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Judges 10-12

Thursday Evening Bible Study

October 18, 2018


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The book of Joshua recorded the overall conquering of the Promised Land of Canaan.

Through their battles they conquer 31 kings over a period of about five years.

Through Joshua’s leadership, they had done the larger, overall job of taking care of the main resistance and establishing themselves as the dominant force in the land.

(Jos 21:43–45 NKJV) —43 So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. 44 The LORD gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

Yet even after all those battles were over, there was still unfinished business.

God has told the people that the reason these places remain unconquered are to test the people:

To keep them “battle ready”
To see if they really love God

The book of Judges gets its name from the people God used to help lead the nation during the period between Joshua and the kings.

This would be a period of four hundred years.

Some were warriors, others prophets, one was a woman.

These people were not kings as such. The nation considered God to be their king, and that God used a specific man to bring help and leadership to the nation at various times.

The book of Judges is a “messy” book.

Video:  Peanut Butter Baby

Video:  Kids Paint Face

Now the video I’ve used is kind of “cute”, but in Judges, we’re going to go from “cute” to “nightmare”.  We’re almost halfway to “nightmare”.

You’re going to see God use some very flawed people to save the nation.
The book is summed up by the last verse:
(Judges 21:25 NKJV) In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
We might tend to think that God only uses “perfect” people, but the truth is, everyone God has every used is flawed at some point.
You’re going to see God’s people doing the most horrible things.

Note: Some of the blocks of events recorded in Judges may not be in chronological order.

There aren’t a lot of time markers in each section. For example, in Judges 20:28 (at the end of the book), Phinehas is mentioned as being the high priest. Yet he was also the high priest at the time of the beginning of the book. We know that the book of Judges covers roughly four hundred years, and Phinehas didn’t live that long.

Most recently, we saw a few weeks back how God rescued Israel from the tyranny of the Midianites through a man named Gideon.

Gideon only had an army of 300, yet he defeated an army of 135,000.

After Gideon died, his bastard son Abimelech (“my dad is king”) rose up and killed all 70 of his brothers, and for a few years was “king” over Israel.

Talk about messy.

10:1-2 Tola

:1 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in the mountains of Ephraim.

:2 He judged Israel twenty-three years; and he died and was buried in Shamir.

:1 Tola – “worm”

He’s from the tribe of Issachar, but he lived in the hill country of Ephraim.

Quite a name change in leaders – from “King-boy” (Abimelech) to “Worm” (Tola)

:3 Shamir – ten miles north of Shechem.

:2 PuahPuw’ah – “splendid”

:3 DodoDowdow – “his beloved”

:2 He judged Israel twenty-three years

One guy is named “King-boy” (Abimelech), the other “worm” (Tola). Things aren’t what they seem.

Abimelech is not a person you want to model yourself after.
Abimelech was the man who had appointed himself to be king. He then worked to seize control, killing 68 of his own brothers. After he became king, the things he became known for was how he attacked the people of Shechem and the city of Thebes.
He became known for how he attacked his own people, Israel.
Tola, as well as the other judges, were raised up by God to defend Israel, not attack it.

10:3-5 Jair

:3 After him arose Jair, a Gileadite; and he judged Israel twenty-two years.

:4 Now he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys; they also had thirty towns, which are called “Havoth Jair” to this day, which are in the land of Gilead.

:5 And Jair died and was buried in Camon.

:3 Jair – “he enlightens”

:4 Havoth Jair – “Villages of Jair” (near Galilee)

:5 Camon - Nine miles southeast of Galilee. This is the area of “Havoth Jair”

:4 thirty sons

Yes, he probably had multiple wives in order to have thirty sons, and again this is part of the messiness of Judges.

I find it interesting that his thirty sons didn’t try to kill each other like Abimelech did his seventy brothers.

10:6-18 Backsliding Again

:6 Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him.

:6 the Baals and the Ashtoreths

These were the male and female “gods” of these surrounding peoples from the north, east, and south.

Syria and Sidon were to the north.

Moab and Ammon on the east.

The Philistines on the south.

:6 they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him


Who do you serve?

Jesus said,
(Matthew 6:24 NKJV) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Bob Dylan had an old song, “You gotta serve somebody”
The people had begun to serve the gods of the Philistines and the Ammonites, and then God allowed them to become enslaved to them.
(Romans 6:16–17 NKJV) —16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.
Freedom from sin doesn’t just come by saying certain words or necessarily praying certain prayers.
Freedom doesn’t come with words, but with action. It’s not who you talk about, it’s who you actually serve.

