Jephthah—A Victory and A Vow
March 15 - Nº 74 Judges 10:6 – 11:40
Despite the many times God had stepped in to rescue His people, they continued to worship foreign gods. So, God allowed them to suffer the consequences of their choices. As a result, the Philistine and Ammonite nations attacked and subjugated the Israelites for 18 years. Finally, they called out to God for help. “No! Not this time!” God replied, “I have constantly rescued you ever since you were in Egypt. Go and cry to the gods you have chosen to worship. Let them deliver you!” At this point, the Israelites acknowledged their sin. They destroyed their foreign gods and began to worship and serve the Lord. As the Ammonites gathered their troops to attack Israel again, the Jewish nation begged God to rescue them. God could not bear to watch them suffer any longer, so He allowed a strong, young warrior named Jephthah to become their leader. Jephthah was the son of a man named Gilead. However, Jephthah’s mother was a prostitute. His father had raised him with the rest of his family, but when he was grown, his half-brothers decided to run him out of town so that he couldn’t get any of their inheritance. However, now that they were about to be annihilated by the Ammonites, the brothers turned to the one person they knew was a strong military leader—their half-brother Jephthah. They begged him to become the commander of their army. “Didn’t you try to get rid of me?” Jephthah asked. “Now that you need my help, do you suddenly like me?” His brothers were so desperate, they promised to let him be their ruler if he was victorious. Jephthah finally agreed to help. He sent a messenger to the king of Ammon to find out why he was planning this attack. The king responded, “Because Israel stole my land when they were coming out of Egypt.” Jephthah sent back a lengthy historical account of how God had given the land to Israel and how the Ammonites were the ones who were trespassing. But the King of Ammon paid no attention. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah, and he led the Israelites into battle. He made a vow to God saying, “If you help us win, I will dedicate the first thing that comes out of the door of my house to You. I will consecrate it as I would a burnt offering” (meaning he would completely dedicate it to God). God gave Israel the victory. So, Jephthah headed home. To his horror, his daughter (who was his only child) danced out of the door to meet him! Jephthah was distraught! He knew that it would be sinful to break his vow to the Lord. He explained everything to his daughter. Rather than despising her father for making this vow, she encouraged him to keep it. But she made a request. She wanted to spend two months in the mountains with her friends before she began her lifelong commitment to God’s service. She realized that her father’s vow would keep her from ever getting married—she would remain a virgin. Later in history, it became a tradition for Jewish girls to spend four days each year remembering the unselfish response of Jephthah’s daughter to her father’s promise.
Are you sometimes careless with your words and promises? Jephthah never imagined that his vow would affect his daughter in the way that it did. Pledges are seldom necessary to convey our character or intent, but if made, they need to be kept.