Making Good out of Bad
Judges 11:1–12:15; Philippians 3:1–11; Psalm 68:15–35
God is renowned for working through unlikely means with the most unlikely people. During the period of the judges, there were few candidates less likely for God’s work than Jephthah himself: “Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior; he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father” (Judg 11:1). The man is the son of a prostitute and an adulterer who had other sons with his wife (compare Judg 11:2). It can seem odd that details like this are included in the Bible. This one is there because God is about to do something unexpected.
When Jephthah is told that he won’t inherit anything from his father, he flees and assembles a motley crew of other outlaws (Judg 11:3). If you’ve seen The Magnificent Seven, you might be tracking with this Wild West story: “After a time the Ammonites [a threatening nation of strong warriors], made war with Israel [a small nation with a reserve army at best]. When the Ammonites made war with Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. And they said to Jephthah, ‘Come and be our commander’ ” (Judg 11:4–6). Just like in The Magnificent Seven, the fates are about to turn: the misfit rebels will rise to the defense of the people who don’t understand them.
Jephthah goes to war against the Ammonites and wins, but he makes an impulsive and tragic mistake in the process (Judg 11:29–40). God had prepared him for this great work, but he fumbles—resorting to the types of vows made to foreign gods. He rebels against Yahweh and ends up killing his daughter as a result of his mistakes.
Although Jephthah was unexpectedly called to a great purpose, he didn’t respond to that call with a proper of understanding of God. Jephthah could have repented from his rash vow, for God would not have wanted him to do such a thing as kill his daughter, but instead, he chose to view Yahweh like every other foreign god that demanded child sacrifice. In return, the life of Jephthah’s daughter was lost, and the spiritual life of Jephthah and the people he led was compromised.
What can we learn from Jephthah and his tragic mistake? Follow God’s calling, even when it’s unexpected. But in doing so, we must understand and embrace who He is and how He is working among us.
What does God want to do through you? How can you obey with a proper understanding and knowledge of Him?
JOHN D. BARRY and KRUYSWIJK, R.
- Then Gilead begat Jephtath, and Jephtath the Gileadite was was a valiant man, but the son of an harlot. And Gilead’s wife bare him sons, and when the woman’s children were come to age, they thrust out Jephtath, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit our father’s house: for thou art the son of a strange woman. Then Jephtath fled from his brethen, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there gathered idle fellows to Jephtath, and went out with him. And in process of time, the children of Ammon made war with Israel. And when the children of Ammon fought with Israel, the Elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthath out of the land of Tob. And they said unto Jephtath, Come and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. Jephthah then answered the Elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me,and expel me out of my father’s house? how then come you unto me now in time of your tribulation? Then the Elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between us, if we do not according to thy words. Then Jephthah went with the Elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah rehearsed all his words before the Lord in Mizpah. Then Jephthah sent messengers unto the kings of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me, to fight in my land? And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took my land, when they came up from Egypt, from Arnon unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands quietly. Yet Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon, And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon. But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the red sea, then they came to Kadesh. And Israel sent messengers again unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, go through thy land: but the king of Edom would not consent: and also they sent unto the king of Moab, but he would not: therefore Israel abode in Kadesh. Then they went through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the Eastside of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, and came not within the coast of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab. Also Israel sent messengers unto Sihon, king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, by thy land unto our place. But Sihon consented not to Israel, that he should go through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought with Israel. And the Lord God of Israel gave Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought with Israel. And the Lord God of Israel gave Sihon, and all his folk into the hands of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. And they possessed all the coast of the Amorites, from Arnon unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan. Now therefore the Lord God of Israel hath cast out the Amorites before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it? Wouldest not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the Lord our God driveth out before us, them will we possess. And art thou now far better than Balak the son of Zippor king of Moab? did he not strive with Israel and fight against them, When Israel dwelt in Heshbon and in her towns, and in Aroer and in her towns, and in all the cities that are by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why did ye not then recover them in that space? Wherefore I have not offended 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. Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah, which he had sent him. