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Judges 11:1-40

 

“Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of a harlot:  and Gilead begat Jephthah. 2 And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, 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 there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him. 4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. 5 And it was so, that when the children 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 be our captain, that we may fight with the children 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? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? 8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. 9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head? 10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, the LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words. 11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them:  and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh. 12 And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children 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 children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto the Jabbok, and unto Jordan:  now therefore restore those lands again peaceably. 14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: 15 and said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon: 16 but when 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 the land:  but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto.  And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab:  but he would not consent:  and Israel abode in Kadesh. 18 Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not 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 trusted not Israel to pass through his coast:  but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. 21 And 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 Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan. 23 So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it? 24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess?  So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess. 25 And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them, 26 while Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time? 27 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me:  the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon. 28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him. 29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. 32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. 33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter.  Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children 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 them 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 hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. 37 And she said 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 fellows. 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 knew no man.  And it was a custom in Israel, 40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.”

 

Introduction

 

[Audio version: https://resources.ccphilly.org/detail.asp?TopicID=&Teaching=WED636]

 

“Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead.  And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh (up in Gilead).  And the people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon?  he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” (chapter 10, verses 17-18)  That sets the stage, they lack a leader.  The children of Ammon have gathered now against them, because the children of Israel are pulling away to some degree, and now they say ‘Where are we going to get a leader?’  “Now Jephthah” there was no chapter break when it was written, it brings us to this man name Jephthah, he is from Gilead.  In fact his father’s name was Gilead, he’s a Gileadite.  We’re on the other side of Jordan now, where Elijah the Tishbite came from. We’re not sure of this man’s origin, ah, ancient rabbinic writings say he’s actually an Ishmaelite, we don’t know if that’s true.  Josephus says he was a Gentile, we’re not sure if that’s true.  But he is a believer, he is a man who is moved by faith and serves the Living God.  We’re told by the writer of the Book of Hebrews in chapter 11, the Hall of Faith, it says “And what shall I say more, for time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah, and of David also and Samuel and of the prophets,” he’s listed there in the Hall of Faith as one of those who have genuine faith in the LORD.  It says “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of a harlot:  and Gilead begat Jephthah.” (verse 1) that was not his choice, “and Gilead begat Jephthah,” he left the area evidently, and got involved with a prostitute somewhere and this boy was conceived.  His name Jephthah means “he will open” or “he will set free.”

