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Judges 11. Jephthah, part 5: God's promotion of Jephthah despite his family's rejection.

length: 65:12 - taught on May, 25 2017
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Title: Judges 11. Jephthah, part 5: God's promotion of Jephthah despite his family's rejection.



11:1-3 give a background on Jephthah. The events are prior to the assembly of Israel at Mizpah.


Jephthah = "he will open"


JDG 11:1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead was the father of Jephthah.


JDG 11:2 And Gilead's wife bore him sons; and when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, "You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman."


JDG 11:3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.


Jephthah was adopted by his father and therefore was to receive a portion of the inheritance. His half-brothers manipulated the elders of their area in order to convince them to remove Jephthah from the will. Likely angered, Jephthah left his homeland and went to Tob were, over time, he gathered around himself some shady characters who raided, stole from, and fought the Ammonites, from which they gained a reputation and Jephthah became a valiant warrior (same word used of Gideon).


pic: Brick Bible


"gathered" - lakat = to glean. Normally "gathered" is asaph, but this word means that the men in Jephthah's band joined him over time, one by one.


This simply helps us paint the picture. He built up a band of vain men (same word used for the men that Abimelech hired to kill his brothers) and they "went out with him," meaning that they conducted raids. They likely raided the Ammonites and over time gained a reputation as well as fighting experience. As his reputation grew, more men, angry at the oppression they experienced, joined his group. Slowly the group grew in strength and stature.


Israel calls for Jephthah


The account now comes back to the present war with the Ammonites.


JDG 11:4 And it came about after a while that the sons of Ammon fought against Israel.


JDG 11:5 And it happened when the sons of Ammon fought against Israel that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob;


Ammon has oppressed Israel, but now it seeks war against her which may mean that they sought to exterminate them or drive them out.


JDG 11:6 and they said to Jephthah, "Come and be our chief that we may fight against the sons of Ammon."


"chief" - qatsiyn = a leader in war.

In vs. 11 he will be made qatsiyn and rosh = a chief in peace and war.


They make him leader and not just the leader of the war.


A delegation is sent to Tob to fetch Jephthah. He doesn't need to come to the elders, but since he has been likely stewing over his disinheritance for years and now it seems that they need him makes it too hard to resist.


JDG 11:7 Then Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Did you not hate me and drive me from my father's house? So why have you come to me now when you are in trouble?"


Jephthah holds them responsible for his disinheritance. It could be that members of his father's family were elders and that when the issue was brought to them by his half-brothers that they decided to rid themselves of him. So Jephthah contrasts the past with the present. Simply, he asks that since they were not there for him in his own distress, why should he help them in their distress.


JDG 11:8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "For this reason we have now returned to you, that you may go with us and fight with the sons of Ammon and become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."


"For this reason" implies that they made amends. They are desperate for a leader and they admit that they wronged him. Then they make him a very enticing offer.


If he will lead them in the fight against Ammon they will make him Commander-in-Chief.


JDG 11:9 So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "If you take me back to fight against the sons of Ammon and the Lord gives them up to me, will I become your head?"


The Hebrew does not imply that this is a question. They reply that they will do according to his words, "we will do as you have said" more implies an emphatic statement than a question.


So it is more likely that he said, "If you take me back to fight against the sons of Ammon and the Lord gives them up to me, I will become your head."


If it is a question, then Jephthah is looking for confirmation, which they give to him. "Head" is the Hebrew rosh which refers to a leader after the war as well.


JDG 11:10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "The Lord is witness between us; surely we will do as you have said."


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


The words spoken by Jephthah are at a coronation ceremony and he made a oath before God. He takes a pledge to fight for Israel and to be chief of Gilead, and the Lord heard these words, i.e. they became binding to the Lord.


JDG 11:12 Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, "What is between you and me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?"


Jephthah immediately takes control of the situation, and to his credit, he is not a war monger, nor is he only looking for battlefield glory. The first thing he does is to take a stab at a peaceful resolution.


"My land" - Jephthah has an element of patriotism.

"you have come to me" - you are the aggressors and not us.


The king of the Ammonites responds with a reason for his aggression, which makes sense to him, but is completely unfounded.


JDG 11:13 And the king of the sons of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthah, "Because Israel took away my land when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok [rivers] and the Jordan; therefore, return them peaceably now."


Notice that the king of Ammon freely admits that Israel came up from Egypt. The Exodus happened about 300 years prior, but it is a well known and accepted truth.


Jephthah calls it "my land" and the Ammonite king calls it "my land." Ammon justifies his aggression due to the belief that the land is actually his to begin with. However, this belief is incorrect.


This is yet another case of self-justification.


Countless nations have justified military aggression with twisted facts and false narratives of history. They bank on the majority not knowing history.


The conflict of the Palestinians with Israel is a classic case of this in modern times. It would take a person about an hour or two to read enough to know the history of the land dispute as well as the conflict in the West Bank and Jerusalem and then they could make their own intelligent conclusions. However, most people are content to believe what they are casually told.


Ammon tries to get away with this tactic, but to Jephthah's credit, he is aware of the history of this land.


The king of Ammon had no trouble believing the Exodus account.


