Jephthah a Man of Valor
Word of the Day: Valor = to be worth.] Courage: bravery
A man of valor (courage) is the description given to Jephthah by God, which is a huge word. In my eighteen years as a Christian, I have only heard twice about Jephthah in two different sermons by two great preachers, and the story was presented differently each time. Nevertheless, the story is lovely, and it deserves TIME to dive in and enjoy what God has to say about this man and his life.
Let's dive into the book of Judges, chapter 11; here is where we get to read about Jephthah. According to the Bible, he was the son of Gilead and the son of a harlot (a prostitute). Gilead was a married man who had other sons with his wife, which meant that Jephthah was an illegitimate son or an unwanted brother. Gilead accepted the responsibility and took Jephthah with him, but the family never welcomed the illegitimate son. Once his father passed away, an inheritance became available that was supposed to be divided among the brothers, including Jephthah, but the brothers drove him away.
Jephthah fled to the land of Tob; to be more precise, this land was near Syria. Keep in mind that Jephthah was a man of courage, a leader, but he was hanging around with the wrong crowd, worthless men during this time.
Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.
2 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.
3 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.
There was something special in this man's leadership; at some point in his life, the elders brought him back into his land to free the Gileadites from oppression from the Ammonites. Jephthah was offered the position of becoming a captain to fight the children of Ammon, and it must have been an awkward situation for Jephthah as he was expelled from his father's house not only by his brothers but also from the elders. The elders insisted and offered him to be the leader of all the inhabitants of Gilead.
And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.
5 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:
6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.
7 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?
8 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.
Although Jephthah was hanging around with the wrong crowd, he still feared God in him and asked the elders: "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?" I love how Jephthah recognized that he was just God's instrument to win this battle. He wanted to make sure the elders knew that if they were going to bring a victory, this victory would come from God, and they agreed with the negotiation, but it was Jephthah who put the terms on the table.
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?
10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.
11. 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.
Jephthah was a peaceful maker and was open to negotiating with the enemy in the same way he dealt with the elders. It gets confusing for some people to negotiate; negotiating is never compromising your moral values. I noticed from the Scriptures that Jephthah was not ignorant of the Word of God and was well aware of historical details. The whole argument with the Ammonites was related to the land occupied by Israel, and he made it clear that the land was granted to the Jews by Jehovah during a battle held under the leadership of Moses.
Jephthah wanted Ammon to stop any war against Israel. He even brought historical facts into the argument, saying that the Israelites had lived in that territory for three hundred years, like why they need to claim the land now. Ammon had been given specific reasons why they should not mess with Israel as the war was not going to be against Jephthah or the Israelites, but God, and you don't want to mess around with God. But Ammon did not listen to Jephthah.
12 And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land?
13 And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.
14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon:
15 And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:
16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh;
17 Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.
18 Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab.
19 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.
20 But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.
21 And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.
22 And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.
23 So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?
24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.
25 And now art thou any thing 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 dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?
27 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.
28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.
The making of the vow is the part where it becomes a little tricky or a lot, and just like mentioned at the beginning of this blog, some Pastors or scholars have a different view on the vow made by Jephthah to God. All of us have made a promise or a vow to God at any part of our lives. A vow is always a vow regardless of the magnitude; it is a dedication or sacrifice to our Lord. When it comes to Jephthah, he makes the vow unto the Lord that if he wins the battle against the Ammonites, he will sacrifice as a burnt offering whatsoever comes out of his house to meet him after winning the fight. God granted him the victory, but little he did know that it would be his daughter. Before winning the battle, the Scriptures tell us that he was under the influence (spirit) of the Lord when he made this vow. The Bible also tells us that the Israelites performed human sacrifices in the past, but this does not mean that it was God condoned.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.
30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands.
33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
We must remember that Jephthah's daughter was his only daughter, which meant he would not have any heirs. My personal opinion after reading these passages is that Jephthah. However, he was a good man and was not thinking of the magnitude of his words because you don't make vows unto the Lord based on hypotheticals. Also, this verse whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me"… Judges 11:31 could have been an unclean animal that was not going to be acceptable unto God, or someone not related to him. I hope you get the idea, but I could be wrong, so please don't quote me.
The battle is won, and Jephthah comes home and notices that his daughter comes to greet him. He rents his clothes, which was a customary tradition performed by the Jews during a time of sorrow. He remembered the vow made to God, and he also knew the Scriptures, which meant that God does not accept human sacrifices. Both father and daughter had a moment of grievance due to the vow, but this moment was not to say goodbye. But instead, his daughter asked for two months to go up and down the mountains with her friends to cry for her virginity. All this sorrow meant that she was never going to have the privilege to become a mother, and that was something girls wanted so badly back in those days due to the desire to continue their lineage.
And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back.
36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.
38 And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
The vow was to be fulfilled not by burning his daughter as a burnt offering but by dedicating her life to God. And it became a yearly tradition that the daughters of Israel would lament Jeththah's daughter for four days a year. So, she remained a virgin dedicated to serving God.
39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,
40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
Conclusion: We must take our vows to God seriously, not vaguely.