Location Of Mizpah 

Certainly he plays that role in Israel.  Look, here’s a kid without any natural advantages, raised evidently in the home of a prostitute, his dad is somewhere else, an illegitimate child who ends up to be one of the heroes of Israel, held forth on the page of Scripture for us to see.  It takes away all of the excuses that we have.  We may have had great difficulties in the way we were raised.  We may have had incredible disadvantages in the way that we were raised.  Again, some of my heroes, raised in incredible difficulty, and yet have gone on to do interesting and great things for the Lord [Louis Zamperini, described in the book “Unbroken” ].  And this is one of them.  There are no restrictions, there isn’t anything that God can’t get past in your life.  In fact, I find those who come from the most difficult backgrounds, when their hearts are set on fire by Jesus Christ, they’re the ones who have a particular burden for the outcast, for the lost, they stoop down, they reach out their hand, they know so well, they have a passion, they have an empathy, and it’s wonderful to see.  So here’s this man, his mother’s a prostitute, he never asked for that.  His father, Gilead, and it says “And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah,” they didn’t want to have anything to do with him, a half-breed  “and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.” of a prostitute, “Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob:  and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him.” (verse 3) Now we’re going to find out this guy’s quite the man, he’s a fighter, so he’s fleeing, they must be more than just threatening him.  He goes to the land of Tob, Tov, which is “good” it’s a good land, when you’re in Israel you hear ‘Bokertov,’ good morning, ‘Arevtov,’ good evening,’ this is the land of Tov, it’s a good land.  We find in 2nd Samuel it’s up on the border of the area of Ammon and Syria.  And it says there are gathered to him a group of outcasts and so forth.  We have much the same circumstance in the life of David, where it says when David is at the Cave of Adullam, it says “Every one that was in distress, every one that was in debt” see, we could all be David’s men, couldn’t we? distressed, in debt, “every one that was discontent gathered themselves unto him, and he became a captain over them, and they were with him about four hundred men.”  That is the basis of the greatest army that Israel had ever seen, discontent, in debt, you know, distressed, freaked out, stressed out.  And they are, we have the same kind of folks now gathering themselves to Jephthah.  And they become the foundation for an army that’s going to put to flight and defeat Ammon.  It’s like Robin Hood and the guys there in the Sherwood Forest, they get tired of everything that’s going on and they find someone to gather around.  We look at it here, we see the same thing, they went with him, as he went out raiding and so forth.  “And it came to pass in the process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.” (verse 4)  Now look, they are merciless, these Ammonites,  because of their worship.  It may have been better for Israel if they had been completely godless, but the god they worshipped, Chemosh and Molech, was a god where they took their small children and offered them in the fire to Molech, and they would heat up the brass statue with the arms out, and when it was glowing red hot they would take their year old sons and their newborn children and lay them in the burning arms of this statue, and listen to them scream, and to do that you become a godless, as it were, because of the god you serve, merciless people.  Psalm 115 says, it pronounces a curse on those who worship idols, and it says they become like them, that you become like the god you serve.  And it says there, because they worship idols, they have eyes, but they see not, they have ears, but they hear not, you know, they have no senses, because the gods they worship are not real.  [Comment:  one reason they created a god whom they taught wanted their children sacrificed, was because there was a lot of sexual practices in their worship services, which produced a lot of unwanted babies, so they’d sacrifice them.  That was a part of their pagan worship.]  And the Ammonites were a cruel people because they were merciless, in their worship, in their advances against Israel.  Verse 5, “And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob:” 80 miles away from where they were, they sent a contingency to him, “and they said to Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.  And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?” (verses 5-7)  ‘Ah, excuse me, what’s wrong with this picture, aren’t you the guys that drove me out?  Told me I was not going to be anything here,’ he says here “Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?” almost sounds like what the LORD said to them in that earlier verse.  “And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.  And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?” (verses 9-10) isn’t that interesting, Tov wasn’t his home.  I don’t know about you guys, isn’t it great when you come home?  You travel, I’ve travelled enough, I don’t like to travel, when I was younger I liked something about it, I can’t remember what it was now.  Of course, I’m 58.  Now it just wears me out  [2021-2009 = 12.  58 + 12 = 70.  Pastor Joe is 70 now, I’m 75 now, so I’ve got him beat by 5 years 😊].  Jetlag never leaves.  But it’s always so great to get home.  I remember being in Jerusalem the night that Ronald Reagan bombed Libya, and you kind of get woken up in the middle of the night and there’s a war, and you’re thinking ‘Is this gonna escalate?’ well then you think, ‘Well I can’t drive home, and I ain’t gonna swim home, I’m a loong way from home,’ and it feels so good to get home.  Have you ever been sick, away from home?  There have been times I’ve been sick and away from home, and I would think ‘I would give a million dollars to lay in my own bed right now,’ something about it.  And he says “If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of  Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?” (verse 9) he’s very clear ‘It’s not going to be me, if the LORD delivers them before me, shall I be your head?’  question mark.  Now look, we’re going to find out as we listen to this man, he’s a very remarkable man.  He quotes almost a whole chapter from the Book of Numbers, he quotes whole parts of Deuteronomy, he’s a man who knows the Word, he talks about the LORD all the way through this.  And that’s going to make the end of the chapter stranger than ever, because there’s huge questions about some of his behavior, as we move on into this chapter.  And if you think he’s strange, wait till we get to Samson.  But anyhow, he says “If the LORD deliver them before me,” ‘it’ll be his victory,’ Jephthah doesn’t touch it, “shall I be your head?  And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, the LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.” (verses 9b-10)  Now there’s an interesting thing going on here in some ways.  Way back in Genesis chapter 31, verse 47, as Jacob is fleeing from Laban, and Laban catches up to him and they have this kind of  argument, Rachel’s involved with false gods and so forth, and it says ‘Jacob said unto his brethren, gather stones, and they took stones, and they made a heap, and they did eat there upon the heap, and Laban, and Laban called it Jegar-Sahadutha,’ which is Chaldean for “a heap of witness” ‘and Jacob called it Galeed,’ which becomes Gilead, ‘which means a hill of witness.  And Laban said this heap is witness between me and thee this day, therefore was the name of it called Galeed, and Mizpeh was called Galeed,’ we’re going to find out this comes into play now.  Now even today, in that part of the world, Jabel-Galeed is mount Gilead, it’s in that part of the world.  So here it’s very interesting, as the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah “the LORD be witness between us,” and they’re right there where Jacob and Laban had done the same thing, and said ‘this pile of stones be witness between us if we do not according to thy words.’  “Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them:  and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.” (verse 11)  So very interesting now, this man hearkening back to his forefathers, hearkening back to at least the Fathers of Faith, he is a child of Abraham by faith at least, and possibly a child of Israel more. 

