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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Judges 11

 

 

Verses 1-40

Judges 11:1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.

Judges 11:1 — "Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour" - Comments - The phrase "mighty man of valour" was given to the two judges Gideon and Jephthah. This phase is used frequently in the Old Testament.

Judges 6:12, "And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour."

Judges 11:3 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.

Judges 11:3Comments- Scholars believe that Jephthah most likely became a type of "Robin Hood" in support of the Israelites and against their Ammonite neighbours, 24] otherwise why would the elders of Gilead ask him to be their military leader ( Judges 11:8-9). Their request for Jephthah to fight the Ammonites suggests these elders recognized his ability to defeat these enemies of Israel. This view is also supported by the opening verse that describes him as "a mighty man of valour," which, used within the context of the book of Judges , describes one of Israel's deliverers. Although the biblical text does not describe the group of people Jephthah oppressed, he seems to have proven himself before the elders of Israel through the demonstration of his strength and courage in battle.

24] Robert A. Watson, Judges and Ruth , in The Expositor's Bible, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1900), 235.

Judges 11:1-3Comments- The Historical Background of Jephthah - Judges 11:1-3 is inserted within the plot of Judges 10:6 to Judges 12:7 in order to explain why the elders of Gilead chose Jephthah as their leader. The two armies of the Ammonites and Israelites are encamped in Gilead ( Judges 10:8) as the author discusses the historical background of Jephthah ( Judges 11:1-3) before returning to the plot of Israel's war with Ammon ( Judges 11:4).

Judges 11:7 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?

Judges 11:7Comments- Jephthah had grounds for suspicion against the elders of Gilead, having been driven from their land and never welcomed back. He felt their motive was for their own benefit rather than for his.

Judges 11:8 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.

Judges 11:8 — "and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead" - Comments - The elders of Gilead had decided to offer their champion the leadership over their tribe if he could deliver them from the Ammonites ( Judges 10:18). They make this offer to Jephthah in Judges 11:8.

Judges 10:18, "And the people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."

Judges 11:11 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.

Judges 11:11Word Study on "Mizpeh" - The Targum defines Mizpeh as a "place of view," or "a watch-tower." 25] Warren says it is derived from a root word that means, "to look out, to view." 26]

25] C. Warren, "Mizpah and Mizpeh," in A Dictionary of the Bible with its Language, Literature, and Content Including the Biblical Theology, vol 3, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), 400.

26] C. Warren, "Mizpah and Mizpeh," in A Dictionary of the Bible with its Language, Literature, and Content Including the Biblical Theology, vol 3, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), 400.

Comments - The children of Israel were encamped at Mizpeh in preparation for battle with the Ammonites ( Judges 10:17). Jephthah and the elders of Gilead met at Mizpeh to confirm their vow between one another. There stood a heap of stones made as a witness between Jacob and his father-in-law Laban centuries earlier when he fled from him and was overtaken ( Genesis 31:46-52). This heap of stones served as an enduring testimony of the covenant made between these two parties on that day. It was at Mizpeh that Jephthah and the elders retreated to make another vow, following the tradition of this place as the location where God met with their forefather Jacob and honored his vow with Laban. Thus, Jephthah uttered his words as well before the Lord at Mizpeh.

Judges 11:10-11Scripture References - The Lord Is Witness- Note a similar statement in Psalm 50:4, "He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people."

Judges 11:12 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?

Judges 11:12"What hast thou to do with me" - Comments- Note a similar use of this phrase in John 2:4, "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come."

"that thou art come against me to fight in my land" - Comments - The Ammonites were encamped in Gilead ( Judges 10:17).

Judges 10:17, "Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh."

Judges 11:13 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.

Judges 11:13 — "Because Israel took …. unto Jordan" - Comments- The king of Ammon makes a false statement by accusing Israel of taking his land The truth is that God did not let Israel possess Ammon nor Moab ( Deuteronomy 2:9; Deuteronomy 2:19). Hence, Jephthah's reply will deny the king's statement.

Deuteronomy 2:9, "And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession."

Deuteronomy 2:19, "And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession."

Judges 11:13"now therefore restore those lands again peaceably" - Comments- This statement sounds like nations today around Israel trying to get lands controlled by Israel.

Judges 11:28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.

Judges 11:28Comments - The Ammonites were expecting to plunder the Israelites as they had done many times before. However, they did not factor in the fact that Israel had entered into a vow with the Lord in their renewal of faith in Him.

Judges 11:29-31Comments- Jephthah's Rash Vow - We must understand that Jephthah was doing what he thought was right in the sight of the Lord in making a rash vow. Jephthah was simply doing what the devout pagans around him were doing in performing a religious vow of faith in their gods, or what the Israelites were doing as an act of faith in YHWH. Jephthah may have believed that when he returned home from war, one of his domesticated animals would run to meet him first, as it commonly happens. However, some scholars believe this was a clear reference to a human sacrifice. 27] Either way, Jephthah may have not expected his own beloved daughter to come out and reach him first. He was expressing his greatest depth of devotion to the Lord.

27] Robert A. Watson, Judges and Ruth , in The Expositor's Bible, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1900), 243.

Such a rash vow testifies of the emotional passion of oriental people. They were passionate but fierce people, ready to be hospitable to others, and quick to become inflamed with wrath. They were as quickly moved to tears as to wrath.

The Mosaic Law clearly forbade the sacrifice of human beings ( Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2, Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:10).

Leviticus 18:21, "And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD."

Leviticus 20:2, "Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones."

Deuteronomy 12:31, "Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods."

Deuteronomy 18:10, "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,"

The fact that Jephthah's vow found its fulfillment in a human sacrifice may imply his ignorance of the Mosaic Law, for there were clear provisions for substituting redemption money for the sacrifice ( Leviticus 27:1-13). After all, he had been exiled from Israel and did not have as easy access to the Mosaic. However, he certainly knew the history of his land as recorded in the Pentateuch, telling the king of the Ammonites how the Lord delivered it unto the Israelites ( Judges 11:14-26). Thus, he may have felt redeeming his daughter was a way of reducing the sincerity of his vow unto God.

Jephthah may have misunderstood Leviticus 27:28-29 and interpreted it to allow human sacrifices under the Mosaic Law. 28]

28] Matthew Henry, Leviticus, in Matthew Henry"s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Modern Edition, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1991), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Leviticus 27:26-34.

Leviticus 27:28-29, "Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death."

Judges 11:39 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,

Judges 11:39Comments - The Scriptures record a number of accounts in which a person offers his child as a sacrifice upon the altar. God commanded Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering ( Genesis 22:2). Jephthah offered his only child as a burnt offering. ( Judges 11:39). The king of Moab offered his firstborn son as a burnt offering ( 2 Kings 3:27). Such forms of pagan worship have been practiced from antiquity. Josiah burnt the bones of the pagan priests upon the altar of incense ( 2 Kings 23:20) in fulfilment of prophecy ( 1 Kings 13:1-2).

Genesis 22:2, "And he said, Take now thy Song of Solomon , thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."

Judges 11:39, "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,"

2 Kings 3:27, "Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land."

2 Kings 23:20, "And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men"s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem."

1 Kings 13:1-2, "And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men"s bones shall be burnt upon thee."

 


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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Judges 11:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/judges-11.html. 2013.

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