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The Judgeship of Jephthah

Scripture Passage: 
Judges 10:6-18; Judges 11:1-40

INTRODUCTION: This is the fifth oppression and deliverance in the book of Judges and things keep getting worse.

  • Israel is serving the gods of those surrounding them, but not their own (Judges 10:6).
  • This time the Lord initially refuses to send help, telling them to get help from the gods they serve (Judges 10:13-14).
  • The deliverer is not of noble birth (as Othniel), or even the least of his family (as Gideon). The deliverer is the son of an harlot who has been rejected by his own family (Judges 11:1-3).
  • The victory is tainted by the offering of Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:31, 39).
  • Jephthah judges Israel for only six years (Judges 12:7). Compare this to the forty years of Gideon (Judges 8:28).

Time is short (see 2 Kings 10:32). The application is clear. How long can we play games with God and get by with it? He is gracious, but at some point His grace runs short.

  1. THE OPPRESSION OF THE AMMONITES (Judges 10:6-18)
    1. The Disobedience of the Israelites (Judges 10:6-9)
      1. Serving everyone’s god but their own (Judges 10:6)
      2. Inciting the Lord to anger against them (Judges 10:7)
      3. Bringing Gilead into 18 years of Ammonite oppression (Judges 10:8)
      4. Facing an army of Ammonites crossing the Jordan (Judges 10:9)
    2. The Lord’s Initial Answer to Israel (Judges 10:10-14)
      1. Israel cries unto the Lord (Judges 10:10).
      2. The Lord recalls previous deliverances (Judges 10:11-12).
      3. The Lord refuses to offer help this time (Judges 10:13-14).
    3. The Continued Cry of the Israelites (Judges 10:15-18)
      1. They continue to seek the Lord (Judges 10:15-16).
        1. They further confess their sins (Judges 10:15).
        2. They submit to God’s judgment (Judges 10:15).
        3. They put away their strange gods (Judges 10:16).
        4. They return to serve the Lord (Judges 10:16).
        5. God’s soul is grieved for their misery (Judges 10:16).
      2. They prepare for battle with Ammon (Judges 10:17).
      3. They seek one to lead their army (Judges 10:18).
  2. THE CHOICE OF JEPHTHAH (Judges 11:1-11)
    1. The Early Life of Jephthah (Judges 11:1-3)
      1. The son of an harlot (Judges 11:1)
      2. A mighty man of valor (Judges 11:1)
      3. An outcast from his father’s house (Judges 11:2)
      4. A leader of a band of vain men (Judges 11:3)
    2. The Elders of Gilead Call for Jephthah (Judges 11:4-8).
      1. They seek out Jephthah to be their captain (Judges 11:4-6).
      2. They answer Jephthah’s complaint with promises (Judges 11:7-8).
    3. Gilead Promises Rulership to Jephthah (Judges 11:9-11).
  3. JEPHTHAH’S MESSAGE TO AMMON (Judges 11:12-28)
    1. An Argument Concerning Land (Judges 11:12-13)
    2. A History of the Conquest (Judges 11:14-22) – Jephthah’s Argument
      1. Israel did not take the land (Judges 11:14-15).
      2. Israel bypassed Edom and Moab to keep peace (Judges 11:16-18).
      3. Israel made the same offer to Ammon (Judges 11:19).
      4. Sihon of the Ammonites chose to fight Israel (Judges 11:20).
      5. But the Lord delivered Ammon to Israel (Judges 11:21-22).
    3. The Right of Possession (Judges 11:23-26)
      1. What God has given will not be surrendered (Judges 11:23).
      2. The children of Ammon would do the same (Judges 11:24).
      3. Others have failed and you will too (Judges 11:25).
      4. Why wait three hundred years to make your claim (Judges 11:26)?
    4. The War Goes On (Judges 11:27-28).
      1. Jephthah leaves it to God to be Judge (Judges 11:27).
      2. The king of Ammon refuses to listen (Judges 11:28).
  4. JEPHTHAH’S VOW AND VICTORY (Judges 11:29-33)
    1. Jephthah Goes to Battle (Judges 11:29).
      1. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon him.
      2. He goes out to meet the children of Ammon.
    2. Jephthah Makes a Foolish Vow (Judges 11:30-31).
      1. The vow to be fulfilled upon Israel’s deliverance (Judges 11:30)
      2. The first to meet him to be made a burnt offering (Judges 11:31)
    3. Jephthah Defeats the Ammonites (Judges 11:32-33).
  5. THE OFFERING OF JEPHTHAH’S DAUGHTER (Judges 11:34-40)
    1. Jephthah’s Daughter Meets Her Father (Judges 11:34-35).
      1. She meets him with timbrels and dances (Judges 11:34).
      2. She is his only child (Judges 11:34).
      3. Her father repents that he made such a vow (Judges 11:35).
    2. Jephthah’s Daughter Bewails Her Virginity (Judges 11:36-38).
      1. His daughter encourages him to keep his vow (Judges 11:36).
      2. His daughter requests a time to mourn her virginity (Judges 11:37).
      3. She spends two months in the mountains (Judges 11:38).
    3. Jephthah Fulfills His Vow (Judges 11:39-40).
      1. Jephthah does to his daughter as he has vowed (Judges 11:39).
      2. The daughters of Israel yearly lament his daughter (Judges 11:40).
      3. NOTE: We are revolted by the thought that a man would offer his daughter as a sacrifice to fulfill a vow to the Lord. Many have tried to find another way, but the text only allows for an actual sacrifice. His vow is that he will offer whatever greeted him first for a “burnt offering” (Judges 11:31). He probably assumed he would be greeted by a pet. He did not count on his daughter being the first out of the door. This is another illustration (of which there are many in Judges) which shows what happens when every man does that which is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25). The next judge (Samson) will be another example of this principle.

CONCLUSION: Our words and actions often have far-reaching results. How many times can we rebel against the Lord? What are the limits of His patience with us? What word will get us into the deepest trouble with Him and others? We must walk soberly, as in the day and not in the night.

David Reagan and Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 15:32

He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.