 

Jephthah Gives An Old Testament History Lesson To The King Of Ammon

 

“And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land?” (verse 12) it’s almost prophetic here, he tries first to negotiate.  Jephthah is a man of war, and he doesn’t head straight into battle, he knows the cost, he knows what it’s like to see a man on the battlefield.  The first thing he does is try to negotiate with the king of Ammon.  “And the king of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan:  now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.” (verse 13) from Arnon to Jabbok all the way over to the Jordan.  “And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon:  and he said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:  but when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red Sea, and came to Kadesh; 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 hearken thereto.  And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab:  but he would not consent:  and Israel abode in Kadesh.  Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab:  for Arnon was the border of Moab.” they take a huge detour to try to go around these areas, this man knows the Word of God, “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.” (verses 14- 19) And what he’s going to say is, Israel sought peace in those days, ‘and we took the land because Sihon attacked us with the Amorites, not from the Ammonites.  We took the land from the Amorites.’  And the Amorites under Sihon and Og, the giants, ended up to be something God gave to Israel before they came into the land, to bolster their faith when they faced the giants on the other side.  But he’s going to say here ‘We took the land from Sihon, king of the Amorites, and king of Heshbon.’  And Israel said unto Sihon “Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.  But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast:  but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.” notice what he says, “And 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 Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.” (verses 19b-21) he says God gave it to us.  He says God gave us the victory.  “And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.” (verse 22) he’s saying that was Amorite territory, not Ammonite territory when we took it.  “So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?” (verse 23) Jephthah knows the Word, he believes the Word, he’s a man of faith, we’re told in Romans faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God, this man was steeped in the Word of God, you know, he’s driven out from a home, he’s rejected by his brothers, like David, looked down on by his brothers like Joseph, and somehow he’s taken hold of the Word of God for his own.  His mother’s a prostitute, he didn’t ask for that, he’s raised in a disadvantaged situation, but he’s sound in God, the God who loves the disadvantaged, the God who reaches to the disadvantaged, the God who took Rahab the harlot and made her his own.  And Jephthah has found great consolation in this God and has come to know his Word, and he says ‘Should now you possess the land that the LORD God of Israel has given to us?’  ‘Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess?  So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.” (verse 24)  ‘Why don’t you just be happy with what your god has given you.’  “And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them, while Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years?  why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?” (verse 25) Listen to what he says ‘We’ve been here 300 years, why did you not recover them in that time?’  Now from the time Joshua entered into the land to the Book of Judges we’re about 307 years, so he’s talking in round about terms.  [1406BC – 307 = 1099, so around 1100BC.  According one date chart, Eli’s leadership as high priest was 1130BC to 1090BC, so Eli is high priest during Jephthah’s time into Samson’s time.  Jephthah’s statement of 300 years is right out of Scripture, and 1406BC is a solid date for crossing the Jordan River, entering the Promised Land 40 years after they left Egypt.]  He says ‘We’ve been here 300 years, where you been? What’s your problem?  You’ve been griping for the last 300 years, now you’re going to show up and say everything’s yours?  This is the land the LORD God gave to us by driving out his enemies.  Where have you been for the past 300 years?’  “Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me:  the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.” (verse 27)  This is the sum of the whole thing.  We’ve gone through that long explanation to come to this verse.  This is the sum of it all.  Jephthah says ‘We’re not sinning against you, you are sinning against us, we had no aggression against you, you’ve developed an aggression against us.’  So he says ‘The LORD Jehovah, the Judge’ he knows he’s the one whose the True Judge, ‘be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.’  and between the children of Israel [Judah] and the children of Iran today, and between the children of Israel [Judah] and everybody who forms an aggression against them whom they have not formed an aggression against, God is still the same, God is still Judge, ‘I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee,’ (Genesis 12:3) still stands, has not been removed.  We should pray for our leaders that we take a sane position towards our only ally in the Middle East, we should maintain the right position, in my opinion, I believe it’s Biblical, toward this nation, Israel, because God will bless them that bless her and curse them that curse her.  And the sum of this is, ‘We have not been aggressive against you, we have not sinned against you, you’ve said ‘We’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the map,’ we didn’t say that about you, you said that about us, so let’s let God now be the Judge.’ 

