Jephthah is called to be the next judge of Israel.
Judges 11:1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite [Bashan, Golan; the land of Reuben, Manasseh and Gad east of Jordan] was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.
Jephthah was despised by his brothers in his father’s house.
11:2 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.
Despised and downtrodden people then gathered around Jephthah, like they would later gather around the rejected David.
11:3 Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain [“empty”; in context; lowly, despised, men who fled from their oppressors in Israel] men to Jephthah, and went out with him.
Then when Ammon came to fight Israel the elders called Jephthah back to save them. To them he was not good enough to have a share in his father’s house, but later he was to become their deliverer.
11:4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. 11:5 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: 11:6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.
Jephthah asks the elders why they called on him; they answered that they want him to lead them. In context; Jephthah had led his band in the wilderness as David did, and he was the only one prepared to go to battle against Ammon.
11:7 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead [Bashan, Golan; the land of Reuben, Manasseh and Gad east of Jordan], 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? 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.
The elders covenant with Jephthah that if he delivers them, Jephthah will be their head.
We can see a spiritual pattern here: Jesus Christ is the leader of a little band [flock] of brethren today and is rejected by the physical nations of Israel today. In the near future the physical nations of Israel will call upon the name of the Mighty One that they have rejected, to come and save them and to be their King.
11:9 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? 11:10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.
This covenant between Jephthah and Israel was made in a meeting before God.
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.
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?
Jephthah enquires why Ammon has come up to fight, and the king of Ammon gives his answer.
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.
11:14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: 11:15 And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:
Jephthah then rehearses the history to show that Israel took no land from Moab or Ammon.
11:16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh; 11:17 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.
11:18 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.
Israel did not fight Edom or Moab, but fought the Amorites.
11:19 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. 11:20 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. 11:21 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. 11:22 And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.
Japhath declares that the lands Ammon is demanding are the lands of the Amorites, and not any land belonging to Ammon; he then asks the king of Ammon why he is demanding the lands of the Amorites for himself.
11:23 So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?
Japhath then asks the king of Ammon why he is not content with the “land of his god;” as Israel should have the land that their God gave to them.
11:24 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.
Japhath then asked if the king of Ammon was like Balak who strove with Israel without a cause.
11:25 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
Japhath then declares that God had given Israel the land and that they had dwelt in it for three hundred years; meaning that the king of Ammon was looking for a reason to make war to take away the lands given to Israel.
We can see here that Japhath knew his history and he knew the Word of God, and he gave a reasoned argument in order to try and avoid war with Ammon. Remember that Ammon was of Lot and they were NOT Canaanites.
11:26 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?
The Eternal had forbidden Israel to attack Moab, Ammon or Edom or to take their lands over three hundred years previously; therefore this attack by the king of Ammon was not right before God.
11:27 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.
11:28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.
Then Jephthah being rejected by the king of Ammon proceeded to the battle.
11:29 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.
Then Jephthah makes a rash vow
11:30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 11:31 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.
The God Being who later was made flesh as Jesus Christ, went before Jephthath and gave him the victory
11:32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. 11:33 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.
Then upon returning home from the victory; his daughter came out to meet him in dances of rejoicing. This must have been crushing to Jephthah. Perhaps this was from God to teach us all a lesson about rash vows?
11:34 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. 11:35 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.
Jephthah tells his daughter and she accepts the situation with grace and humble obedience. How many of us even keep our baptismal vow of faithfulness to the whole Word of God today!
11:36 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.
It is to be understood that the Burnt Offering typified whole hearted service to God; and that this lady was not killed and burned [which was forbidden by God’s command] but was to remain an unmarried virgin, totally dedicated to the service of God for her lifetime. Hence she bewailed her virginity which was never to be given to any husband.
11:37 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. 11:38 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.
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, 11:40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
Ephraim then seeks to have a part of the victory after the battle is already won.
Judges 12:1 And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah,Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire.
Jephthah, in jeopardy of his life, then boldly declares that they were called and they did not come.
12:2 And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands.
12:3 And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me?
Then Ephraim said that these men of Jephthah were wanted men in Ephraim for not including Ephraim in the fight against Ammon. Then war broke out between Ephraim and the Jephthah.
12:4 Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives [wanted men] of [by] Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.
Then the men of Jephthah defeated Ephraim and were able to take the crossing of Jordan before the fleeing Ephraimites could escape.
12:5 And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; 12:6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.
12:7 And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.
12:8 And after him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. 12:9 And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. 12:10 Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Bethlehem.
12:11 And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years. 12:12 And Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun.
12:13 And after him Abdon the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, judged Israel. 12:14 And he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten ass colts: and he judged Israel eight years. 12:15 And Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died, and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites.