Judges Chapter 11

The Ammonites gathered against the people of Israel and had been oppressing the people in Gilead about 18 years. The people of Israel had repented and returned to the Lord with a plea for deliverance from their enemy. The people of Gilead tried to decide who could lead them in their fight against the Ammonites. This chapter begins:

1 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 the son of Gilead and a harlot. The other sons of Gilead, born of his wife, had cast Jephthah out from among them. They did not want him to gain any part of their inheritance, because of his mother. Jephtah fled to the land of Tob. Men of the world gathered together with him.

4 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.
7 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.
11 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.

When the Ammonites came against the Israelites, the elders of Gilead went to find Jephtah in Tob. They asked him to be the captain of their army, I am thinking because he is described of being a mighty man of valor, or great courage. Knowing they had cast him out, he asked why they came to him now in their distress. They needed him, so they offered him the position to lead the army and then to become their leader in Gilead. He made an agreement with them, that if the Lord did indeed deliver the Ammonites into their hands through his leadership, he was to be their leader. The elders made an oath with him, with the Lord as their witness, so Jephtah agreed and became their leader. I think that if the men of Ammon were delivered by the hand of the Lord, that would have been proof to the people of Gilead, that Jephtah was chosen by the Lord to lead the Israelites.

Just as the men of Gilead had done to Jephthah, sometimes we cast out the Lord from our lives, and we return to Him only when we are also in distress. The Lord also expects that He will then be our leader, as He is the one who delivers us from our own bondage. The Lord would lead Jehpthah to help His people, Israel.

12 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?
13 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?
27 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.
28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.

Jephthah sent messengers to ask the king of the Ammonites why they had come against them. The king said that his land had been taken by the Israelites when they came from Egypt, and he wanted them back. He told Jephthah to return the land peacefully. Jephthah told the king that the Israelites had not taken any of the land from them, but that when they had tried to pass through the land in the wanderings, the kings of Edom and Moab would not allow them to pass through in peace. The Israelites had been forced to go around the land instead, and when they came to the land of Arnon in Moab, they tried again to pass peaceably through the land of the Amorites, but the king raised up an army against Israel. Jephthah told them that the Lord delivered Sihon and his people into the hands of the Israelites, and they then gained possession of the land of the Amorites. It was the Lord who had given them the land for their possession, which the men of Ammon now wanted to possess. He asked them if their god, Chemosh, had given them a land of possession, wouldn’t they have possessed it. Whatever land was given to the Israelites by the Lord, they would take that land as their possession. Jephthah asked the king if he thought they were better off than Balak, the king of Moab, who had fought against Israel, and whose people had not been able to gain the land. Jephthah told him that the Israelites were innocent against them and the Lord would judge between the Ammonites, if their king would not listen to the words he sent him.

29 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.
30 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.

Jephthah and his men, came up against the Ammonites through Gilead. Jephthah made a vow with the Lord, that if the Lord would deliver the Ammonites into his hand, that he would sacrifice to the Lord, whatever came out of his own house to meet him when he returned home. I don’t know why he felt the need to make such a strong vow to the Lord, no knowing what would come out to meet him when he returned. My only thought was that in other nations at the time, many people sacrificed people and things to their false gods, for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps this line of reasoning had influenced him. According to these verses, he was already being blessed with the spirit of the Lord. Sometimes we do and say things without thinking them through first, allowing the spirit to help us discern properly, and in this case, I don’t think that this was going to work out well.

32 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.

Jephthah went forward in faith, to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. He defeated Ammon with a very great slaughter.

34 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.
35 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.
36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.
38 And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
39 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.

When Jephthah returned to his own home, his only daughter, which was his only child, came out to welcome him home. He rent his clothing when he realized what had been done. He could not go back on the vow he had made with the Lord. She told him to keep his vow with the Lord, because the Lord had destroyed their enemy. She asked him first, to allow her two months to go into the mountains to mourn her virginity, which he did. She returned after two months of mourning, and he sacrificed her, as he had promised. After that, the women of Israel lamented for her for four days of the year.

The Lord had commanded the Israelites, not to make thoughtless oaths. Vows are not to be taken lightly, especially with the Lord. God will keep promises and will justly expect us to keep them as well. Jephthah knew he had to keep his vow since the Lord had fulfilled His end of it. His daughter was a woman of faith, who recognized the importance of keeping promises with the Lord, and valued that more than her own life. I am sure that the realization of what he had done, remained with Jephthah from that time on. We do not want to have such regrets in our own lives. We should make the promises to the Lord, which we have been asked to make, and never swear by the heavens for other things. God will bless us for our faith and courage, without thoughtless promises.

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