 

Negotiations Break Down Between Jephthah And The King Of Ammon

 

“Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.” (verse 28)  He wouldn’t listen.  So negotiations have broken down, it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?  And now’s the timing, “Then” when everyone’s tried their best to avoid war, to have it another way, “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.” (verse 29)  Third time now in the Book of Judges the Spirit of the LORD comes upon someone, first he came upon Othniel, the Lion of God, in chapter 3, verse 10.  Then he came upon Gideon, chapter 6, verse 34.  Now for the third time, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon a man, we’re told clearly, as he comes upon Jephthah, and of course God will move him into victory.  And the Church today, is never going to accomplish anything without the Spirit of God being upon her.  Well you say ‘The Church has lost…’ you know, it is, but it is one Body too, Jephthah was one body, the Church is one body, the Body of Christ [greater Body of Christ, all Holy Spirit indwelt believers in Jesus].  And without the Holy Spirit upon us, we are never going to stand up against the odds.  With the Spirit of the Lord upon us, no contest.  You and Jesus Christ are always a majority, David said ‘Though ten thousand fall at my right I will not fear, the LORD is my strength, my strong tower,’ and so forth. 

 

God’s Immediate Reaction To The Failed Negotiations--And Jephthah’s Stupid Vow

 

“Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.  And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD,” this is what Jephthah is most famous for, he did incredible things, let’s all scratch our heads by the time we’re done with this.  “And Jephthah vowed a vow” now that’s not uncommon, there were vows in Leviticus 27, Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 23, Israelites were allowed to make a vow.  “Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” (verses 30-31) he’s driving a bargain here, more than just making a vow.  You know, I think this is here so that we don’t do this.  Don’t strike any bargains, don’t do that.  You’re not gonna out-deal him, ever. “If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”  ‘Jephthah, I can’t wait to get to heaven and ask you what in the world you were thinking when you said that.’  What does that mean?  Because now, as we move over we’re going to find out his daughter comes out.  And he says to his daughter, ‘What am I supposed to do, I promised to the LORD,’ and she’s going to be a remarkable character and say ‘Well whatever the vow you’ve made father, I’ll give myself to that,’ so then scholars are divided, is she then sacrificed?  And it says then, every year her maidens went on the mountains for four days lamenting for her.  Is that what happened here?  Is that what Jephthah was saying?  Because he says “burnt offering.”  He says ‘whatever comes out the door of my house I will offer it up, and it will be a burnt offering to you.’  What was he thinking?  What if his neighbour had come out?  What if his neighbour’s child had come out?  What if a friend came out?  Maybe his mother-in-law would come out first, I don’t know [laughter], he’s trying to kill two birds with one stone here, I’m not sure.  He knows that Molech, human sacrifice is an abomination to the LORD.  I don’t believe, personally, you can have your own conviction, because I could be wrong, so don’t ever trust me, be Bereans, study the Word of God yourself.  I don’t think that he was intending to offer a human sacrifice, he’s a man whose filled with the Spirit, he’s a man who knows the Word of God, he’s a man that’s put before us, Hebrews chapter 11.  I think he made a rash vow, I think there’s a level of foolishness to it.  I think that’s the lesson for us here.  All we have belongs to the LORD, our homes, our flocks, our herds, our children, our spouse, everything we have is his.  You know, we’re told in Matthew’s Gospel, let me find it here, he says in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Again you have heard it hath been said by them of old time, thou shalt not foreswear thyself, but shall perform unto the LORD thy oaths, thy vows.  But I say unto you, Swear not at all, neither by heaven, which is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is his footstool, neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King, neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white of black.’  of course that was before Clairol, ‘Let your communication just be your Yeah be yeah, your nay be nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh from evil.’  You don’t have to make any promises or swear anything to God.  And of course churches break that all the time, they try to get you to pledge money to this, and pledge money to that, Jesus said not to do that, I don’t know where they’re getting their Pledge organization from, they should read something simple like Matthew.  