:7 So the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon.

:8 From that year they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel for eighteen years—all the children of Israel who were on the other side of the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, in Gilead.

:8 they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel

Once again, the cycle repeats itself.

The people fall away and trouble comes from the Philistines in the south and the Ammonites in the east.

:8 in Gilead

The area north east of Galilee was known as Gilead. These were the ones who were oppressed during these eighteen years.

:9 Moreover the people of Ammon crossed over the Jordan to fight against Judah also, against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.

:9 the people of Ammon crossed over

The Ammonites don’t stay on their side of the Jordan.

They harass the tribes in the center and south of Israel.

:10 And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!”

:10 We have sinned against You



The Bible says,
(1 John 1:9 NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It might sound as if this is exactly what the people are doing, but their hearts aren’t really in it, not yet.
They are saying the right words, but their heart and actions don’t match their words.
Though I can’t outright prove it, both Saul and David made their “confession” of sin, but only David found forgiveness.

Saul admitted he had sinned when he didn’t obey God concerning the Amalekites. (1Sam. 15:30)

(1 Samuel 15:30 NKJV) Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.”

David admitted his sin with Bathsheba (2Sam. 12:13).

(2 Samuel 12:13 NKJV) So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

What was the difference?  I imagine it went down to the heart level – God saw their hearts.

What God is looking for is more than just words.  He’s looking for a change in our heart, a change that also results in action.
(2 Corinthians 7:11 NKJV) For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

:11 So the Lord said to the children of Israel, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines?

:12 Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand.

:13 Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more.

:14 Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.”

:14 Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen


Not rescued

Sometimes we make a mistake when we keep rescuing people from the consequences of their bad choices.
God will sometimes let us experience the consequences.
(Romans 1:24 NLT) So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies.
Sometimes the very thing we need is to be left alone with our choices and see how that works out.
It doesn’t.

:15 And the children of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray.”

:16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.

:16 So they put away the foreign gods

Here’s the heart of true “confession”, they actually turned around.



God isn’t just listening to hear us say “I’m sorry”.
As parents, we want our kids to learn to say “I’m sorry”.

But sometimes we run a risk of giving our kids the impression that just saying the words is all they need to do.

Some of us have gotten by with too much in life by simply saying the words “I’m sorry”.

Sometimes we pay too much attention to people’s outward appearance, or their “words”, rather than what’s going on in the heart.
Video:  Ojai Valley Taxidermy

The animals “look” alive, but … they’re not.

(James 2:26 NLT) Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

God wants to know we’re actually, truly sorry.
Often that can only be seen if we’re willing to do the actions that follow true repentance.
(James 2:18 NLT) Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

:16 His soul could no longer endure

God is such a big softy.  He wants to forgive you.

He is not trying to destroy you.  He’s just looking for you to turn around.

And that’s when you see how merciful He is.

:17 Then the people of Ammon gathered together and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled together and encamped in Mizpah.

:18 And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, “Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

:17 Mizpah – “watchtower”.

Also known as Ramoth-Gilead, this is the capitol of the area of Gilead.

This is probably also the same place where Jacob had his final meeting with his father-in-law Laban (Gen. 31:49)

:18 Who is the man

They’re looking for God to raise up a leader, a “judge”.

11:1-28 Jephthah

:1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot; and Gilead begot Jephthah.

:1 JephthahYiphtach – “he opens”

:1 a mighty man of valor

Jephthah had a reputation as a tough fighter.

:1 son of a harlot

We might call him a “bastard”.  Sounds like Abimelech.

Jephthah may have been half-Canaanite (like Abimelech)

He comes from a dysfunctional family
He’s an outcast
Can anyone say “messy”?

There have been times in human history where this was considered a bad thing.

We’re going to see that God can use anyone.

:1 Gilead

Not only was this the name of the region in northeast Israel, named after a grandson of Manasseh, but this is also the name of Jephthah’s father.

:2 Gilead’s wife bore sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, “You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.”

:2 they drove Jephthah out

I find it interesting that Jephthah was raised in his father’s family, even though his mother was a harlot.

Jephthah was rejected by his own family.


God uses outcasts

It seems that God has this habit of using people that have been rejected by others.
Joseph was rejected by his brothers.
David was rejected by his boss, Saul.
Jeremiah and many of the prophets were rejected because of their message.
Jesus was rejected by His people, the Jews.
Paul wrote,

(1 Corinthians 1:26–27 NLT) —26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

Let me make two quick points:
You might think that you’re an “outcast” and someone that God would never use.

