The story of Jephthah - from a broken home yet became Gods commander (Bible verses and Notes)

Saved from a dysfunctional home: Jephthah

Sermon notes can be found here:

Judges 11


1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family," they said, "because you are the son of another woman." 3So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him.

Birth and family situation of Jephthah the Gileadite

Jephthah flees from home

Sets up gang

4Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, 5the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6"Come," they said, "be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites."

Ammonites press against Israel – they want him as commander; he was a very good gang leader – a bold brave man

7Jephthah said to them, "Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble?"

Jephthah reminds them of his position – driven from home, unwanted – so why do they want him back?

8The elders of Gilead said to him, "Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head over all who live in Gilead."

Elders give reason why Jephthah is to be elevated to commander

9Jephthah answered, "Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me—will I really be your head?"

Jephthah does not really trust his fellow men who abused him so much when he was a kid – they just looked on.

10The elders of Gilead replied, "The LORD is our witness; we will certainly do as you say." 11So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.

Elders press Jephthah to accept command.

Made commander – and sought the Lord over this matter.

12Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: "What do you have against us that you have attacked our country?"

Starts process on diplomatic front – war was second option.

13The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah's messengers, "When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably."

Ammon lies concerning the land – they wanted to plunder the land

14Jephthah sent back messengers to the Ammonite king, 15saying:


"This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. 16But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the desert to the Red Sea and on to Kadesh. 17Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, 'Give us permission to go through your country,' but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.

Jephthah replies to diplomatic response to the effect that the demand is unjustified and unreasonable – they did not have a right to the land, Israel never took land from Ammon or Moab, (both from the same genealogy) because God ordered it Deut 2:9 & 19 – His plea is not guilty of trespass.

18"Next they travelled through the desert, skirted the lands of Edom and Moab, passed along the eastern side of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon. They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.

He sets out the history of the Jews as they entered the Promised Land. They had to travel through occupied land: but were not allowed to attack: Ammon (Lot's youngest daughter's son's family), Moab (Lot's oldest daughter's son's family), or Edom (Jacob's brothers family)

19"Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, 'Let us pass through your country to our own place.' 20Sihon, however, did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered all his men and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.

He argues that if Sihon (King of the Amorites) did dishonourable things, it was not a matter for the Ammonites, furthernire, Israel had behaved reasonably, the Amorites had not.

21"Then the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his men into Israel's hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, 22capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.

He shows that the war that followed was just and God sanctioned, and Israel took over the land from the Amorites, 300 years previous to this dialog.

23"Now since the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over?

The argument continues in that if the Amorites had taken land from the Ammonites, before Israel arrived, and Israel had subsequently conquered the Amorites, it was of no business to the Ammonites – Israel had their own economy to consider. And anyway, it was not Israel that won the land it was the Lord God! Hence Israel owns it!

24Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the LORD our God has given us, we will possess. 25Are you better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them?

He suggests the Ammonites actually appeal to their god for help – and since they thought their god had given them the land initially, it was right and proper that Jephthah know that his God gave him the land now.

26For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn't you retake them during that time? 27I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the LORD, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites."

Further, no one argued when they first entered the land for Balak (Num 22:2) knew that Israel had fairly won the land from the Amorites. And anyway this is now 300 years later! The Lord God is the judge! The law was made for the lawless 1T1:9

28The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.

The king pays no attention to what Jephthah has said

29Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites.

Clearly Jephthah is abiding in the Lord, who sends His spirit to come upon him. That is God gives him and excellent spirit thus confirming him in his role – who gave him bravely and success. Led by the Lord he takes on Ammon and soundly defeats them.

30And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD'S, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."

Jephthah makes an unadvised vow – suggests some doubt as to the victory – not fully comprehending Gen 15:18. He actually bargains with the Lord.

32Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. 33He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

With wisdom and understanding he goes to war with success

34When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. P35PWhen he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."

His vow is dark and in the clouds, as his daughter comes out of house to great the victors, as was custom in that day.

Misery befalls Jephthah.

36"My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37But grant me this one request," she said. "Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry."

There is no complaint from the girl – other than to bewail the fact that there she will have no children, that is, no descendants.

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.

A vow is not made to purchase success from God. Leviticus 27:2 sets the rules, also Deut 23:22.
Vows cannot be made from emotion, but from a heart that is set to please God.
Vows are not made rashly – Prov 20:25
Only child – but sacrifice would send her to paradise.

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.

There is no doubt by some commentators that she was offered up as a burnt offering, including Josephus.

Judges 12


1The men of Ephraim called out their forces, crossed over to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, "Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We're going to burn down your house over your head."

Ephraim are upset because they were not call to help, hence to receive part of the booty of war = pride (see 8:1)

2Jephthah answered, "I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn't save me out of their hands. 3When I saw that you wouldn't help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?"

He had no cause to quarrel with them – he was engaged in war to defend the country not seek glory. But he had called and they did not come. The adventure was dangerous.

And anyway, the Lord gave the victory.

4Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, "You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh." 5The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, "Let me cross over," the men of Gilead asked him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he replied, "No," 6they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.'" If he said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.

The Lord fought and they won!

Since they would not listen he defeated them!

7Jephthah lead Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died, and was buried in a town in Gilead.


David L Simon (CCC January 2005 and elsewhere) – Edited November 2008, 2016
\Judges\Judges 11 and 12 - Saved from a broken home (Jephthah) – Scripture and notes