Judges 11

1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead became the father of Jephthah. 2 Gilead’s wife bore him sons. When his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, “You will not inherit in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers, and lived in the land of Tob. Outlaws joined up with Jephthah, and they went out with him. 4 After a while, the children of Ammon made war against Israel. 5 When the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah out of the land of Tob. 6 They said to Jephthah, “Come and be our chief, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.” 7 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Didn’t you hate me, and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “Therefore we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us, and fight with the children of Ammon. You will be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight with the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivers them before me, will I be your head?” 10 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The LORD will be witness between us. Surely we will do what you say.” 11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them. Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD in Mizpah. 12 Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the children of Ammon, saying, “What have you to do with me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 The king of the children of Ammon answered to the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel took away my land, when he came up out of Egypt, from the Arnon even to the Jabbok, and to the Jordan. Now therefore restore that territory again peaceably.” 14 Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the children of Ammon; 15 and he said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel didn’t take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon, 16 but when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to 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 didn’t listen. In the same way, he sent to the king of Moab; but he would not: and Israel stayed in Kadesh. 18 Then they went through the wilderness, and went around the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and they encamped on the other side of the Arnon; but they didn’t come within the border of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. 19 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 my place.’ 20 But Sihon didn’t trust Israel to pass through his border; but Sihon gathered all his people together, and encamped in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. 21 The LORD, the God of Israel, delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they struck them. So Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 They possessed all the border of the Amorites, from the Arnon even to the Jabbok, and from the wilderness even to the Jordan. 23 So now the LORD, the God of Israel, has dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and should you possess them? 24 Won’t you possess that which Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whoever the LORD our God has dispossessed from before us, them will we possess. 25 Now are you anything better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its towns, and in Aroer and its towns, and in all the cities that are along by the side of the Arnon, three hundred years; why didn’t you recover them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, but you do me wrong to war against me. May The LORD the Judge be judge today between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.” 28 However the king of the children of Ammon didn’t listen to the words of Jephthah which he sent him. 29 Then the LORD’s Spirit came on Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed over to the children of Ammon. 30 Jephthah vowed a vow to the LORD, and said, “If you will indeed deliver the children of Ammon into my hand, 31 then it shall be, that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah passed over to the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hand. 33 He struck them from Aroer until you come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and to Abelcheramim, with a very great slaughter. So the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. 34 Jephthah came to Mizpah to his house; and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are one of those who trouble me; for I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I can’t go back.” 36 She said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth, because the LORD has taken vengeance for you on your enemies, even on the children of Ammon.” 37 She said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me. Leave me alone two months, that I may depart and go down on the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 He said, “Go.” He sent her away for two months: and she departed, she and her companions, and mourned her virginity on the mountains. 39 At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed. She was a virgin. It was a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to celebrate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–11

Men ought not to be blamed for their parentage, so long as they by their personal merits roll away any reproach. God had forgiven Israel, therefore Jephthah will forgive. He speaks not with confidence of his success, knowing how justly God might suffer the Ammonites to prevail for the further punishment of Israel. Nor does he speak with any confidence at all in himself. If he succeed, it is the Lord delivers them into his hand; he thereby reminds his countrymen to look up to God as the Giver of victory. The same question as here, in fact, is put to those who desire salvation by Christ. If he save you, will ye be willing that he shall rule you? On no other terms will he save you. If he make you happy, shall he make you holy? If he be your helper, shall he be your Head? Jephthah, to obtain a little worldly honour, was willing to expose his life: shall we be discouraged in our Christian warfare by the difficulties we may meet with, when Christ has promised a crown of life to him that overcometh?

Verses 12–28

One instance of the honour and respect we owe to God, as our God, is, rightly to employ what he gives us to possess. Receive it from him, use it for him, and part with it when he calls for it. The whole of this message shows that Jephthah was well acquainted with the books of Moses. His argument was clear, and his demand reasonable. Those who possess the most courageous faith, will be the most disposed for peace, and the readiest to make advances to obtain; but rapacity and ambition often cloak their designs under a plea of equity, and render peaceful endeavours of no avail.

Verses 29–40

Several important lessons are to be learned from Jephthah’s vow. 1. There may be remainders of distrust and doubting, even in the hearts of true and great believers. 2. Our vows to God should not be as a purchase of the favour we desire, but to express gratitude to him. 3. We need to be very well-advised in making vows, lest we entangle ourselves. 4. What we have solemnly vowed to God, we must perform, if it be possible and lawful, though it be difficult and grievous to us. 5. It well becomes children, obediently and cheerfully to submit to their parents in the Lord. It is hard to say what Jephthah did in performance of his vow; but it is thought that he did not offer his daughter as a burnt-offering. Such a sacrifice would have been an abomination to the Lord; it is supposed she was obliged to remain unmarried, and apart from her family. Concerning this and some other such passages in the sacred history, about which learned men are divided and in doubt, we need not perplex ourselves; what is necessary to our salvation, thanks be to God, is plain enough. If the reader recollects the promise of Christ concerning the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and places himself under this heavenly Teacher, the Holy Ghost will guide to all truth in every passage, so far as it is needful to be understood.

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