Here, it’s interesting to look at this, and certainly there’s a lesson for us about strange vows.  Here’s some of the problems, look, he says ‘when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, whatever walks out the door shall surely be the LORD’s, and  I will offer it up for a burnt offering.’ whatever the first thing that comes out of his house.  Now “whatsoever cometh forth” is masculine, some scholars say he had to be thinking a person for it to be masculine.  I find that hard to agree with.  He says “whatever comes shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” well Leviticus 1:3 tells us the burn offerings had to be male, there were no female burnt offerings.  The ashes of the red heifer, she was not a burnt offering, she was burnt, consumed, but that was so her ashes could be used for cleansing, she was not a burnt sacrifice, and the burnt sacrifices were to be male, we’re told.  So we’re not sure how that fits in.  He says, let me read it again, “it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s,” King James says “and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”  Some Hebrew scholars try to say the word “and” there can be translated “or” and it can be translated “and,” so he could be saying ‘Whoever comes out of my house first to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, “or” (thinking an animal will come out) ‘I will offer it up for a burnt offering.’  [now that is beautiful, in one sense]  We’re not sure, all we know, this is a very strange vow.  And it’s included in here, I’m sure, because the Lord doesn’t want any of us, you know, I know you may have a kid you’d like to offer up, you can’t do that 😊.  You’re Christians in the New Testament, ok?  Just kidding of course.  I don’t know why you’re laughing.  He makes this vow, now look, the whole battle is only two verses.  All of this preparation, everything that’s come before it, all of this, now the battle, pzzt! there’s no battle, because the LORD’s in it, the Spirit of God is upon him, what’s the battle?  Look at verse 32 and 33, “So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.  And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.”  and they were quiet for over 50 years, until 1st Samuel chapter 11, verse 1, when they rear their heads again.  They are shut up for 50 years, this is a great victory, and it’s only described in two verses, because it says the LORD did it, he knows, it’s nothing for him.  “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.” (verse 34) rejoicing, no doubt the town comes out to greet him.  “and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances” to honour her father and the fact that he was used of the LORD, and a great victory had been granted in the name of the LORD.  Look, she was his only child, the Holy Spirit wants us to know that, she was his only child, “beside her he had neither son nor daughter.”  Isn’t it interesting.  “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 them that trouble me:  for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.” (verse 35)  Now I don’t know, what is he expecting to see? his wife, his mother-in-law, I don’t know who he’s expecting to see.  “when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter!” I can’t imagine.  Because we’re going to see her character, and these two resonated together, it’s very obvious.  “Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me:  for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.” Man oh man there’s too many that go back today, aren’t there?  [it’s my personal belief that those that do “go back” never had the Holy Spirit to begin with, he won’t let a true believer “go back” or let go of that believer]  We have more light than Jephthah, we have the Scripture completed [he only had the Torah and maybe the Book of Joshua].  We have the Holy Spirit [he did too, but 99.99 percent of all Israelites until Jesus was born and died never had the Holy Spirit offered to them, cf. Numbers 11:13-39.]  Jesus said ‘He who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist,’ and this man with way less advantage than we have said ‘I have opened my mouth before the LORD, I cannot go back.’  And I think of how many you and I see that go back, they make their commitment, they put their hand to the plow, and they get lost, they look back, they fall away.  Wonderfully, God is  a God of restoration [and some of that restoration will be later, see https://unityinchrist.com/plaintruth/battle.htm] and reconciliation and redemption, and we are under the New Covenant.  And there is a place for genuine repentance and restoration.   But I admire this man, “for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.”

 

Jephthah’s Daughter, One Very Special Kind Of Girl

 