You might actually be just the person God wants to use.

You might be looking at others and think they’re an “outcast” and you’d rather not associate with them.

What if they’re the next apostle Paul?

When Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he had been an evil man, trying to destroy the church.  But meeting Jesus changed everything.

When Saul finally made his way to Jerusalem, the church was a bit reluctant to hang out with this guy…

(Acts 9:26–27 NLT) —26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.

Be a Barnabas.  Be willing to help the “outcast” find a home and be useful.

:3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him.

:3 TobTowb – “good”

See map.

Israel travelers, remember the phrase “Boker Tov”? (Good morning)

:3 worthless men banded together

worthlessreyq – empty, vain; idle, worthless (ethically)

Quite an interesting contrast – living in the “good” land with “worthless” men.

Jephthah passes the time as a type of “warlord” with his own private little army.

Perhaps it was something like Robin Hood? 

Or even David while he was fleeing from Saul and would make raids on the Amalekites.

:4 It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel.

:4 Ammon

(map) These were descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot. They lived on the eastern side of the Jordan, north of the Moabites.

:5 And so it was, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.

Somebody remembered about Jephthah and what kind of a fighter he was.

:6 Then they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.”

:7 So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?”

:8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

:9 So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them to me, shall I be your head?”

:9 shall I be your head?

It may sound as if Jephthah is out for power, but keep in mind that he’s lived his life having been rejected by his family.

It sounds too good to be true, so he wants to make sure everybody is agreed on the same thing.

Some of these elders might even be his half-brothers.

:10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be a witness between us, if we do not do according to your words.”

:11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord in Mizpah.

:11 before the Lord in Mizpah

Remember Mizpah was the leading city of Gilead (10:17) (map)

Even though you see some similarities between Abimelech (Judges 9) and Jephthah in that they both had a bad family life (Abimelech was the son of a concubine), they also have some differences.

Jephthah didn’t seek leadership like Abimelech, he was sought out.
Jephthah seems to have some sort of grounding in Yahweh.
Jephthah will be mentioned in the “hall of fame” of the faithful:
(Hebrews 11:32 NKJV) And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:

:12 Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the people of Ammon, saying, “What do you have against me, that you have come to fight against me in my land?”

:12 Jephthah sent messengers


Give peace a chance

Jephthah’s first move is to negotiate, to offer to make peace with the Ammonites. This is what God commanded:
(Deuteronomy 20:10 NKJV) “When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it.
Paul writes,
(Romans 12:18 NKJV) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
When there is conflict, there is always the possibility that there has been a misunderstanding.
(Proverbs 18:13 NKJV) He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

Sometimes we get all upset and angry over situations when all there has been is a simple misunderstanding.


Two moose hunters from Texas are flown into a remote lake in Alaska. They have a good hunt, and both manage to get a large moose. When the plane returns to pick them up, the pilot looks at the animals and says, “This little plane won’t lift all of us, the equipment, and both of those animals. You’ll have to leave one. We’d never make it over the trees on the take off.” “That’s baloney”, says one of the hunters. “Yeah,” the other agrees, “you’re just chicken: we came out here last year and got two moose and that pilot had some guts: He wasn’t afraid to take off!” “Yeah”, said the first hunter, “and his plane wasn’t any bigger than yours!” The pilot got angry, and said, “If he did it, then I can do it. I can fly as well as anybody!” They loaded up, taxied at full throttle, and the plane almost made it, but didn’t have the lift to clear the trees at the end of the lake. It clipped the tops, then flipped, then broke up, scattering the baggage, animal carcasses, and passengers all through the brush. Still alive, but hurt and dazed, the pilot sat up, shook his head to clear it, and said, “Where are we?” One of the hunters rolled out from being thrown into a bush, looked around, and said, “I’d say about a hundred yards further than last year.”

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’ve understood what the person meant before you go off and do something stupid like give in to their daring you.

:13 And the king of the people of Ammon answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel took away my land when they came up out of Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and to the Jordan. Now therefore, restore those lands peaceably.”

:13 Arnon … Jabbok

See map. 

The king of Ammon was claiming that the land between the Jabbok River and the Arnon River originally belonged to them.  They want it back.

