Jephthah overcame a difficult childhood to become a leader in Israel. His position brought him both glory and grief.

Heroes of the Faith –

Jephthah, Judges 10 - 11

Comments on Judges 3, Ehud
Comments on Judges 4 - 5, Deborah
Comments on Judges 6 - 7, Gideon

Judges 10:6-18, The Ammonites Oppress Israel.
Judges 11:1-11, Jephthah Lays Down His Terms.
Judges 11:12-28, Jephthah Tries Negotiation.
Judges 11:29 – 12:7, Jephthah's Rash Vow Brings Gain & Loss.

Comments on Judges 13 - 16, Samson

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Jephthah's Rash Vow. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
Judges 10:6-18, The Ammonites Oppress Israel. (3/23/2010)

Another judge we know something about is Jephthah.  His sad story begins in the standard way:  the people of Israel abandon God and are oppressed.  They eventually turn back to God and ask for help.  The only difference between this round and many other rounds of apostasy is that God is at first skeptical of their sincerity.  He says to them, "You wanted other gods, and you got them.  Why not ask them for help?" Good question, and one we should ask ourselves whenever we are tempted to abandon God.


Judges 11:1-11, Jephthah Lays Down His Terms. (3/24/2010)

The Ammonites were one of several Canaanite peoples.  They worshipped a god called Milcom, about which the Bible doesn't say much except that it was an abomination.  When the city fathers of Gilead are having trouble with the Ammonites, they find themselves in the embarrassing position of having to request help from that bad boy Jephthah, whom they previously ran out of town. 


Judges 11:12-28, Jephthah Tries Negotiation. (2/25/2010)

Jephthah seems to have been in error in suggesting that the Ammonites worshipped Chemosh, who was actually the god of the Moabites.  On the other hand, maybe he was just being insulting - "you can have the lands your god - whatever his name is - gives you, just as we have what the Lord our God has given us."  The idea that a particular god, or the Lord God, is or isn't strong enough to protect his, her, or its people or lands is presented in a number of Old Testament passages. 

As far as I know, at the time of the Judges, nobody was monotheistic.  Certainly not the Jews or any other people inhabiting Canaan.  During this period, the closest the Jews came to monotheism was that periodically they only worshipped one God, in contrast to the other Canaanite peoples, who consistently worshipped a pantheon.  Chemosh, Baal, or Milcom were the most powerful gods in their respective pantheons, sort of like Zeus or Odin.  It's also possible that some of these gods were actually the same one working under an alias.  All the pantheons seem to have had a chief goddess with a name that varied but was usually something like "Astarte."  None of them were people you would want living next door.


Judges 11:29 – 12:7, Jephthah's Rash Vow Brings Gain & Loss. (3/26/2010)

Years and years ago, our young pastor preached a sermon in which he told a little of his own history.  As a young man - in college, I think - he was diagnosed as going blind.  He swore to God that if his sight was spared, he would enter the ministry.  He had no further loss of vision.  He said, "Lord, you know I was just kidding, right?"  The next thing he knew, he was in seminary.  The Lord takes your vows very seriously, and so should you.
 
Nevertheless, Jephthah's particular vow was repugnant to God, who had spent several hundred years trying to get the Israelites to stop the practice of child sacrifice, and would spend several hundred more before He was completely successful.


More Heroes of the Faith

Introduction: The Heroic Faith of Our Ancestors

Old Testament Heroes
Abraham and Sarah
Caleb & Joshua
Ehud
Deborah
Gideon
Jephthah
Elijah
Micaiah
Jeremiah
Esther and Mordecai
Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego
King Josiah of Judah
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego


New Testament Heroes
Stephen
Thomas
Peter & John
Phoebe
The Woman with a Hemorrhage
The Canaanite Woman
Barnabas
Lydia


Bravery
Preaching in Difficult Circumstances
Courage to Challenge the Status Quo


Copyright 2010, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

The woodcut showing Jephthah and his daughter is from the Binns family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina L. Hunter.


Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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