Listen to this kid.  “And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even the children of Ammon.” (verse 36) I think this girl loved her dad.  She said ‘Dad, whatever you’ve said before the LORD, let it come upon me.’  wow, what a girl.  “And she said 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 fellows.” (verse 37)  King James says “fellows,” my maidens.  Interesting, listen, this girl is a virgin, she’s of adult age.  It’s at a time when it says ‘Every man did what was’ not wrong in his own eyes, ‘what was right in his own eyes.’  Man had this twisted, depraved, self-defined righteousness, and when it tells us of God’s perspective, it says ‘they did evil in the sight of the LORD.’  It was evil in the sight of the LORD, that was the generation Jephthah and his young daughter lived in, and every man was doing what was right in his own eyes.  We can see it on the news today, everybody wants to throw this Book out the window, everybody wants to destroy any semblance of inerrancy or respect the Church ever had for the past 2,000 years for the Word of God.  Everybody wants to say that the Bible embraces and endorses every kind of filth and misconduct, that it can’t be taken literally, it doesn’t mean what it says.  We live very much in the same type of a culture, which tells me that you can remain pure in these days until you’re married.  Girls, if you’re dating some “Christian guy,” whose telling you that you guys need to do an experimental season in your relationship of living together to see if you’re compatible, you can give us his name and phone number.  If he touches you, you can say ‘Close your eyes, honey,’ and while his eyes are closed you can ball up your fist, and flatten his nose, we will give you absolution, because he cares about himself, and he don’t care about you at all.  Because if he loves you, you know, don’t let him give you this ‘We’re in love,’ if he loves you, he’ll honour you.  And if you’re a believer, that’s spiritual incest, a brother [in Christ] and a sister.  If we talk about that in the natural people go ‘Eeoh, that’s sick.’  Well it’s sicker spiritually.  And don’t mess with her, you know who your new Father-in-law is going to be.  And the fact of her virginity tells us about Jephthah too.  Sadly we see so many girls, young girls in our culture that have not had a dad, that have not taken ahold of Christ, and will go out and curry the favour of any male that will show them attention, and you can almost write the script, they’ll give anything for that attention that they didn’t get while they were growing up.  But Christ can set us free from all of that.  He’s the lover of our soul, he’s a redeemer, he’s reconciler.  And listen, if you have given yourself away, and you regret that.  You remember, the Corinthian church was famous for sexual sin, and with all kinds of other things, and Paul said to that church ‘I want to present you on the day of Christ as a chaste virgin.’  That’s the last church I would have said that to.  Paul understood the power of Christ to forgive, and to sanctify, and to cleanse.  And when you are justified, it’s just as if you never sinned.  That’s how white and clean Jesus Christ makes us girls, guys.  We need to trust him, we need to cast ourselves upon him.  You need to take your brokenness to him, he will never abuse you, he will never demand of you, he will never use you.  This girl had no doubt a great dad, because she was completely secure in his love, the kind of man that he was.  And he’s a warrior too,  so he must have told her ‘You mess around I’ll kill ya,’ but he must have been a gentle, warm guy, and no doubt her boyfriends were afraid to come around too, you gotta love that.  She says ‘Dad,’ this kills me, ‘if you’ve made an oath before the LORD, I see how he’s worked in your life, I see what he’s done through the power of his Spirit, how he’s destroyed the enemies of Israel before you, I will never make you violate that, I will give myself, Dad, to whatever oath you’ve made before the LORD.’  What a remarkable, remarkable kid, what a remarkable kid.  She said to her father, “And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me:  let me alone two months, that I may go up and down the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows, maidens.” ‘just give me time to get my heart right before the LORD,’ she knows that her father will have no grandchildren.  In Israel the greatest curse on any woman was to be barren, she’s willingly accepting this, we see her reflected in Romans 12 no doubt, to present yourself a living sacrifice, how remarkable, how remarkable.  ‘Let me alone that I may go up and down on the mountains for two months, and mourn and bewail my virginity,’

 

What Actually Happened To Jephthah’s Daughter?

 

“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.  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 knew no man.  And it was a custom in Israel,” (verses 38-39) now the Hebrew can be “who did to her” or “who did with her, according to his vow which he had vowed, and she knew no man.”  Now look, that seems to me to sum it up, the vow that he made was that whatever came out of his door first to him would be devoted to the LORD,” he knew human sacrifice was wrong.  He knew that God stopped the hand of Abraham when he had the knife in his hand, he knew that God over and over through the Law forbid the sacrifice of children, that it was an abomination.  He knew the reason that God had given him the victory over Ammon, was because of their god Chemosh, the god Molech, so I can’t embrace the idea that Jephthah here literally carried out the sacrifice of this girl, a blood sacrifice.  It says here “she knew no man.”  I think that sums up what took place.  Now I’m saying that, there are competent scholars when you read them, who feel that that is what happened, and I don’t agree.  Let me finish the verses, according to his vow which he had vowed:  and she knew no man.  And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days a year.” (verses 39b-40)  Now, “to lament” makes it sound like they’re mourning, there should be a gloss in your column there that says “to talk with her.”  Well that would be the very evidence that she wasn’t dead, if they went every year to talk with her.  If you go to your Strong’s Concordance, there are two prime roots that are forms of this word, and the one Strong lists here, it doesn’t mean “to lament,” it means “to praise, to celebrate or to commemorate.”  So, Jephthah, a man of God, knowing the Word of God, if he was going to present his daughter, would have taken her to the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle wouldn’t have received a human sacrifice, they would have let him pay a price of redemption, or they’d have let her be like young Samuel, who was at the Tabernacle at this point in Shiloh.  Now as we read through, if you get a chronological Bible, you get an idea of some of the things that are going on.  Jephthah’s in the north, Hannah has already dedicated her son Samuel, and left him there at the Tabernacle (with Eli), because several years before this, a man named Minoah and his wife had a vision, and Samson is already born and moving in the south, he’s not that old, scholars say maybe 12 to 13 by this point in time, and they argue about chronology a bit.  But there are some other interesting things going on in Israel.  So if he had taken his daughter to the Tabernacle, it’s the only place of sacrifice, certainly she wouldn’t have been received by a Levitical priest as a human sacrifice, he’d have paid a price of redemption or she could have devoted her life like little Samuel had been devoted by his mom.  And the fact that the women in Israel every year went to commemorate or to celebrate the devotedness it seems of Jephthah’s daughter, she becomes a heroine to them, she becomes a young women who gives her life to the cause of the LORD, to the cause of her father, someone that they all looked up to, and it seems that every year they went to commemorate her.