:14 So Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the people of Ammon,

:15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: ‘Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the people of Ammon;

:16 for when Israel came up from Egypt, they walked through the wilderness as far as the Red Sea and came to Kadesh.

:17 Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Please let me pass through your land.” But the king of Edom would not heed. And in like manner they sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained in Kadesh.

:17 to the king of Edom

This account is found in Numbers 20:14-21, and Deuteronomy 2:1-8.

God had told Moses that he shouldn’t give the Edomites trouble,

:17 to the king of Moab

Moses mentions the Moabites in Deuteronomy 2:9; that God had commanded them not to give trouble to the Moabites because He had given their land to them.

Edom is located southeast of the Dead Sea, and Moab is east of the Dead Sea.

:18 And they went along through the wilderness and bypassed the land of Edom and the land of Moab, came to the east side of the land of Moab, and encamped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the border of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab.

Israel went around Edom and Moab

:18 the Arnon

See map. Israel went around Edom and Moab.

:19 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon; and Israel said to him, “Please let us pass through your land into our place.”

Heshbon is right in the middle of the land the Ammonites are claiming.

:19 Sihon king of the Amorites

The account of the battle is in Numbers 21

(Numbers 21:24 NKJV) Then Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the people of Ammon; for the border of the people of Ammon was fortified.

Moses was careful to record that they DIDN’T take the land of the Ammonites. Ammon was north of Jabbok.
The Ammonites are now claiming that ALL the land from the Jabbok to the Arnon was theirs, when in fact a lot of it had belonged to Sihon.

:19 Heshbon

See map. This was Sihon’s capital.  It is right in the middle of the land that the Ammonites are claiming had always been theirs.

:20 But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. So Sihon gathered all his people together, encamped 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 defeated them. Thus Israel gained possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country.

Don’t confuse “Amorites” with “Ammonites”.

:22 They took possession of all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.

So the disputed land had never belonged to the Ammonites.  Israel had conquered it from Sihon king of the Amorites.

This is land that is currently a part of Jordan, whose capitol city is “Amman”.  Sound familiar?  The Ammonite capitol Rabbah is the same city.

:23 ‘And now the Lord God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel; should you then possess it?

:23 dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel

Jephthah knows his Bible History

It’s helping him with his negotiations with the Ammonites.
We’ll see that there’s a few things he has skipped in his Bible education.

:24 Will you not possess whatever Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God takes possession of before us, we will possess.

:24 Chemosh – “The destroyer”

This is the fish-god, the god of the Moabites

The Ammonite version was named “Molech

:25 And now, are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive against Israel? Did he ever fight against them?

:25 Balak – this was the king that hired Balaam (Numbers 22) to bring a curse on Israel.

Jephthah’s point is that even though Balak tried to bring a curse on Israel, he never claimed that Israel was in his land, nor did he ever fight to take that land.

Balak might have hired Balaam to curse Israel, but he didn’t take them on in battle.

:26 While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and its villages, in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities along the banks of the Arnon, for three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time?

:26 for three hundred years

This gives us a rough date for Jephthah.

Remember that not all of Judges is chronological.  The story at the end of the book takes place when Aaron’s grandson was still the high priest (Judge 20:28)
(Jdg 20:28 NKJV) —28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days), saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.”

Moses led the people out of Egypt around 1400 BC. 

Jephthah would be around 1100 BC. 

David comes to the throne around 1000 BC. 

:27 Therefore I have not sinned against you, but you wronged me by fighting against me. May the Lord, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon.’ ”

LORD = “Yahweh”

:28 However, the king of the people of Ammon did not heed the words which Jephthah sent him.

:28 Ammon did not heed

We ought to do our best to make peace with others, but they won’t always listen to reason.

:13 Israel took away my land


Rewriting History

There’s nothing new here.  People have long tried to win their arguments by rewriting history.
You’re seeing it today when the schools are being very careful to leave out references to God in the history of the founding of our nation.
We’ve seen with the Truth Project how the Mayflower Compact has been “edited” in modern history books.

The New School Version has it written this way:

We whose names are underwritten … having undertaken, a voyage to plant the first colony…”

The actual original version reads:

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God…

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony…

Today the Palestinians claim that the Jews never lived in Israel, that there was never a king named Solomon, and there was never a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.
Jephthah knew his history.  He wasn’t going to fall for this silliness.

11:29-33 Jephthah’s Vow

:29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead; and from Mizpah of Gilead he advanced toward the people of Ammon.

