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 Jephthah and Ammon

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CHAPTER 11 Jun. 12 
Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of a prostitute; and Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when his wife’s sons grew up they drove out Jephthah, and said to him, You shall not inherit in our father’s house because you are the son of another woman. 3Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and a group of adventurers gathered to Jephthah, and they went out with him. 4After a while the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5When the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah out of the land of Tob, 6and they said to Jephthah, Come and be our chief, so that we can fight the Ammonites. 7Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, Didn’t you hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress? 8The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, Therefore we have turned again to you now, so that you may go with us and fight the Ammonites, and you shall be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. 9Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, If you bring me home again to fight the Ammonites and Yahweh delivers them to me, shall I be your head? 10The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, Yahweh shall be witness between us; certainly we will do as you say. 11Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them, and Jephthah spoke all his words before Yahweh in Mizpah. 12Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites saying, What have you against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land? 13The king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land when he came up out of Egypt, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore that territory again peaceably. 14Jephthah sent messengers back to the king of the Ammonites 15and said to him, This is what Jephthah says: Israel didn’t take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the Ammonites, 16but when they came up from Egypt Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom saying, ‘Please let me pass through your land;’ but the king of Edom didn’t listen. In the same way he sent to the king of Moab, but he would not, and Israel stayed in Kadesh. 18Then they went through the wilderness and skirted around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and they encamped on the other side of the Arnon, but they didn’t come within the border of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. 19Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our place’. 20But Sihon didn’t trust Israel to pass through his border, but Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped in Jahaz and fought against Israel. 21Yahweh the God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they struck them; so Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22They captured all the border of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok, and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23So now Yahweh, the God of Israel has driven out the Amorites from before His people Israel, and should you take it over? 24Won’t you inherit that which Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever Yahweh our God has given to us, that we will take. 25Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor king of Moab? Did he ever strive successfully against Israel, or did he ever fight against them? 26While Israel lived in Heshbon and its towns, in Aroer and its towns and in all the cities that are along by the side of the Arnon, for three hundred years, why didn’t you recover them within that time? 27I therefore have not sinned against you, but you do me wrong to fight against me. Let Yahweh the Judge be judge this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon. 28However the king of the Ammonites didn’t listen to the words of Jephthah which he sent him. 29Then the Spirit of Yahweh came on Jephthah and he crossed over Gilead, Manasseh and Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he crossed over to the Ammonites. 
Jephthah’s Vow
30Jephthah made a vow to Yahweh and said, If You will indeed deliver the Ammonites into my hand, 31then whatever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites, it shall be Yahweh’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. 32So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them and Yahweh delivered them into his hand. 33He struck them from Aroer to Minnith, twenty cities, and to Abelcheramim, with a very great slaughter. So the Ammonites were subdued before the children of Israel. 34Jephthah came to Mizpah to his house and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35When he saw her he tore his clothes and said, Alas my daughter! You have made me very sad and troubled, for I have made a vow to Yahweh and I can’t go back on it. 36She said to him, My father, you have made a vow to Yahweh; do to me what you have vowed, because Yahweh has taken vengeance for you on your enemies the people of Ammon. 37She said to her father, Let this one thing be done for me: let me alone two months to go around on the mountains and bewail my virginity, I and my companions. 38He said, Go. He sent her away for two months, and she and her companions went and mourned her virginity on the mountains. 39At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed, and she was a virgin. It was a custom in Israel, 40that the daughters of Israel went each year to celebrate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.


11:2 Again we see how God worked to save Israel through a man whom others despised and rejected, looking forward to His Son, Jesus, the stone whom the Jewish builders rejected who became the corner stone (Mt. 21:42).
11:7,8 Israel’s attitude to Jephthah was their attitude to God; they rejected Him, but turned to Him in times of trouble. The way Jephthah speaks in :7 and :12 suggests he appreciated this, and took comfort from it.
11:8 Both illegitimate children like Jephthah and Ammonites were excluded from Yahweh’s congregation (Dt. 23:2,3). But God brought the Israelites to such desperation that they had to recognize that the letter of God’s law couldn’t save them. Jephthah could have reasoned that because his brethren excluded him, therefore he would have no passion for his own people and would certainly not fight for them. But he adopted, as we should, a more gracious perspective. Whatever the rejections suffered at the hands of God’s hypocritical people, he still saw them as God’s people and identified with them. This is a lesson for the many who have been unjustly excluded from congregations of God’s people over technical issues which weren’t their personal fault; this is no reason to be unfaithful to or cease to identify with God’s people as a whole.
11:24 Jesus spoke about demons as if such things existed, even though He did not believe they did; for demons referred to idols, which have no real existence (1 Cor. 8:4). In a similar way, faithful Jephthah spoke of the idol Chemosh as if he existed. 
11:27 We are in God’s judgment presence in this life just as much as we will be in the last day. The day of the Lord is coming, but it is even now (Mic. 7:4 Heb.). Jephthah understood this when he said that Yahweh the Judge is judge “this day”. Because God isjudge right now, this means we should realize that He will and does judge here and now. 
11:35 Jephthah could have redeemed his daughter from the vow he involved her with (Lev. 27:4). But he decided in his mind: "I have made a vow to Yahweh and I can’t go back on it”. Actually he could have done; but he so firmly chose the higher level that it was as if there was no way back. Ps. 15:4, in evident allusion to Jephthah, describes those who will attain the Kingdom as fearing Yahweh, and swearing to their own hurt and changing not. Some may swear and change and attain the Kingdom; but we are invited to follow Jephthah to the highest level. Another possibility is that Jephthah was ignorant of the Lev. 27:4 provision that he could rescind a vow. In which case we learn that someone can be of great faith and acceptability to God even if they are ignorant of part of His word. This shouldn’t justify us in a careless attitude to His service, but rather should inspire our toleration and acceptance of our more ignorant brethren.