Pearls of the Kingdom 8/9/23
How many of you are familiar with Jephthah of Gilead? To be honest, I was not. What caught my attention, I found him listed in the “Heroes of Faith”, Hebrews 11.
Heb 11:32 “How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.”
So, I find myself wondering what is his story. To find Jephthah’s story we will have to travel back in time to Judges chapter 11. Once again there is so much to his story in chapters 10-12. Take the time to read this portion of scripture.
Judg 11:1-3 “Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. “You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.”
Right out of the gate Jephthah’s story hits a low point. We learn he is the son of a prostitute. His half brothers chase him out of town not wanting him to have any of the fathers’ inheritance. He moves to the land of Tob. The only thing going for him he is a great warrior and now he has a band of worthless rebels following him.
Judg 11: 4-7 “At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel. When the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. The elders said, “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!” But Jephthah said to them, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”
Jephthah rises from the pit of being a cast out to a position of great prominence as ruler. Israel finds they are at war with the Ammonites. The ones that hated him and cast him out are now in need of a mighty warrior leader. So they come to Jephthah, pleading for him to come and be the commander of the army. The elders make a promise to Jephtah to be their ruler and commander of the army.
Judges 11: 9-11 “Jephthah said to the elders, “Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the LORD gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?” “The LORD is our witness,” the elders replied. “We promise to do whatever you say.” So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their ruler and commander of the army. At Mizpah, in the presence of the LORD, Jephthah repeated what he had said to the elders.”
We learn that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephtah. We find this phrase in several places. The Lord imparted strength and power upon an individual to accomplish His plan (Othniel, Samson).
Judg 29-31 “At that time the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and from there he led an army against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
It is felt that Jephthah made a vow that he needed not make. He was not asked to make a vow by the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord was already upon Jephthah to give him the victory over the Ammonites. There was no need to make a vow to secure his victory. Did Jephthah feel that the vow would gain or earn the Lord’s favor? Was Jephthah not sure the Lord would fulfill his promise, so he had to make this vow? Not sure how much thought Jephthah put into this. Perhaps he was a bit too hasty.
We are fortunate as we have the whole story to look at. What was Jephthah thinking? Who would be the first person to come out to greet him upon his victorious return? He was very specific in his vow to the Lord, “The first one who comes out from my house to meet me.”
Judg 34-35 “When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “Oh, my daughter!” he cried out. “You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.”
At first glance one may wonder, why didn’t the Lord intervene and stop this? Cancel this vow that Jephthah made. After all he did it for Abraham when he was going to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22). We find two very different circumstances. God was asking Abraham to sacrifice his son to test his faith. Here I sense Jephthah was “testing” the Lord’s faithfulness to keep His promise of a victory. Two very different situations.
Judg 11:38-39 “You may go,” Jephthah said. And he sent her away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children. When she returned home, her father kept the vow he had made, and she died a virgin.”
Some have questioned this last verse here. Was she sacrificed as a burnt offering? Human sacrifice to the Lord was not allowed. Some have suggested that she lived out her days as a virgin. That she died a virgin serving the Lord all the days of her life.
There is so much for us to consider in Jephthah’s story. My key take a ways for us to consider today:
1.God will use, choose an individual to accomplish his plans and purposes. He used Jephthah, the son of a prostitute. He was unwelcomed, cast out from his family, his town. Your past, your faults do not disqualify you from being used by the Lord!
2.Let us learn from Jephthah’s foolish mistake in making a quick, rash vow to the Lord that was not necessary. We are mistaken if we think we can “bribe” God to gain His help.
3. We have no clear picture of Jephthah’s faith in the Lord. We can assume by looking at the scriptures that he had a faith in the Lord as we look at his conversation with the king of Ammon.
Judg 11: 23-24 “So you see, it was the LORD, the God of Israel, who took away the land from the Amorites and gave it to Israel. Why, then, should we give it back to you? You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the LORD our God gives us.”
4.Jephthah was an honorable man. He honored his vow to the Lord. Jephthah did not try to get out of this vow now that he realizes what the cost is.
5. One cannot leave this story without mention of Jephthah’s daughter. No clear understanding on what family life was like. What values were taught in the home? We don’t even have her name. She submitted to her father’s vow. She didn’t run away from home, but she had one request. No anger toward her father for making such a vow. She acknowledges the Lord’s hand in giving her father the victory. She surrendered to the vow her father made to the Lord.
Judg 11:36 “And she said, “Father, if you have made a vow to the LORD, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites.”
May we learn from the Faults, Failures & Faith of Jephthah,