:29 the Spirit of the Lord

The Holy Spirit is going to be involved in Jephthah’s life.

And things are still going to be messy

:30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands,

:31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

:31 I will offer it up as a burnt offering

burnt offeringolah – whole burnt offering

:30 If You will indeed deliver


Let’s make a deal

Jephthah is doing what was common among ancient generals on the eve of battle. It was common to promise your “god” something costly or valuable if victory should occur.
It is not a bad of a thing to make a promise to God.
Jacob made a vow when he had a vision of God after leaving home –

(Genesis 28:20–22 NKJV) —20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

Hannah made a vow, which resulted in the birth of Samuel –

(1 Sa 1:11 NKJV) Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

But we need to be careful what we promise to God, and then be careful that we learn to follow through on our word.
Solomon wisely wrote,

(Ecclesiastes 5:4–5 NLT) —4 When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. 5 It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.

In the biography of Louie Zamperini (“Unbroken”), Louie and two of his fellow aviators were shot down and adrift in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days.  When they were at their worst, Louie made a vow to God.
Video:  Unbroken – A storm and a prayer
It wasn’t until he got through prison camp and back to the United States, and became an alcoholic, that Louie was brought to a Billy Graham Crusade, and he remembered the vow he had made.
And he kept his promise to God.
It’s not wrong to make a vow, but be careful about it, because you want to be sure you do what you promise.

:32 So Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands.

:33 And he defeated them from Aroer as far as Minnith—twenty cities—and to Abel Keramim, with a very great slaughter. Thus the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

God kept His end of the bargain.

11:34-40 Jephthah’s Daughter

:34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter.

:34 his daughter, coming out to meet him

Remember that Jephthah had vowed to offer up as a burnt offering the first thing that came out of his house when he returned.

What did he expect? Perhaps a pet dog? That cat that always leaves hairballs on the carpet?

:35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”

Jephthah understood the importance of keeping your vows to God

The question is, did he go to far in making that promise?

:36 So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.”

:37 Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”

:37 wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity

Some look at Jephthah’s vow and suggest that what he really said was, “the first thing that comes out of my house will be dedicated to the Lord … OR … be given as a burnt offering.

In dedicating her to the Lord it just meant she stayed a virgin.

I’m just not too convinced.

The reasoning goes like this:

The word translated “and” in the vow (actually, it’s a letter, the waw), could be translated “or”.  Like –
(Jdg 11:31 NKJV) …when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, OR I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”
The language may mean that in lieu of giving her as a burnt offering, she simply remained a virgin for her entire life and never married.
Remember that she asked her dad,

(Jdg 11:37 NKJV) …let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”

When Hannah made her bargain with God, she said,
(1 Sa 1:11 NKJV) …then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

For Samuel, being “given to the LORD” meant that she took him to Eli the priest and he was raised at the Tabernacle.

:38 So he said, “Go.” And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains.

:39 And it was so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man. And it became a custom in Israel

:40 that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

:39 he carried out his vow

His vow was to make a “burnt offering”

I don’t think we need to “pretty this up” and say he just kept her a virgin.

He sacrificed his daughter.

In a later time, when Jehoshaphat battled against the Moabites, the King of Moab sacrificed his eldest son (2Ki. 3:26-27)
(2 Ki 3:26–27 NKJV) —26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him seven hundred men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom, but they could not. 27 Then he took his eldest son who would have reigned in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering upon the wall; and there was great indignation against Israel. So they departed from him and returned to their own land.
Josephus records that he sacrificed his daughter,
Accordingly, when that time was over, he sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering, offering such an oblation as was neither conformable to the law nor acceptable to God.
If this was truly the case, the sad thing was that he didn’t have to – there was an out. 
Leviticus ends with a chapter on how to get out of a foolish vow where you promise to give someone to the Lord:

(Leviticus 27:2 NLT) “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate someone to the Lord by paying the value of that person,

God then gives how much you pay to “redeem” someone from a vow.  Jephthah could have paid somewhere between 3 to 30 pieces of silver, depending on his daughter’s age.

Even though Jephthah knew Bible History, he might have been a little lacking on some of his Bible Doctrine.