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over to Gilead, and to Manasseh, and came to Mizpah in Gilead, and from Mizpah in Gilead he went unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then that thing that cometh out of the doors of mine house to meet me, when I come home in peace from the children of Ammon, shall be the Lord’s and I will offer it for a burnt offering. And so Jephthah went unto the children of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer even till though came to Minnith, twenty cities, and so forth to Abel of the vineyards, with an exceeding great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were humbled before the children of Israel. Now when he saw her, he rent his clothes, and said, Alas my daughter, thou hast brought me low, and art of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do with me as thou has promised, seeing that the Lord hath avenged thee of thine enemies the children of Ammon. Also she said unto her father, Do thus much for me: suffer me two months, that I may go to the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go: and he sent her away two months: so she went with her companions, and lamented her virginity upon the mountains. And after the end of two months, she turned again unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed, and she had known no man. And it was a custom in Israel: The daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite, four days in a year. … And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went Northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore wentest thou to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will therefore burn their house upon thee with fire. And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of the Ammon, and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands. So when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in mine hands, and went upon the children of Ammon: so the Lord delivered from into mine hands. Wherefore then are ye come upon me now to fight against me? Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are runagates of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites. Also the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites, and when the Ephraimites that were escaped, said, Let me pass, then the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou and Ephraimite? If he said, Nay, Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Shibboleth: for he could not so pronounce: then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites two and forty thousand. And Jephthah judged Israel six years: then died and Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead. After him Izban of Bethlehem judged Israel, Who had thirty sons and thirty daughters, which he sent out, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons: and he judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died, and was buried at Bethlehem. And after him judged Israel Elon, a Zebulunite, and he judged Israel ten years. Then Elon the Zebulunite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun. And after him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. And he had forty sons and thirty nephews that rode on seventy asscolts: and he judged Israel eight years. Then died Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite, and was buried in Pirathon, in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites. Judges 11:1-12:15
- Moreover, my brethen, rejoice in the Lord. It grieveth me not to write the same things to you, and for you it is a sure thing. Beware of dogs: beware of evil workers: beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh: Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, much more I, Circumcised the eighth day, of the kindred of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, by the Law a Pharisee. Concerning zeal, I persecuted the Church: touching the righteousness which is in the Law, I was unrebukeable. But the things that were vantage unto me, the same I counted loss for Christ’s sake. Yea, doubtless I think all things but loss for the excellent knowledge sake of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have counted all things loss, and do judge them to be dung, that I might win Christ, And might be found in him, that is, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God through faith, That I may know him, and the virtue of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his afflictions, and be made conformable unto his death, If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead, Philippians 3:1-11
- The mountain of God is like the mountain of Bashan: it is an high mountain, as mount Bashan. Why leap ye, ye high mountains? as for this Mountain, God delighteth to dwell in it: yea, the Lord will dwell in it forever. The chariots of God are twenty thousand thousand Angels, and the Lord is among them, as in the Sanctuary of Sinai. Thou art gone up on high: thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men: yea, even the rebellious host thou led, that the Lord God might dwell there. Praised be the Lord, even the God of our salvation, which ladeth us daily with benefits. Selah. This is our God, even the God that saveth us: and to the Lord God belong the issues of death. Surely God will wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy pate of him that walketh in his sins. The Lord hath said, I will bring my people again from Bashan: I will bring them again from the depths of the Sea: That thy foot may be dipped in blood, and the tongues of thy dogs in the blood of the enemies, even in it. They have seen, O God, thy goings, the goings of my God, and my king, which art in the Sanctuary. The singers went before, the players of instruments after: in the midst were maids playing with timbrels. Praise ye God in the assemblies, and the Lord, ye that are of the foundation of Israel. There was little Benjamin with their ruler, and the Princes of Judah with their assembly, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali. Thy GOD hath appointed thy strength: establish, O God, that which thou first wrought in us, Out of thy Temple upon Jerusalem, and kings shall brings presents unto thee. Destroy the company of the spearmen, and multitude of the mighty bulls with the calves of the people, that tread under feet pieces of silver: scatter the people that delight in war. Then shall the princes come out of Egypt: Ethiopia shall haste to stretch her hands unto God. Sing unto God, O ye kingdoms of the earth: sing praise unto the Lord, (Selah) To him that rideth upon the most high heavens, which were from the beginning: behold, he will send out by his voice a mighty sound. Ascribe the power to God: or his majesty is upon Israel, and his strength is in the clouds. O God, thou art terrible out of thine holy places: the God if Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto the people: praised be God. Psalm 68:15-35