that were on the other side Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.
9 Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed.
10 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.
11 And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?
12 The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.
13 Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.
14 Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.
15 And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.
16 And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.
A crisis looms: The Ammonites prepared to fight and camped in Gilead, which was land the Lord had given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. The Israeli leaders of Gilead began looking about for a Captain to lead their troops against the Ammorites, Judges 10:17 & 1817 Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.
18 And the people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.
, and decided upon Jephthah - Judges 11:11 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.
Jephthah Introducted: His father was Gilead but his mother was either a prostitute or at least a woman to whom his father was not married and so he came into the world much like Gideon's illegitimate son Abimelech. But the similarity between Jephthah and Abimelech ends there. Whereas Abimelech had turned out to be a power hungry murderer Jephthah was a man of faith in God. After Jephthah's half brothers, who had been born legitimately, grew up they threw him off the property inherited from their father and cut him off from any inheritance. Jephthah is described as a mighty fighting man of valor, but instead of taking vengeance upon his half brothers as Abimelech had done, he left his home and went to a land called Tob. There he was joined by a group of men described as vain in the Word. Bible commentaries state that these men were not necessarily wicked but were men like Jephthah who had nothing in the way of land or possessions - Judges 11:1 - 31 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.
2 And Gilead's wife bare him sons; and his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.
3 Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him.
. Jephthah was a skilled guerilla fighter and from Tob he and his men carried out successful raids against Israel's enemies.
Jephthah's call: As noted above the repentant Israeli leaders in Gilead needed a leader in the fight against the Ammonites. They went to Tod and asked Jephthah to be the Captain of their troops - Judges 11:4 - 64 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.
5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob:
6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.
. Jephthah reminded them that he had been kicked out of his homeland and asked rhetorically why they had come to him only when they needed him. However, he did agree to their request on condition they make him their leader if the enemy was defeated - Judges 11:7 - 107 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?
8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.
9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?
10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.
. Jephthah's answer to the elder's request indicates his faith in God. He did not say to them, make me your leader if I defeat the enemy, he did say to them "If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?" Judges 11:99 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?
Jephthah's mission accomplished: The elders of Gilead made Jephthah their leader and he immediately prayed and committed his mission to God, Judges 11:1111 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.
. He went to work and proved he was more than just a tough fighting man. He was also a diplomat so instead of using force immediately he began a dialogue with the enemy providing them an opportunity to agree on terms - Judges 11:1212 And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land?
. He rehearsed the history of how Israel had come to possess the land in question as opposed to the Ammonite's claim - Judges 11:13 - 2613 And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.
14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon:
15 And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:
16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh;
17 Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.
18 Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab.
19 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.
20 But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.
21 And the LORD God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.
22 And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.
23 So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?
24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.
25 And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them,
26 While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?
. The bottom line of their disagreement was the issue of who had granted title to the land to whom. Jephthah pointed out that the God of Israel had given Israel title and asked, rather sarcastically, if it was their tinhorn god Chemosh, an idol of the Moabites that gave them the land. - Joshua 11:23 & 2423 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.
. Finally Jephthah committed the matter to the Lord's Hands to decide with the statement: "Wherefore I (Israel) have not sinned against thee (the Ammonites,) but thou (the Ammonites) doest me (Israel) wrong to war against me: the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon." - Judges 11:2727 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.
The Lord's Work: On the Lord's own volition and by His grace, His Spirit came upon Jephthah, preparing and strengthening him mentally and physically for battle - Judges 11:2929 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.
Jephthah's mistake: Nothing needed to be added to what the Lord provided because Jephthah had everything needed to carry out what the Lord would accomplish but Jephthah, like many people, just had to add something himself. He made a vow to the Lord that if the Lord would give him success against the enemy he would dedicate or offer up the first that came out of his house to meet him when he returned from victory over the enemy - Judges 11:30 & 3130 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
. What was he thinking of?
Victory granted: The Lord gave victory to Jephthah and in fact he cleaned house with a great slaughter of the enemy - Judges 11:32 & 3332 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.
33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
. The Israelites along with Jephthah had to have been very happy with what the Lord had done for them.
The bitter fruit of a mistake: Jephthah's joy and elation turned to grief when he arrived home because the first person to come out to greet him was his daughter, an only child. She ran out to him playing timbrels and dancing with joy - Judges 11:3434 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
. Needless to say, Jephthah was distraught and tore his clothes in despair. What he realized and said to his daughter should be very instructive to all believers: "And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back." Judges 11:3535 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.
. If he had just kept his mouth shut he would have experienced the Lord's victory anyway and he and his family would not have had to suffer because of what he had needlessly promised.
Jephthah's daughter was a loyal and obedient child, both to her father and to the Lord. She told her dad that if he made a vow to the Lord then he had to keep it. She asked only that she be able to spend two (2) months with her friends grieving her fate. Then, the Word reads: "And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year." Judges 11:39 & 4039 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,
40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
Bible commentators are somewhat divided on what actually happened to this girl. Some think she was relegated to being a spinster, never knowing a man. Some actually teach she was sacrificed. But since God's law prohibited human sacrifice (Leviticus 18:2121 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
; 20:2 - 5,) this being one of the abominations of Canaanite idol worship so abhorred by God, it cannot be what happened. What did happen was that Jephthah's daughter never married and the daughters of Israel came and grieved with her every year because of this. Jephthah had to have suffered the rest of his life for opening his mouth when he should not have. We can only imagine what his wife had to say about this, every day, and the hurt they all carried that no offspring came from their daughter, whose name we do not know.
Judging and putting down an insurrection: During the battle with the Ammonites, Jephthah had asked fellow Israelites from the tribe of Ephraim to assist but they refused. Now, they showed their hypocrisy and duplicitousness by threatening to burn Jephthah's house down with him in it because he had not called upon them to help in the battle. Jephthah took action again and put down this insurrection of hypocrites, killing a great number from Ephraim. Jephthah went on to judge Israel for six (6) years before he died.
There is much about how the witness of Jephthah's faith is a type of and points to different aspects of the work of the Man of faith, Jesus Christ but there is not enough space to cover this here. All will be brought out in a future study.