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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 11

 

 

Verses 1-40


Jephthah's Victory over the Ammonites. His Rash Vow

1-11. The Choice of Jephthah.

1. As the son of a harlot, Jephthah has no legal standing in the tribe. Gilead begat] Throughout the rest of the narrative Gilead is the name of a place, not a person (cp. Judges 12:7). Here Gilead's 'sons' represent the legitimate tribesmen.

3. Tob] must have been near Gilead, probably to the NE. (cp. 2 Samuel 10:6). Vain men] see on Judges 9:4. 'Broken men,' such as came to David at the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:2). Went out] on forays.

9. Jephthah insists on being more than a hired captain: he will be reinstated in the tribe, and placed at its head permanently: cp. 1 Samuel 11:15.

11. Before the Lord] in the holy place at Mizpeh, so that there would be no going back from the bargain.

12-28. Jephthah and the Ammonite chieftain. For this appeal to the enemy's sense of right cp. Numbers 20:14., an event to which Jephthah here refers.

13. See on Judges 10:7. Restore] The possessions of Israel are still in dispute.

18. Jephthah points out that Israel made a wide detour so as to leave the real territory of Moab free; he does not refer specifically to Amnion, but in the following vv., as here, he seems to have Moab specially in his mind. The two peoples were akin to one another: cp. Genesis 19:37, Genesis 19:38.

19. See Numbers 21:21. Heshbon is 16 m. E. of the Jordan, and 12 m. S. of the capital of Ammon. The Amorite territory had belonged to Moab formerly (Numbers 21:26).

20. Coast] RV 'border,' i.e. territory. Jahaz] cp. Numbers 21:28; Deuteronomy 2:32 a Moabite city.

22. The wilderness] the Eastern desert.

23. Jephthah's argument (see on Judges 11:19) is that no land had been taken from Moab or Ammon, only from the aboriginal Amorites.

24. Chemosh] properly, the god of Moab. The Ammonite god was Milcom (1 Kings 11:33, etc.). It has been inferred that Jephthah, or the narrator of Jephthah's words, believed in the existence and power of Chemosh as in that of Jehovah: but this cannot be held to be certain: see also Judges 11:27. An interesting commentary on this passage is to be found in an inscription of Mesha, king of Moab (2 Kings 3:4.), who ascribes all his defeats to the wrath of Chemosh, and his conquests over Israel to Chemosh's goodwill.

25. RV rightly puts the stop at the end of the v. Judges 11:26 begins a fresh question: see Numbers 22:2.

26. Aroer] on the N. bank of the Arnon, like Heshbon and Jahaz, is a Moabite town. The Ammonite town, Rabbath-Ammon, is unmentioned. Three hundred years] The different periods hitherto mentioned in the book amount to 301 years.

29-33. Jephthah's Victory over Ammon.

29. The Spirit of the Lord] cp. 7:34. In Judges 11:11 Jephthah and all the people are already at Mizpeh. If these words stand in the right place, they must refer to further journeys taken by Jephthah to rouse the whole people, previous to attacking the Ammonites.

30, 31. Cp. the vows of Jacob (Genesis 28:20), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11), Absalom (2 Samuel 15:8). Whatsoever] RM 'whosoever.' Who would have been more likely to come out to meet the returning captain than his only daughter? Mesha, king of Moab, sacrificed his eldest son in the stress of a siege (2 Kings 3:27), and that the rite of child-sacrifice was not unknown in Israel is shown by 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 21:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Ezekiel 16:20; Ezekiel 20:26; Micah 6:7, etc. Cp. also Genesis 22.

33. The plain of vineyards] should be a proper name, Abel-cheramim (so RV).

34-40. The fulfilment of Jephthah's vow. The tragic story is told with consummate art and noble reticence. There is no reason to doubt its literal truth.

34. Came out to meet him] cp. Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6.

35. Thou] The pronoun is emphatic. Jephthah had had troubles enough both from his kinsmen and his foes. When his daughter comes out to meet him, the full significance of his self-imposed vow bows him strengthless to the ground.

36. His daughter divines what is in his mind: for she could hardly have learned of his vow beforehand (Judges 11:34).

37. Bewail my virginity] The greatest grief of a Hebrew woman consisted in being childless. The writer leaves us in no doubt of her fate.

40. Lament] RV 'celebrate.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Judges 11:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/judges-11.html. 1909.

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