Judges 11

1 Now Jephthah existed then, a Gileadite, a mighty man of valour, the son of a harlot unto whom Gilead had begat a son.
2 And Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they threw Jephthah out 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 vain men joined themselves to Jephthah and went out with him.
4 And it came to pass after some days that the sons of Ammon made war against Israel.
5 And when the sons 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 thou shalt be our captain that we may fight with the sons 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? Why, therefore, are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?
8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, For this same reason we turn again to thee now that thou may go with us and fight against the sons of Ammon and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.
9 Then Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the sons of Ammon and the LORD delivers them before me, shall I be your head?
10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Let the LORD hear between us, if we do not comply with thy words.
11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and prince over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.
12 And Jephthah sent ambassadors unto the king of the sons 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 sons of Ammon replied unto the ambassadors of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok and unto the Jordan; now, therefore, restore those lands again peaceably.
14 Then Jephthah sent ambassadors again unto the king of the sons of Ammon,
15 saying unto him, Thus hath Jephthah said, Israel did not take land from Moab, nor land from the sons of Ammon,
16 but 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 hear them. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab, but he would not consent either; therefore Israel abode in Kadesh.
18 Then they went along through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and came by the side of the rising of the sun to the land of Moab; they pitched their camp on the other side of Arnon and did not enter 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 did not trust Israel to pass through his border; but Sihon gathered all his people together and pitched camp in Jahaz and fought against Israel.
21 But 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 Amorite that inhabited that land.
22 And they possessed all the border of the Amorites from Arnon even unto Jabbok and from the wilderness even unto the Jordan.
23 So now the LORD God of Israel has expelled the Amorites from before his people Israel and should thou possess it?
24 If Chemosh thy god should expel anyone for you, would thou not possess it? So whoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.
25 Art thou better now in any thing than Balak, the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Peradventure did he ever strive against Israel? Peradventure did he ever fight against them?
26 Furthermore, Israel has dwelt in Heshbon and her towns and in Aroer and her towns and in all the cities that are along by the coasts of Arnon, for three hundred years. Why, therefore, did ye not recover them within that time?
27 Therefore, I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me; let the LORD, who is the Judge, judge this day between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.
28 But the king of the sons of Ammon did not hear the reasons of Jephthah which he sent him.
29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed through Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he went unto the sons of Ammon.
30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the sons of Ammon into my hands,
31 whoever comes forth of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer them up for a burnt offering.
32 So Jephthah went over unto the sons of Ammon to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his hands.
33 And he smote them from Aroer, even unto Minnith twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.
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 those 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 has proceeded out of thy mouth, forasmuch as the LORD has taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the sons of Ammon.
37 And she said again 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 companions.
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 had never known a man. From here came the custom in Israel
40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite, four days in a year.

Judges 11 Commentary

Chapter 11

Jephtah and the Gileadites. (1-11) He attempts to make peace. (12-28) Jephthah's vow. He vanquishes the Ammonites. (29-40)

Verses 1-11 Men ought not to be blamed for their parentage, so long as they by their personal merits roll away any reproach. God had forgiven Israel, therefore Jephthah will forgive. He speaks not with confidence of his success, knowing how justly God might suffer the Ammonites to prevail for the further punishment of Israel. Nor does he speak with any confidence at all in himself. If he succeed, it is the Lord delivers them into his hand; he thereby reminds his countrymen to look up to God as the Giver of victory. The same question as here, in fact, is put to those who desire salvation by Christ. If he save you, will ye be willing that he shall rule you? On no other terms will he save you. If he make you happy, shall he make you holy? If he be your helper, shall he be your Head? Jephthah, to obtain a little worldly honour, was willing to expose his life: shall we be discouraged in our Christian warfare by the difficulties we may meet with, when Christ has promised a crown of life to him that overcometh?

Verses 12-28 One instance of the honour and respect we owe to God, as our God, is, rightly to employ what he gives us to possess. Receive it from him, use it for him, and part with it when he calls for it. The whole of this message shows that Jephthah was well acquainted with the books of Moses. His argument was clear, and his demand reasonable. Those who possess the most courageous faith, will be the most disposed for peace, and the readiest to make advances to obtain; but rapacity and ambition often cloak their designs under a plea of equity, and render peaceful endeavours of no avail.

Verses 29-40 Several important lessons are to be learned from Jephthah's vow. 1. There may be remainders of distrust and doubting, even in the hearts of true and great believers. 2. Our vows to God should not be as a purchase of the favour we desire, but to express gratitude to him. 3. We need to be very well-advised in making vows, lest we entangle ourselves. 4. What we have solemnly vowed to God, we must perform, if it be possible and lawful, though it be difficult and grievous to us. 5. It well becomes children, obediently and cheerfully to submit to their parents in the Lord. It is hard to say what Jephthah did in performance of his vow; but it is thought that he did not offer his daughter as a burnt-offering. Such a sacrifice would have been an abomination to the Lord; it is supposed she was obliged to remain unmarried, and apart from her family. Concerning this and some other such passages in the sacred history, about which learned men are divided and in doubt, we need not perplex ourselves; what is necessary to our salvation, thanks be to God, is plain enough. If the reader recollects the promise of Christ concerning the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and places himself under this heavenly Teacher, the Holy Ghost will guide to all truth in every passage, so far as it is needful to be understood.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO JUDGES 11

This chapter gives an account of another judge of Israel, Jephthah, of his descent and character, Jud 11:1-3 of the call the elders of Gilead gave him to be their captain general, and lead out their forces against the Ammonites, and the agreement he made with them, Jud 11:4-11 of the message he sent to the children of Ammon, which brought on a dispute between him and them about the land Israel possessed on that side Jordan the Ammonites claimed; Israel's right to which Jephthah defended, and made it clearly to appear, hoping thereby to put an end to the quarrel without shedding of blood, Jud 11:12-27 but the children of Ammon not attending to what he said, he prepared to give them battle, and previous to it he made a vow, and then set forward and fought them, and got the victory over them, Jud 11:28-33 and the chapter concludes with the difficulties Jephthah was embarrassed with upon his return home, on account of his vow, and the performance of it, Jud 11:34-40.

Judges 11 Commentaries

The Jubilee Bible

(from the Scriptures of the Reformation)

edited by Russell M. Stendal

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