The time period that God used the judges to lead Israel was instituted by God to test the people of Israel. It was also a time where God wanted to instruct his people how to live and govern their lives according to his purposes. The Israelites often strayed from the Lord during this era and worshipped other Gods. The story of Jephthah is another chapter in the history of Israel where God uses a judge to free his people from the tyranny of a foreign oppressor. He appears on the Biblical Timeline Poster around 1150 BC
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Jephthah was born of a prostitute from a man named Gilead. This man also had a wife who bore him children. When Gilead’s sons were born and grew up, they separated themselves from Jephthah. They didn’t want Jephthah to claim their father’s inheritance because he was born from an illegitimate union. Jephthah then left his home and had to live in a place called Tob. Once Jephthah was in Tob, he found other men of valour and war who gathered around him. Now Jephthah had a small force, and they apparently were known for their feats of battle and bravery.
Years later the people of Ammon made war against the Israelites, and they didn’t have anyone strong enough to repel them. So the elders went to Jephthah and asked him to defend the nation. Jephthah was angry with them and questioned them about their decision to seek his help after they forced him to leave his home.
Jephthah then told the people of Israel that he would fight for them, and if he were to win the battle, he would be their new leader. Since the people of Ammon were severely oppressing the Israelites, they agreed to his terms. Jephthah was given authority by the elders of Israel to lead the people into battle. After Jephthah was in power, he then sent messengers to the king of Ammon informing him to stop harassing the Israelites. The king of Ammon claimed that the Israelites had stolen their lands from them when they left out of Egypt. Jephthah replied that the Israelites didn’t steal anything from them. The people of Ammon didn’t listen and kept up their campaign against the Israelites.
God sent his spirit over Jephthah who then made a vow to conquer the people of Ammon, and the Lord confirmed this vow. Jephthah then conquered the people of Ammon and became the leader or judge of Israel.
This part of Jephthah’s story is similar to many of the other judges of Israel but where it differs is the vow that Jephthah made to God. Jephthah told God he would give him the first thing that came out of his house to greet him. Jephthah didn’t realize that he would have to sacrifice his daughter.
He realized the foolishness of his vow when his daughter was the first to greet him. Even though he was reluctant about offering his daughter as a sacrifice, he knew that he had to make good on his word. Jephthah sacrificed his daughter and the virgins in the land of Israel to pay homage to her memory by mourning her loss every year. Jephthah also had to fight against the Ephraimites during a later period of his reign. The Ephraimites didn’t help the Israelites against Ammon, and they ended up wanting to fight them instead. After defeating the Ephraimites, Jephthah judged the Israelites for six more years and then passed away.
Biblical References to Jephthah
- Judges 11:2 Jephthah is thrown out of his home by his brothers.
- Judges 11:6-7 the people ask Jephthah to lead them into battle against the people of Ammon.
- Judges 11:9 Jephthah agrees to their request and becomes the leader of Israel.
- Judges 11:31 Jephthah vows to sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his house to greet him if God gives him the victory against Ammon.
- Judges 11: 39 Jephthah makes good on his vow and sacrifices his virgin daughter to God.