Friday, December 21, 2012

Jephthah Asked to Lead Israel

Judges 10:17-11:11

“Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.  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.” (Judges 10:17-18)

The Philistines at this point were just opportunistic raiders, attacking only when they saw weakness.  The Ammonites, Lot’s descendants, were bent on conquest, and gathered their armies in Gilead, in present day Jordan.  The Gileadites included the entire tribe of Gad, part of Reuben and part of Manasseh.  They began to look for a leader, a man who would be willing to confront the Ammonites and could unite the people.  They would make him the leader of the entire district.

“Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.  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.  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.” (Judges 11:1-3)

Jephthah was the illegitimate son of Gilead and a prostitute, and Gilead raised him.  After Gilead’s death, His other sons drove Jephthah away, as not being a really member of the family.  Jephthah fled north to Tob, just east of the Sea of Galilee in the land given to Manasseh.  Though he had no property in the area, he soon gathered a following of men, although they were not highly respected men.

“And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.  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: And they said unto 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?” (Judges 11:4-7)

When the Ammonites invaded Gilead, the older men in Gilead contacted Jephthah, recognizing him as natural leader, and offered him the job.  They had stood by and helped his brothers drive him out and take his share.  Why should he come and help them get what they wanted when they had made it so obvious they wanted nothing to do with him?

“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? 

And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so 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.” (Judges 11:8-11) 

When they promised Jephthah that he could be leader if he’d come help them, he didn’t trust them, asking them if they really meant it.  Only when he was convinced did he consent to go with them.  Though he had forgiven them and could talk to them, they still needed to demonstrate that they would not turn against him again.

In modern society, forgiveness is often believed to wipe out all trace of the sin as if it had never happened, and that is often the way justified is frequently defined.  Forgiveness means they are willing to give you another chance.  It does not mean that the former wrong was forgotten, but that you have the chance to make up for it.  Trust still has to be re-earned.


  1. Was Jephthah ever actually called of God to be a Judge in Israel? I don't recall presently...

    Jephthah had a hard life as a young man, and I can easily see why he was hesitant about believing them.

  2. Only a few of the Judges had dramatic calls like Gideon, Samson, or Samuel, but each one was clearly called of God. A misguided emphasis has been placed on such callings, and ignores the fact that God usually speaks with a still small voice rather than with thunder and lightening. The call is no less real for lack of drama.