Recall of Jephthah [Judges 11.4-11.11]
Scripture: Judges 11.4-11.11(KJV)
4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.
5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob:
6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.
7 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?
8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.
9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?
10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.
11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.
There are few characters that can be found within the Holy Scriptures, about who it might be said are finer or nobler than Jephthah, or rather Jiphthach ("the breaker through"). He is introduced to us as "a mighty man of valor"—the same terms by which the angel had first addressed Gideon: “And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, "The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!" (Judges 6:12; NKJV). It appears that Gideon had proved himself, on former occasions, to be a man of courage and personal prowess; and this would naturally excite the confidence of his countrymen. God chooses for his work those instruments which, in the course of his operations in nature and providence, he has qualified for his purpose. The instruments thus chosen are generally unlikely, but they will be the best qualified for the Divine service.
But this "mighty hero" must first learn to conquer his own spirit. His history is almost a parallel to that of Abimelech—only in the way of contrast; and not in the way of similarity. There follows some examples to support my claim:
1. Abimelech had of his own accord left his father's house to plan genocide against his brethren and treason against his own nation; Jephthah was wrongfully driven out by his brothers from his home and his father's inheritance.
2. Abimelech had appealed to the citizens of Shechem to help him with his vile ambition; Jephthah appealed to the "elders of Gilead" to rectify the wrong done to him by his brethren, but apparently in vain (see 11:7).
3. Abimelech had committed unprovoked and cruel murder with his hired band; Jephthah withdrew to the land of Tob, which, from 2 Samuel 10:6, 8, we know to have been on the northern boundary of Peraea between Syria and the land of Ammon. There he gathered around him a number of freebooters, as David did afterwards in similar circumstances (1 Samuel 22:2); not, like Abimelech, to destroy his father's house, but, like David, to war against the common foe. This we infer from Judges 10:18, which shows that, before the war between Gilead and Ammon, Jephthah had acquired fame for opposing the Ammonites.
This life of adventure would suit the brave Gileadite and his followers; for he was a wild mountaineer, only infused with the true spirit of Israel. And now, when war had actually broken out, "the elders of Gilead" were not in doubt who to choose as their chief. They had seen where they acted wrongly and repented of their sin against Jehovah, and now they saw and confessed their wrong towards Jephthah, and appealed to his generosity. In ordinary circumstances he would not have consented; but he came back to them, as the elders of Gilead had put it, because they were in distress. But he did not come in his own strength. The agreement made with the elders of Israel was solemnly ratified before Jehovah.
(2 Samuel 10:6, 8; NKJV) “When the people of Ammon saw that they had made themselves repulsive to David, the people of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Beth Rehob and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand foot soldiers; and from the king of Maacah one thousand men, and from Ish-Tob twelve thousand men…Then the people of Ammon came out and put themselves in battle array at the entrance of the gate. And the Syrians of Zoba, Beth Rehob, Ish-Tob, and Maacah were by themselves in the field.”
(1 Samuel 22:2; NKJV) “And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.”
(Judges 10:18; KJV) “And the people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”
4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.—Judges 11:4(KJV)
4 At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel.—Judges 11:4(NLT)
And it came to pass in process of time…
(מafter the lapse of a long period, which cannot be more precisely defined). Sometime after Jephthah had been expelled from his father's house, he became famous for his military genius, and military exploits. It occurred at the point in time that was at the close of the eighteen years of oppression of the children of Israel by the Ammonites, or some few days after the children of Israel were gathered together at Mizpeh, that the people and princes of Gilead were preparing for war with Ammon, and were thinking of a proper person to be their general.
that the children of Ammon made war against Israel;
The Ammonites had oppressed them for eighteen years, and now they invaded the land of Israel, and were camped in Gilead: “At that time the armies of Ammon had gathered for war and were camped in Gilead, and the people of Israel assembled and camped at Mizpah” (Judges 10:17; NLT). They not only crossed over the Jordan River, and camped in Gilead, but they began to attack Israel in some place or another, or at least they threatened them with it, and made motions to do it. I find it interesting that the nation of Ammon, the Ammonites, were a semi-nomadic group of people who descended from Abraham's nephew, Lot.