 

Practical Lessons

 

Practical lessons, don’t promise God that if he gets you a new job, the first thing you see walking out of your house you’re going to sacrifice, it’s a simple lesson, just don’t do that.  Don’t cut deals with him.  Now I know you never do that.  It’s just me, isn’t it.  ‘Lord, if you get me through this, I promise,’ we were just talking about it at lunch today, a couple of us had storm stories from out in the ocean, I remember I was 14, 15 years old, about 30 miles out and a storm came up, and again an 80-foot fishing boat, everybody’s inside throwing up, I couldn’t take that, so I’m sitting outside hanging on the railing, and the boat’s going way up in the air on the waves, 80-footer, when the prop comes out of the water the whole boat’s going, vibrating, and then it goes down in the trough, and it’s kind of twisting on the wave, it goes down in the trough, and then the captain makes it straight again, then it goes up, and then from the top of the wave I started to be able to see the shore, and I’m sitting there saying ‘Oh God, O God, O God, if you get to land I’ll never come out here again,’ and I haven’t.  [Oh I would have loved to have been on that boat.  I’ve sailed small sailboats my entire teenage life, lived on the water, served aboard a WWII Balao class diesel-electric submarine, often crashing through immense waves on the surface, and loved every minute of it.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess.]  But how many times in our lives do we cut deals with God?  We do something stupid, we get ourselves in a situation, ‘Oh God, Oh God,’ you don’t have to do that, you don’t have to cut any deals with him, you’re his son, you’re his daughter, he hasn’t withheld his own Son, he says ‘if he’s given his own Son, how shall he not also give us through him all things freely.’  The logic of the cross is always there for us.  But you see, when we get in a jam, what we immediately think, is ‘He’s mad at me, I blew it, I did something wrong, now I gotta do something to make up for it,’ so we want to cut a deal with him.  None of that is true.

 

God’s Holy Love For Us

 

