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“And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD ‘If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” “When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.” Judges 11:30-31, 34 (NIV)

Jephthah was a judge of Israel. He was the son of Gilead by a prostitute. Later his half-brothers left him out of the inheritance that the sons would receive after Gilead’s death because he was an illegitimate son.

Because of this mistreatment by his brothers he left and went to the land of Tob. There Jephthah became a commander of a group of adventurers. Judges 11:1 says that Jephthah became a mighty warrior. His stature as a warrior must have been known to his kinsmen and very respected because Judges 11:5,6 says “the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. ‘Come,’ they said, ‘be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites” (NIV)

This is another place that Lot’s choice has come back to haunt Israel. These are the son’s of Lot and his younger daughter. God gave both the Moabites and Ammonites territory while the Israelites were in Egypt.

After the people of Gilead and Jephthah came to an agreement on the fact that if Jephthah delivered them from the Ammonites he would be there leader, Jephthah sends messengers to the king of Ammon asking why he is attacking Gilead.

The king of Ammon replies that Israel took land that belonged to the Ammonites and that he wants the land back. Jephthah responds with an accurate account of what happened when the Israelites left Egypt. How every nation that was on the way to the promised land was afraid of them and would not allow Israel to pass on their way to Canaan. And one king, Sihon king of the Amorites, even came out to battle the Israelites. “Then the LORD the God of Israel gave Sihon and all his men into Israel’s hands” and “took over the land of the Amorites… from Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan” (which was the disputed territory) (Judges 11:21,22 NIV).

But the King of Ammon didn’t listen so the Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah and on his way to subduing the Ammonites Jephthah made his first bad choice. He told God that whatever came out of the door of his house when he returned he would sacrifice as a burnt offering. He then went on to victory and came home, but the first thing out of his house was his daughter, his only child. Jephthah does what he promised God he would do, which shows a great fear of God on his part, but Jephthah probably would have been better off not to make a vow like that to God.

How often do we make “deals” with God? “God if you do this I’ll do this” or “God if you give me this, I’ll do this”. Rarely do we hold up our end of the bargain, but more importantly what kind of deals are these? God want’s to bless us and give us the desires of our hearts, if only we would ask. And second we shouldn’t require God to do something for us or give us something in order to do what we promise, which is usually something like “I’ll pray everyday” or “I’ll read my bible” or “I’ll tithe”.

After this Jephthah makes another bad decision. This one costs the lives of 42,000 people. The Ephraimites then came to Jephthah asking why they weren’t asked to go with him to defeat the Ammonites. Jephthah responded by saying “I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn’t save me our of their hands. When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?” (Judges 12:2,3 NIV).

This wasn’t the first time the Ephraimites had been offended by a Judge defeating a foreign group. They had felt the same slight after Gideon had defeated the Midianites but Gideon responded with much more gentleness than Jephthah. “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave you Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” (Judges 8:2,3 NIV)

Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (NIV) Both answers came with a question at the end. One exhorted the Ephraimites and the other one challenged them. Gideon’s answer turned away wrath, while Jephthah’s answer led to 42,000 Ephraimites being killed.

Jephthah’s first choice, to make a rash promise to God, resulted in the death of his daughter, and his second choice, to answer harshly to the Ephraimites, resulted in the death of 42,000 Ephraimites.


Posted June 9, 2012 by mattiev9287 in Bible study, Judges