(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
This is another instance of the writer of Hebrews naming Heroes out of order. Jephthah is our featured hero, and his story is in Judges chapters 11 and 12, while Samson is featured in chapters 13 through 16. But we will stick to the order in Hebrews 11:32: “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.” By the way, in this verse, David and Samuel are also out of order!
But let’s get back to Jephthah…
- Judges 11:1 – “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot.” His father, Gilead, was married to his wife and she bore him other sons.
- Judges 11:2 – “…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.” So Jephthah left.
- Judges 11:3 – He “dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him.”
One of the Canaanite nations the Israelites were supposed to wipe out, but didn’t, were the Ammonites. And three centuries later, the Ammonites invaded Israel, and fought against them! Apparently, Jephthah had quite a reputation as a warrior! So he was recruited by the Gileadites: “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.” (Judges 11:6). And if he would agree to lead them against the Ammonites, he would become the “…head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” (Judges 11:8).
So Jephthah agreed. And he was made commander of the army and governing head of the Gileadites!
What follows in Judges 11:12 through 28 is his prewar negotiations with the Ammonites:
- The Ammorites alleged that Israel had stolen their land and the territory of Moab, three hundred years before! So now, ‘Give it back !’
✡ ...Israel, when they came out of Egypt, tried to pass peaceably through the lands of the nations bordering the Jordan River to the east. But the leaders of these na- tions refused the Israelites passage – the nation of... ➔ Edom – “...Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let me pass through your land.’ But the king of Edom would not heed.” (Judges 11:17). ➔ Moab – “...And in like manner they sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent.” (Joshua 11:17). ➔ Amurra or Amurri – These are the names in Assyrian and Egyptian inscriptions of one of the descendants of Canaan (whose grandfather was Noah – see Genesis 9:18). His name might also be the name of the na- tion he fathered, but the nation is only known in the Bible by the name Amorites. Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites...“Please let us pass through your land into our place.” But Sihon did not trust Israel....So Sihon...fought against Israel. And the LORD God...delivered Sihon and all his peo- ple into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. Thus Israel gained possession of all the land of the Amorites.... (Judges 11:19 through 21)
The Ammonites had conquered part of the territory of the Moabites and the Amorites shortly before Israel, led by Joshua, came on the scene. Now, three hundred years later, they wanted Israel to give back all the land east of the Jordan River!
✡ “...the LORD God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites ....Should you then possess it? ...possess...whatever Chemosh your god gives you....whatever the LORD...[gives] us, we will possess.” (Judges 11:23 and 24). ✡ “...for three hundred years, why did you not recover [the land]...within that time? ...I have not sinned against you, but you wronged me....” (Judges 11:26 and 27).
It is at this point that Jephthah’s feet of clay became apparent! He had called together his army, but before he fought against the Ammonites, he made a very rash vow to God:
If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatsoever comes out of my house to meet me, when I return in peace...shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering. (Judges 11:30 and 31).
Jephthah fought the Ammonites, “…and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he defeated them…with a very great slaughter.” (Judges 11:32 and 33). And then he went home…
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. And...when he saw her...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.” (Judges 11:34 and 35).
At his daughter’s request, Jephthah gave her two months to mourn that she would never be a wife and mother! For two months she wandered with her friends in the mountains, weeping over her fate! Then “…she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow….” (Judges 11:39).
- Some say she was not offered as a burnt offering, for that was forbidden in Israel ! (see Deuteronomy 18:10; Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; 32:35). Jephthah’s daughter’s fate, they say, was that she was never married and remained a childless woman, dedicated to serve the LORD all her life!
But the text says Jephthah vowed that the first out of his house to greet him, “…I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” So his daughter was purposely killed and her body burned! As horrible as it is, this, I think, is what happened!
If she was indeed offered as a burnt offering, how could someone guilty of such a horrendous deed be listed in Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith? But not one of those listed was perfect! And if you investigate what the Bible says about them, you will find David was an adulterer and a murderer! Moses also murdered someone! Jacob was a deceiver! Rahab was a prostitute! And so on…. These are men and women of great faith but with flaws – feet of clay – sometimes glaringly so!
Concerning Jephthah’s feet of clay – his rash vow…
- We are told by Jesus in Matthew 5:33 through 37:
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely make a vow], but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
- And in James 5:12 – “…above all…do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’, lest you fall into judgment.”
Jephthah is not my favorite hero! But he used his faith to win a war! So a hero of faith he is!
Could I be listed as
a hero of faith?