We’re reading through Judges at Oak Tree Church, and I’m posting some observations from my daily readings here within a day or two after the reading. I’d love for you to join in the discussion.
Thoughts on Judges 11
So here is the continuation of yesterday’s story in chapter 10.
They said, “Come, be our commander, so we can fight with the Ammonites.” Jephthah said to the leaders of Gilead, “But you hated me and made me leave my father’s house. Why do you come to me now, when you are in trouble?” Judges 11:6-7 NET
This sounds a lot like the conversation God had with Israel in 10:11-16 – “Why do you come to me now, only when you need me?”
Jephthah sent messengers back to the Ammonite king and said to him, “This is what Jephthah says, ‘Israel did not steal the land of Moab and the land of the Ammonites.'” Judges 11:14-15 NET
This whole section (11:14-28) is basically a history lesson. Instead of just going into battle, Jephthah makes a wise leadership move: find out what the other side is thinking. Once he knew where they were coming from he could try a peaceful solution to the problem. It doesn’t always work out that way (like here), but it’s a great first step.
Secondly, had he not known Israel’s history for the previous 300 years, he would not have been able to answer as wisely as he did. The Ammonite king was clearly in the wrong, and it gave Jephthah more credibility with his followers.
Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, saying, “If you really do hand the Ammonites over to me, then whoever is the first to come through the doors of my house to meet me when I return safely from fighting the Ammonites– he will belong to the LORD and I will offer him up as a burnt sacrifice.” Judges 11:30-31 NET
This passage throws people for a loop frequently. “Did he really do it? How could God allow that?” Notice a couple of points here:
- God was going to give the victory anyway. (Jephthah said, “If you really do…”) He did not command or require Jephthah to make this vow or do this thing.
- Solomon said, “It is better for you not to vow than to vow and not pay it” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). Even though God does not accept human sacrifice as worship, he also does not accept broken vows made to him.
Jephthah put himself in an unenviable position because of his foolish and rash vow. Some principles we should take away from this story are: 1) Many times the pain we experience in life is purely of our own doing; and 2) Sometimes God let’s us do stupid stuff just so we can learn to not do stupid stuff.
What did you see in these verses? What was important to you in Judges 11 that I did not see?