Article 11.3: AMMON; AMMONITES
AMMON; AMMONITES; am'-on, am'-on-its (`ammon; `ammonim):
The Hebrew tradition makes this tribe descendants of Lot and hence related to the Israelites (Genesis 19:38). This is reflected in the name usually employed in the Old Testament to designate them, Ben `Ammi, Bene `Ammon, "son of my people," "children of my people," i.e. relatives. Hence we find that the Israelites are commanded to avoid conflict with them on their march to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 2:19). Their dwelling-place was on the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan, between the Arnon and the Jabbok, but, before the advance of the Hebrews, they had been dispossessed of a portion of their land by the Amorites, who founded, along the east side of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, the kingdom of Sihon (Numbers 21:21-31).
We know from the records of Egypt, especially Tell el-Amarna Letters, the approximate date of the Amorite invasion (14th and 13th centuries, B.C.). They were pressed on the north by the Hittites who forced them upon the tribes of the south, and some of them settled east of the Jordan. Thus, Israel helped Ammonites by destroying their old enemies, and this makes their conduct at a later period the more reprehensible. In the days of Jephthah they oppressed the Israelites east of the Jordan, claiming that the latter had deprived them of their territory when they came from Egypt, whereas it was the possessions of the Amorites they took (Judges 11:1-28). They were defeated, but their hostility did not cease, and their conduct toward the Israelites was particularly shameful, as in the days of Saul (1 Samuel 11) and of David (2 Samuel 10). This may account for the cruel treatment meted out to them in the war that followed (2 Samuel 12:26-31).
They seem to have been completely subdued by David and their capital was taken, and we find a better spirit manifested afterward, for Nahash of Rabbah showed kindness to him when a fugitive (2 Samuel 17:27-29). Their country came into the possession of Jeroboam, on the division of the kingdom, and when the Syrians of Damascus deprived the kingdom of Israel of their possessions east of the Jordan, the Ammonites became subjects of Benhadad, and we find a contingent of 1,000 of them serving as allies of that king in the great battle of the Syrians with the Assyrians at Qarqar (854 B.C.) in the reign of Shalmaneser II. They may have regained their old territory when Tiglath-pileser carried off the Israelites East of the Jordan into captivity (2 Kings 15:29 1 Chronicles 5:26). Their hostility to both kingdoms, Judah and Israel, was often manifested. In the days of Jehoshaphat they joined with the Moabites in an attack upon him, but met with disaster (2 Chronicles 20). They paid tribute to Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:5). After submitting to Tiglath-pileser they were generally tributary to Assyria, but we have mention of their joining in the general uprising that took place under Sennacherib; but they submitted and we find them tributary in the reign of Esarhaddon.
Their hostility to Judah is shown in their joining the Chaldeans to destroy them (2 Kings 24:2). Their cruelty is denounced by the prophet Amos 1:13, and their destruction by Jeremiah 49:1-6, Ezekiel 21:28-32, Zephaniah 2:8, 9. Their murder of Gedaliah (2 Kings 25:22-26 Jeremiah 40:14) was a dastardly act. Tobiah the Ammonites united with Sanballat to oppose Ne (Nehemiah 4), and their opposition to the Jews did not cease with the establishment of the latter in Judea.
They joined the Syrians in their wars with the Maccabees and were defeated by Judas (1 Mac 5:6). Their religion was a degrading and cruel superstition. Their chief god was Molech, or Moloch, to whom they offered human sacrifices (1 Kings 11:7) against which Israel was especially warned (Leviticus 20:2-5). This worship was common to other tribes for we find it mentioned among the Phoenicians.
Illustration 9: Ammon and surrounding area(not avaliable)
5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob:—Judges 11:5(KJV)
5 When the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. The elders said,—Judges 11:5(NLT)
And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel…
The signs were there that soon the Ammonites would invade Israel and make war against them; naturally they were distressed over the prospect of defeat and what would follow. The Israelites could interpret the signs, so they were preparing for war, and had assembled their forces near them, and were beginning to train and equip them.