Look, he loves us with a holy love.  Again, holy is just the idea of separate, what makes him holy is this, there’s God, there’s everything else.  There is that which is God, and there is that which is not God, so there’s God, and then there’s everything else, which ain’t God, including you and me.  There is Creator and there is creation.  Creation includes angels, spiritual realms, the universe, that makes him holy, he’s separate.  And as the Scripture reveals him to us, that means his faithfulness is holy, it’s not like a human faithfulness.  He mercy is a holy mercy, it’s not like a human mercy.  His power is unlike any power, his forgiveness is a holy forgiveness, it is unlike any human forgiveness.  His love is a holy love, and there is no love you can compare it to or put it on a graph with.  You’ve heard me say before, Micah, 7:18, one of my favorites verses is “Who is a God like unto thee?” the idea is, nobody.  You and I everyday see something God can’t see, our equals, miserable, self-consumed, cranky, unforgiving human beings, we’re surrounded with them, especially in traffic.  God looks around, and he can’t see his equal.  “Who is a God like unto thee?”  the answer is, there isn’t any, because he’s holy, he’s separate.  So then his love is holy.  If you don’t receive the love of God in Jesus Christ, just the way he offers it to you, you’ll never receive it.  If you’re not willing to step out of the boat onto the water, you’ll never receive the fullness of what he has for you.  He tells you that in Jesus Christ, if you don’t know him tonight, it’s important for you to understand, there is forgiveness of sin, you’re thinking ‘What strings are attached?’  Because everybody in life that’s ever told you they’re giving you something for free, it has strings attached.  Because you’re trying to judge his love and his forgiveness on the level of human love and human forgiveness.  He’s offering us holy love, and holy forgiveness, and it’s unlike any love or forgiveness that has ever existed or ever will exist, it is holy, it is God’s love and God’s forgiveness.  God doesn’t love you because there’s something in you that elicits love from him.  You know, you hang around with another guy, you think ‘I really like this guy, he likes the Eagles, I like the Eagles, he likes steak sandwiches, I like steak sandwiches, he likes fishing, I like fishing, this is a great guy, because he’s just like me,’  and there’s something in that person that elicits your love.  There isn’t anything in us that elicits his love.  God never looked down there and said ‘They like fishing, I like fishing,’ he never looked down and said ‘They’re so cute, I got to send my Son down there to die for them.’  The ancient rabbis said God loves us because God loves us, they could never find a rhyme or reason, and he loves you.  Let me tell you this, he loves you.  There is not a lovable thing in you, that has nothing to do with it.  We’re going to give you an opportunity tonight to accept Christ if you don’t know him, you have to come and receive his love and forgiveness by faith, because there is no point of comparison.  He loves you, and you don’t deserve to be loved.  That’s the good news of Jesus Christ.  He’s forgiven you, and you don’t deserve to be forgiven.  He wants to take you to heaven [into the kingdom of heaven, which will end up on earth, cf. Revelation 21:1-23] and you ought never to be there, like me.  He wants to call you his son or his daughter, and it seems like if he does that we’re going to ruin his reputation.  And he offers it to us freely.  And there isn’t anything like it in this world.  And we’re barraged by the media, we’re barraged by everything around us, we love movies, I speak for myself, ‘Make my day!’ (Clint Eastwood).  I love a movie where a weirdo does something to your family, and he rest of the movie you kill weirdos, I can’t go to them, I love that movie [i.e. “Taken”  starring Liam Neeson], and when all the bad guys are dead I am so happy.  And God wants me to learn to forgive like him, you know.  Of course, I know the last chapter, so I have hope.  And we’re caught up in all of that, and God would say to you tonight, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in sexual sin, doesn’t matter if it’s been pornography, it doesn’t matter if you’ve committed murder, it doesn’t matter if you’ve destroyed your family through selfishness, alcohol, gambling, it doesn’t matter if you came here with suicidal thoughts, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, because he’s offering you a love that surpasses all of that.  He’s offering you a forgiveness that pushes all of that aside, and as far as he’s concerned it doesn’t exist, because 2,000 years ago on the cross his Son paid for all of it already, in full, it’s already been paid for.  Jesus Christ already paid for all of your sin.  He’s offering you an entrance into his Kingdom, to be his son, to be his daughter, complete acceptance, and you don’t deserve any of it.  Isn’t that good news?  That is good news.  Now I’m going to have the musicians come, we’ll sing a last song, I would encourage you if you’re a believer and you’re a prodigal, if you’ve been away from the Lord, you know what?  That forgiveness is the same, David, adultery, murder, and he finally says after a year, he was tortured, he said ‘When I confessed my sin, the LORD renewed me, he filled me again, he drew me close, sacrifice and offering thou hast not desired,’ for there is no sacrifice in the Law for adultery or murder, it was a capital crime.  ‘Sacrifice and offering thou hast not desired, but a contrite and broken spirit thou wilt not despise,’ if you’re one of his kids, and you’ve been AWOL, you come back tonight, to him, not to Calvary Chapel, to him.  When we stand up and sing I want you to say with all of your heart, to say ‘Here I am Lord, I believe tonight, you know, in a love that’s a holy love, and a forgiveness that’s a holy forgiveness, and I believe tonight you want to offer me something that I could never ever deserve, and I don’t deserve it right now, but I’m going to receive it by faith, because I know you’re not a liar.’ …[transcript of a connective expository sermon on Judges 11:1-40, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]

 

related links:  

God is a God of restoration, and as some believe, some of that restoration will come in the future, later.  See https://unityinchrist.com/plaintruth/battle.htm

Audio version: https://resources.ccphilly.org/detail.asp?TopicID=&Teaching=WED636



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