Don’t sacrifice the family

No matter what your view of what Jephthah did to fulfill his vow, his daughter was the one that paid a price for her daddy’s promise.
Sometimes we can be in Jephthah’s place, feeling like we have a call from God to do a certain thing, perhaps even a noble thing.
If we’re not careful, our commitments can end up having a terrible impact on our family because we end up neglecting our family.
We think we’re doing God’s will by being at church seven nights a week, while our kids or our spouse don’t receive the time that we really ought to be giving them.
Years ago the term “PK” or “MK” used to either mean “Preacher’s Kid” or “Missionary’s Kid”.  And that usually meant the kid in Sunday School who caused the teacher the most grief.
Husbands and wives – we have a responsibility to our marriage vows.
Parents and kids – nobody will have a greater impact on how your kids grow up than parents.

12:1-7 Jephthah vs. Ephraim

:1 Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over toward Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!”

:1 did not call us to go with you

Does this sound familiar?

These same people, the Ephraimites, said the same thing to Gideon when he fought the Midianites.

(Judges 8:1 NKJV) Now the men of Ephraim said to him, “Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?” And they reprimanded him sharply.
Gideon was able to talk to the Ephraimites and they walked away peacefully.
Jephthah won’t have such success.

:2 And Jephthah said to them, “My people and I were in a great struggle with the people of Ammon; and when I called you, you did not deliver me out of their hands.

Jephthah did call the Ephraimites, but they didn’t respond.

:3 So when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the people of Ammon; and the Lord delivered them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”

:4 Now Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. And the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, “You Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites and among the Manassites.”

:4 You Gileadites are fugitives

They’re insulting the people from Gilead, saying that they are the outcasts from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

Back in the time of Moses and Joshua, the eastern tribes were concerned that the western tribes would try and claim that they weren’t a part of the same nation.

They built an altar on the eastern side of the Jordan to be a reminder that they belonged to Israel (Josh. 22)
(Joshua 22:34 NKJV) The children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar, Witness, “For it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”

:5 The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites arrived. And when any Ephraimite who escaped said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,”

:6 then they would say to him, “Then say, ‘Shibboleth’!” And he would say, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.

:7 And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried among the cities of Gilead.

:6 Shibbolethshibbol – flowing stream. 

This word has actually made it into our English language.  It’s in the dictionary.  It stands for any kind of test that a group gives to outsiders to see whether they really belong.

:6 Sibbolethcibboleth – an ear of grain or wheat

Some people don’t know how to pronounce things correctly.

Play “Pink Panther – dog bite” clip

It was a tricky way of telling the Ephraimites from the Gileadites.  The Ephraimites had an “accent”.  Kind of like the person who says warsh the caw” instead of “wash the car”.

12:8-15 More Judges

There will be three more judges listed briefly (Ibzan, Elon, Abdon)

The most significant thing about them is that Josephus records, “they did nothing worth recording”.

:8 After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel.

:9 He had thirty sons. And he gave away thirty daughters in marriage, and brought in thirty daughters from elsewhere for his sons. He judged Israel seven years.

:10 Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.

:8 Bethlehem – Yes, that Bethlehem.  See map.

:8 Ibzan

:8 Ibzan – “their whiteness”

Josephus records,

He had sixty children, thirty of them sons and the rest daughters: all whom he left alive behind him, giving the daughters in marriage to husbands, and taking wives for his sons. He did nothing in the seven years of his administration that was worth recording, or deserved a memorial.

12:11-12 Elon

:11 After him, Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel. He judged Israel ten years.

:12 And Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the country of Zebulun.

:12 Zebulun – to the west of the Sea of Galilee

:11 Elon – “terebinth, mighty”

Just as with Ibzan, Josephus tells us of Elon,

When Ibzan was dead after this manner, neither did Helon, who succeeded him in the government, and kept it ten years, do anything remarkable;

12:13-15 Abdon

:13 After him, Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel.

:14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy young donkeys. He judged Israel eight years.

:15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mountains of the Amalekites.

:13 Abdon – “servile”

:13 Pirathonite – a city in Ephraim (see map)

:14 who rode on seventy young donkeys

Josephus tells us,

He marched in state with these seventy; who were all very skilful in riding horses:
He was known for … “marching”???


Nothing remarkable

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
I guess you could say that at least they didn’t do anything horrible. At least they didn’t get written up like Abimelech, who was nothing but trouble.
But does that mean that God would rather have us do nothing rather than do something horrible?
In the parable of the “talents”, Jesus told of one man who had been entrusted with one “talent” (a sum of money) by his master but he was afraid of not doing well with it –
(Matthew 25:24–25 NLT) —24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

Jesus said the master of that servant rebuked him!

William Carey (1761–1834), the first modern missionary, said,
“Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”