He demands that Israel return them peaceably and immediately, which would only mean that Israel east of the Jordan has to leave and become refugees.


The Arnon River was the border between Moab and the Amorites (not to be confused with the Ammonites). Ammon never held this land. They wanted to extend their borders and have control over the three rivers.


Controlling the rivers is profitable.


Now Jephthah sends a second delegation with a second message and he makes it clear that Ammon has no claim to this land. He schools the Ammonite king in history.


If you ever have an opportunity to reveal the solid, indisputable, true knowledge to an opponent concerning a controversy, it is most satisfying, right up until they simply disregard it.


JDG 11:14 But Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the sons of Ammon,


JDG 11:15 and they said to him, "Thus says Jephthah, 'Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the sons of Ammon.


JDG 11:16 'For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh,


JDG 11:17 then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, "Please let us pass through your land," but the king of Edom would not listen. And they also sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.


Israel came to Kadesh-barnea and when Edom and Moab refused them passage, they remained at Kadesh - they didn't war against them.



Around the end of the first year of the Exodus, Israel camped at Kadesh and Moses sent the 12 spies into the PL. Their failure caused Israel to roam the desert for another 38 years. At the end of that time it was time to move towards the land and they politely asked if they could pass through Edom and Moab. When these nations said no, they decided to head south through the Arabah desert and then swing way east and north completely around Moab and Edom.


Israel was instructed by God not to war with these nations.


DEU 2:9

Then the Lord said to me, 'Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession


DEU 2:19

'And when you come opposite the sons of Ammon, do not harass them nor provoke them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot as a possession.'


After they had gotten their father drunk and laid with him, Lot's two daughters gave birth to Moab and Ammon.


JDG 11:18 'Then they went through the wilderness and around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east side of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon; but they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab.


Vv. 19-22 are almost verbatim NUM 21:21-25, which shows that either Jephthah knows the Pentateuch well or that he had the priests write up the rebuttal.


JDG 11:19 'And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, "Please let us pass through your land to our place."


JDG 11:20 'But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people and camped in Jahaz, and fought with Israel.


JDG 11:21 'And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them; so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.


JDG 11:22 'So they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan.


They only asked for passage through Sihon's territory and when he refused Sihon decided to make war against Israel. The Amorites were the aggressor. God gave Sihon into their hands and they possessed his territory. But notice that they possessed it to the border of the Arnon River.


NUM 21:23-24

But Sihon would not permit Israel to pass through his border. So Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer.


They made no claim to Ammonite land. Israel had taken Amorite land, and only because the Amorites made war against them.


JDG 11:23 'Since now the Lord, the God of Israel, drove out the Amorites from before His people Israel, are you then to possess it?


The land actually belonged to Moab before it was taken from them by Sihon the Amorite.


NUM 21:26

For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon.


This is another sound argument by Jephthah.


JDG 11:24 'Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God has driven out before us, we will possess it.


Chemosh is the god of Moab. Ammon's god was Milcom. Japheth either made an error, did it on purpose out of contempt for them, or Chemosh was known as the god of that area which once belonged to Moab.


This is not critical. It is only being thorough.


It is interesting to note that both Ammon and Moab are the sons of Lot through his two daughters.


Outside of Japheth's error is his seeming recognition of the existence of a false god. It is impossible to say for sure if he believed in the existence of false gods. As we know, many in Israel did. Foreigners believed that Jehovah was the God of the Jews, but they only saw Jehovah as another god somewhat like the ones that they worshipped. Did Jephthah come to believe that Jehovah was the God he worshipped and that other gods did exist?


One argument against Jephthah's syncretism is that he is listed in Heb 11.


Since the rabbi's make a hero out of Jephthah, their explanation for his acknowledgement of Chemosh is that he was being sarcastic. They state it as something like this: "You are demanding land which belonged to Moab, whose god was unable to save it from falling into the hands of the Amorites. So take then the possession of the land which Chemosh does give you."


JDG 11:24 'Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God has driven out before us, we will possess it.

In verse 25, Jephthah presents his third argument. His first argument was that the land belonged to Moab and then the Amorites. It never belonged to Ammon. The second argument was that God drove out the Amorites and gave the land to Israel. Now, in his third argument, he states that the king of Moab, whose people owned the land in the past, did not make war with Israel in an effort to get the land back, as Ammon is now, and Moab is a stronger nation.


JDG 11:25 'And now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive with Israel, or did he ever fight against them?


Balak did hire Balaam to pronounce a curse upon Israel, but Balaam could only bless Israel. This may be a tongue and cheek suggestion that Ammon may try to curse Israel through diviners, but they have no right to draw up against Israel in battle.


Jephthah's fourth argument is that Israel has been living in this land for over three hundred years and in all that time, Ammon never once raised the question of whether it belonged to them.


JDG 11:26 'While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time?


JDG 11:27 'I therefore have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me; may the Lord, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.'"


JDG 11:28 But the king of the sons of Ammon disregarded the message which Jephthah sent him.


Four perfect arguments make the truth clear that Ammon has no right to make war against Israel under the pretense that they are rightfully getting their own land back. Ammon just disregards it.


pic: Brick Bible


When arrogant lust is presented with sound and clear truth, it is often just disregarded.

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