About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 11

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Chapter 11


In verses 1 through 3 we see a "mighty warrior" named Jephthah. His father's name wasGilead.  His mother's name is not known because she was a prostitute.  Again, as we have seen throughout Old Testament history, men, including Israeli men, often had prostitutes.  It seems one of the most common sins in human history.  Jephthah was born from this prostitute that made his half brothers not like him.  They literally drove him out of town and he gained a small following of men around him in his new location. 


We don't know if Jephthah's mother was Jewish or Gentile.  There is a good chance she was a gentile because Jewish men often had gentile prostitutes.


As we see from verses 4 to 6, Jephthah must have gained a reputation of being a "mighty warrior" because "after some time had past", the men of Gilead asked him to lead the fight against the Ammonites.            


In Genesis 19:30 to 38 you will read the story of Lot where his two daughters got him drunk and had sex with them.  Two sons were born from this sexual encounter.  One son's lineage became the Moabites.  The other son's lineage became the Ammonites.   


Jephthah's response to this request is natural.  He asked the men of Gilead why they wanted him to lead the attack when they drove him away in times past.


The text does not give us any real answer from the men of Gilead other than the word "nevertheless", as seen in verse 8.  Man doesn't really like admitting his mistakes.  We will avoid such things at all cost and this seems to be one example.  They were basically saying, "forget the past. It doesn't mean anything now. We're in trouble and we need your help".  There was no hint of being sorry, just "help us in our present trouble'. 


In verses 9 through 11 Jephthah wants to know if he wins the battle for the Gilead 's, will they really let him be their leader.  The leaders of Gilead swore by the Lord and said yes, as if swearing by the Lord meant anything to these men.  Jephthah agreed. 


We see in verse 12 that before Jephthah did anything drastic, he went the diplomatic rout.  He sent a messenger to the king of the Ammonites to ask why they wanted  to attack Israel.  He said it was for taking their land way back when Israel left Egypt.              


From verses 14 to 27 Jephthah gives the king of the Ammonites a history lesson that is relevant today concerning Israel and the Palestinians. The main points to the history lesson was that 300 years had now past since Israel left Egypt and possessed the land in question by the Ammonites.  Israel want a battle that gave them the land, and from Israel 's standpoint, it was their God who gave them the land.  Besides, at the time of the victory, the land belonged to the Amorites, not the Ammonites.  By virtue of the fact that Israel had now possessed the land for 300 years, and that the land was never the Ammonites in the first place, the Ammonites had no claim to the land.


I would suggest the same holds true today in the disputed land of Israel.  Arab Palestinians say the land belongs to them, but the land was won by Israel through battles centuries ago and has been inhabited by Israelis to one degree or another for all the time since these victories of war in Old Testament days.  I suggest that Israel has the oldest land claim on the disputed land today.  Some things just never change.


Note in verse 24 Jephthah asks, "will you not take what your god Chemosh has given you"?  Some might think that Jephthah might be acknowledging the existence of another god, and maybe he was.  But, this might also be a matter of tongue and cheek.  Maybe Jephthah is simply acknowledging that the Ammonites believe in another god, and if he is really a god, then they should be happy with what their god gives them.  This might simply be a matter of sarcasm.


As the Palestinians are doing today concerning the land of Israel, so 
did the king of Ammon back in the book of Judges.  He ignored what Jephthah said.


Note in verse 29 that the Spirit of the Lord cam on Jephthah.  Whenever the Spirit of the Lord comes on anyone, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, something dramatic happens.  In this case it was a victory of war. 


Even though the war was won, a great tragedy came from this war which is hard to understand.  Jephthah promised the Lord to kill and sacrifice whatever came out of the door of his house first when he returned from the victory of war.  He had only one daughter and no sons. It was his daughter that first came out of the door of his home.  His heart sank.


The amazing thing, and that which liberals scholars say proves this is a story, not a historical event, is that the daughter was willing to die.  The only request she has was to have her life spared for two months so she and her friends could weep over the fact that she would never be married.   Jephthah did kill her as he promised the Lord. 


Many liberal, and even conservative scholars, don't take this portion of Scripture literally.  They can't believe that Jephthah actually killed his daughter, his only child.  In Hebrews 11:32 Jephthah is mentioned in the great men of history, otherwise known as the 'hall of faith'.  But, if you look at the list of people in Hebrews 11, most were far from perfect.  King David, one of the most celebrated men of God in Israel killed people, committed adultery and more. 


Some say that Jephthah knew the Law of Moses and the portion that said "don't kill'.  But, on the other hand, this was not a killing from anger.  It was a killing to maintain a vow to the Lord. 


Others say that Jephthah was "anointed by the Holy Spirit" and therefore couldn't kill his daughter.  The text does not say that he was continually anointed by the Holy Spirit.  Normally in the Bible such anointing comes and goes from a person.


These scholars say that what really happened was that she did not get killed.  She was simply judged to a life of not being married.   


One hermeneutical mistake we often make is to impose our modern way of thinking, our modern cultural tendencies, and our modern behaviour on old civilizations as this.  People who lived back then shouldn't be compared to people today.  Yes, there are similarities. We sin as they did.  But our cultural influences are so different that what takes place here in these verses, even though makes no sense to us, made since back then.       


The one thing this does prove is that this man kept his promise no matter how hard it was to keep. 


Is there any significance to this event?  It's hard to say. Verse 40 tells us that this event turned into a yearly memorial.  This might well be proof that this was an historical event, not just a rabbinical sotry.  



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