As we continue with the book of Judges, it is going to get more and more upsetting and depressing. The stories become more brutal as the book progresses, which just expresses how unrighteous the Israelites were being. Chapters 11 and 12 focus primarily on a man named Jephthah, a Gileadite. We will see how God uses him and brings to life an unexpected hero.
Chapter 10 finished off by explaining how the Israelites were in conflict with the Ammonites and they were staying in Gilead and the people of Gilead knew that whoever saved them from Gilead will lead them. Gilead was the father to Jephthah and Jephthah was a strong warrior but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s son wanted Jephthah gone so that the inheritance would go to his children with her so Jephthah fled to live in the land of Tob where he lived with “worthless fellows” aka criminals (Judges 11:3). Jephthah was running crime out in Tob, he was like a mobster in a way. After a while the people of Gilead were not able to get the Ammonites out so they asked Jephthah to help them – the man they had kicked out previously was asked to be their savior. Jephthah of course agrees to help but on the one condition that he would lead the people of Gilead if he was successful. Jephthah tries to use logic with the king of the Ammonites before having to go into battle. The king would not listen because he was still angered by the fact that the Israelites had taken their old land away. Jephthah tried to explain that the land was given to them from God because the Ammonites had not tried to help them when fleeing Egypt. The Ammonite king did not agree and still wanted battle.
This is when the story turns to the good for the Israelites but terribly for Jephthah. Jephthah promises God that he will do anything to win this battle and promises God that he would sacrifice whoever was the first one to come out of his home after he returned from winning the battle. He assumed of course that it would just be a servant or a pet even…he did not know that it would be who it was. Jephthah was victorious and returned home. Who was the one to come outside the house door first? His beloved, and only daughter that he loved more than anyone in the world! She was so excited to see him be victorious and now he would have to sacrifice her. He tells her that he has to do something he doesn’t want to do and she encourages him to keep his promise to God. Jephthah let his daughter have 2 months of life before he killed her. “And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made,” Judges 11:39. Jephthah had kept to his promise even when it meant killing his most beloved person. It is written that to this day people in Israel still honor Jephthah’s daughter and her lost virginity because it is recognized of his sacrifice.
To end off Jephthah’s role as judge we must examine in chapter 12 his battles with Ephraim. They were upset that they were not chosen to take part in battle against the Ammonites because they saw themselves as the top soldiers. The people of Ephraim had actually helped the Ammonites and as a result Jephthah decides to punish them by having them killed and they went after the Ephraimite fugitives too. Apparently Ephraimites could not pronounce the word “Shibboleth” the same as the Gileadites (they pronounced it as “Sibboleth”), so that is how Jephthah and his soldiers determined who the Ephraimites were. Jephthah judged Israel for 6 years.
3 Judges are mentioned in a tiny paragraph and they were: Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. Ibzan judged for 7 years. Elon judged for 10 years and Abdon judged for 8 years.
The next chapters are on a story that many are probably aware of and heard growing up in Sunday school, if they grew up in the church! I will leave that for the next post. :)