Dave Burnette's Commentary

Judges Chapter 11

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Samuel 
Date Penned: (550 BC)
Overview: A Record of Israel's Compromise in the Promised Land (c 1-21)
Theme: The Rescue of Israel by the Judges (c 3-16)
Message: Jephthah Defeats the Ammonites (v 1-40)

Judges 11 Commentary

(11:1-2) God Uses Jephthah - Jephthah, an illegitimate son of Gilead, was chased out of the country by his half brothers. He suffered as a result of his half brothers' injustice and not for any wrong he had done. Yet in spite of his brothers' rejection, God used him. If you are suffering from unfair rejection, don't blame others and become discouraged. Remember how God used Jephthah despite his unjust circumstances, and realize that God is able to use you even if you feel rejected by the people around vou.

(11:3) Wasted Potential - Circumstances beyond his control forced Jephthah away from his people and into life as an outcast. Today, both believers and nonbelievers may drive away those who do not fit the norms dictated by our society, neighborhoods, or churches. Often, as in Jephthah's case, great potential is wasted because of prejudice and a refusal to look beyond ill-conceived stereotypes. Look around you to see if there are potential Jephthahs being kept out due to factors beyond their control. As a Christian, you know that everyone can have a place in God's family. What can you do to help these people gain acceptance for their character and abilities?

(11:11)  Before the Lord - What does it mean that Jephthah repeated his words "before the LORD"? Those making covenants in ancient times often made them at places of worship so that their act would be witnessed by deities. Often a written copy of the covenant being made was also deposited at the place of worship. This was much like a coronation ceremony for Jephthah.

(11:12-28) A Message to the King of the Ammonites - Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king because he wanted to know why the Israelites in the land of Gilead were being attacked. The king replied that Israel had stolen this land and he wanted it back. Then Jephthah sent another message to the king. In it he gave three arguments against the king's claim: (1) Gilead was never the king's land in the first place because Israel had taken it from the Amorites, not the Ammonites: (2) Israel should possess land given by Israel's God, and Ammon should possess land given by Ammon's god; and (3) no one had contested Israel's ownership of the land since its conquest 300 years earlier. To Jephthah's credit, he tried to solve the problem without bloodshed. But the king of Ammon ignored his message and prepared his troops for battle.

(11:27) Jephthah Acknowledges the Lord as Judge - Over the years, the Israelites had many judges in leadership over them. But Jephthah recognized the Lord as the people's true Judge, the only one who could really lead them and help them conquer the invading enemies.

(11:29) An Old Testament Manifestation - The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, as was the case with several of the Old Testament judges, kings, and prophets. Generally, when we read of the Spirit coming upon a person in the Old Testament, it refers to a special empowering of the Holy Spirit for a specific task or mission. It wasn't until Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) that God sent the Holy Spirit to live permanently in the lives of all who put their faith in Jesus Christ.

(11:30-31) A Foolish Vow - In God's law, a vow was a promise to God that was not to be broken (Numbers 30:1-2; Deuteronomy 23:21-23). It carried as much force as a written contract does today. Many people made vows in biblical times. Some, like Jephthah's, were very foolish. (What was a person supposed to do if they realized they had made a foolish vow? God made a provision in the law for that situation. According to Leviticus 5:4-13, those who made a foolish vow were to admit their mistake and bring a sin offering to the Lord in order to be purified from the guilt incurred for not fulfilling it. God's law certainly did not demand the fulfillment of foolish vows, especially if fulfilling them would violate other laws. When Jephthah made his vow, did he stop to consider that a person, not a sheep or goat, might come out to meet him? Interpreters are divided over the issue. Those who say that Jephthah was considering human sacrifice use the following arguments: (1) He was from an area where pagan religion and human sacrifice were common. In his eyes, it may not have seemed like a sin. (2) In the ancient world, livestock often lived in the home with the family. It is unlikely that livestock would come running out of the house to greet someone upon return, so Jephthah was leaving open the likely possibility of human sacrifice but perhaps hoping for divine intervention. (3) Jephthah may not have known religious law and been ignorant of God's command against human sacrifice. Those who say that Jephthah could not have been thinking about human sacrifice point to other evidence: (1) As leader of the people, Jephthah must have been familiar with God's laws; human sacrifice was clearly forbidden (Leviticus 18:21; 20:1-5). (2) No legitimate priest would have helped Jephthah carry out his vow if a person was to be the sacrifice. (3) When a person was offered to the Lord, God's laws prescribed substitutionary options so a person would not be sacrificed (Leviticus 27/1-8). This sort of substitution was paid for all the firstborn sons in Israel (Exodus 13:1-12) and also for the sons of the Levites at their dedication (Numbers 3:40-51). A substitution was also made when an unclean animal, like a donkey, was given to the Lord (Exodus 13:13). Whatever Jephthah had in mind when he made the vow, did he or did he not sacrifice his daughter? Some think he did, because his vow was to make a burnt offering. Some think he did not, and they offer these reasons: (1) God would not have honored a vow based on a human sacrifice. (2) Judges 11:39 says that she never married ("she knew no man"), not necessarily that she died right away, which could imply that she was set apart for a life of service to God. Whether Jephthah's daughter lived as a dedicated person or died as a sacrifice, Jephthah suffered hard consequences for his decision. Even if she lived, he still lost her and any children she might have had

(11:34-35) Spiritual Bargains - Jephthah's rash vow brought him unspeakable grief. In the heat of emotion or personal turmoil it is easy to make foolish promises to God. These promises may sound very spiritual when we make them, but they may produce only guilt and frustration when we are forced to fulfill them. Making spiritual bargains only brings disappointment. God does not want promises for the future but obedience for today.



Dave Burnette's Life Application

God Will Use You


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we Continue in the book of Judges with Chapter 11 and we see the account of the life of Jephthah. He was the illegitimate son of Gilead and was chased out of the country by his half brother. He suffered as a result of no doing of his own. Despite his brothers rejection God used him in a mighty way to defeat the Ammonites. In making application we see how God uses those who might be in bad situations not of their own doing. It reminds me of many I have had the privilege ministering to in a bus ministry. Many have been used of God although others have shunned them due to their parents choices. How about you? Have you suffered at the hands of others? Let us learn from today's text and the life of Jephthah remembering that God uses those despite the circumstances that surround them.


Judges 11

Judges 11

 1Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.

 2And 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.

 3Then 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.

 4And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.

 5And 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:

 6And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.

 7And 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?

 8And 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.

 9And 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?

 10And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.

 11Then 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.

 12And 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?

 13And 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.

 14And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon:

 15And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:

 16But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh;

 17Then 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.

 18Then 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.

 19And 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.

 20But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.

 21And 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.

 22And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.

 23So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?

 24Wilt 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.

 25And 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,

 26While 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?

 27Wherefore 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.

 28Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.

 29Then 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.

 30And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,

 31Then 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.

 32So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.

 33And 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.

 34And 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.

 35And 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.

 36And 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.

 37And 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.

 38And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.

 39And 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,

 40That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.