Chapter 11: Jephthah Captain of Israel
Jephthah (the illegitimate son of Gilead), because he was the son of a prostitute is slowly pushed away from his brothers. Jephthah goes off to live in the land of Tob where he lives amongst idle men. Because of this Jephthah becomes a mighty warrior. When the sons of Gilead are oppressed by the Ammonites they go to Jephthah for help.
Jephthah responds to his brothers “…Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? … why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?” (Judges 11:7)
They tell him that essentially it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, if he helps them, then he can become leader over them!
Jephthah asks several times if this is really true, and finally agrees to help them, once he becomes the leader over them. He first sends a message to the Ammonites and asks them why they have been attacking. They respond, because the Israelites took away their land.
Jephthah sends a message back, and in short tells them that the Israelites tried to be nice. They first asked permission to go through the land and they were denied, they had to wage war and ultimately it is their God who gave them the land. For three hundred year the Israelites have occupied the land, why, he asks, WHY? Haven’t you tried to take the land back before then?
The king of the Ammonites ignores Jephthah and the Lord tells Jephthah to go to war against the Ammonites. Jephthah however makes a vow to the Lord, that he will make a sacrifice of whatever comes out of the door of his house to meet him when he returns home. Jephthah and his men fight the Ammonites and the Lord delivers them into their hands. Jephthah returns home to meet his only daughter. This makes Jephthah sad, because he made a vow with God, so he must sacrifice his only child, his daughter.
His daughter understands that he must do this, but makes a request that she get two months to wonder the roads and hills with her friends. So she does this. Her and her friends weep in the hillsides and finally she returns, still a virgin. Jephthah sacrifices her unto the Lord (Judges 11:39-40). It became a custom for daughters of Israel to lament the daughter of Jephthah four days of the year.
Chapter 12: 42,000 Ephraimites Die
The men of Ephraim gather together and go to fight with Jephthah, because they were angry that they were not “called/invited” to fight with him. Jephthah argues that he asked for help, but when everyone ignored him he went with his small numbers and the Lord delivered the people of Gilead into his hands.
The people of Gilead are upset, because the tribe of Ephraim said that they were “fugitives” from their group. So the people of Gilead fight with Ephraim and when they try to cross the river back home, they ask them if they are an Ephraimite, if they respond no, they then ask them to pronounce the word “Shibboleth”. So one said Ephraimite says “Sibboleth” because he couldn’t pronounce the word right, so they killed him and some other 42,000 Ephraimites!
Jepthah leads Israel for six years before dying. The following three judges of Israel are:
- Ibzan; who led for 7 years
- Elon; who led for 10 years
- Abdon; who led for 8 years