The nation of Israel was facing a crisis because of the Ammonite invaders, and the leaders of Gilead were desperate for an able leader. Probably this was the same invasion as that mentioned in Judges 10:17, when the children of Ammon were gathered together and encamped in or against Gilead.
the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob;
they did not send messengers to him with a written offer, but went themselves, partly to show greater respect to him, and partly in hopes of better success, being aware of objections he would make, which they could better answer themselves than a messenger. There must have been excellent reasons behind such a request as this. It was certainly a great humiliation on the part of the elders of Gilead that they would agree to plead with a man whom they had formerly expelled from their clan. We can’t help but wonder how his brothers felt when the man they renounced returned home as captain of the army and the leader of the land! More than one “underdog” in Scripture had the same experience. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and later became their savior. It also took David twelve years to gain the full support of the twelve tribes of Israel. For that matter, the Lord Jesus Christ was rejected by His people, but will be received by Him when He returns.
What is not related here is the reputation which Jephthah had earned by his association with that band of freebooters that surrounded him. His exploits, whatever they might have been, had indicated his ability as a military leader and strategist, and the Gileadites swallowed their pride and eagerly sought Jephthah's help in the impending war with the Ammonites.
Jephthah’s brothers didn’t want him, but the elders of Israel needed him and sent a deputation eighty miles to the land of Tob to ask him to take charge. Jephthah’s reply sounds a good deal like what the Lord said to the people when they turned to Him for help: “Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!” (Judges 10.13, 14; NLT)
Went - By direction from God, who both qualified him for, and called him to the office of a judge, otherwise they might not have chosen a bastard. But when the Ammonites made war upon Israel some time afterwards, the elders of Gilead ( equals "the princes of Gilead," Judges 10:18) went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob, to make this brave warrior their leader. In Judges 11:4 the account of the war between the Ammonites and Israel, is mentioned, and then in Judges 10:17, the account is resumed, and its progress under Jephthah is then more fully described.
___________________________verse 5 notes_________________________________
make war. Moreover the people of Ammon crossed over the Jordan to fight against Judah also, against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed…Then the people of Ammon gathered together and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled together and encamped in Mizpah…And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, "Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead." (Judges 10:9, 17, 18; NKJV).
(Judges 10:18; KJV) “And the people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” What man is he that will begin to fight—It appears that, although the spirit of patriotism had excited the people at large to come forward against their enemies, yet they had no general, none to lead them forth to battle. God, however, who had accepted their sincere repentance, raised them up an able captain in the person of Jephthah; and in him the suffrages of the people were concentrated, as we shall see in the following chapter. In those ancient times much depended on the onset; a war was generally terminated in one battle, the first impression was therefore of great consequence, and it required a person skillful, valorous, and strong, to head the attack. Jephthah was a person in whom all these qualifications appear to have met. When God purposes to deliver, he, in the course of his providence, will find out, employ, and direct the proper means.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.—Judges 11:6(KJV)
6 “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!”—Judges 11:6(NLT)
And they said unto Jephthah, come and be our captain…
The offered to make him general of their army, to conduct and lead their forces; they did not make him a proposition to become their king; probably they knew about his conduct and were convinced that such a step would be wreckless; also, they didn’t say anything to him about having him as their judge. Their only aim, at this time, was to provide for their present need for a military leader; besides, a judge was not one chosen by the people, but judges were raised up by God, and honor that was conferred on Jephthah afterwards.
Come, and be our captain—The Israelites were assembled in Mizpeh, but were without a captain to lead them against the Ammonites. And we find, from the conclusion of the preceding chapter, that they offered the command to any that would accept it.
The children of Israel were assembled and encamped, Judges 10:17. But an army without a general is like a body without a head; therefore Come, say they, and be our captain, that we may fight. Can you see the necessity for government; although they are capable enough to prosecute their cause, yet they knew they could not fight without a captain to command them? It is necessary for all societies that there be a pars imperans and a pars subdita, some to rule and others to obey, that any community would humbly beg the favor of being commanded rather than that every man should be his own master. Blessed be God for government, for a good government.
that we may fight with the children of Ammon;
with judgment, courage, and success; they did not make this proposal to him to save themselves from being engaged in the war, but that they might have one skilful in military affairs at the head of them, to instruct them in the art of war, and lead them on in a regular manner, and animate them by his brave example.
Men are often forced to ask for help from those that they have on some occasion refused to help. Their task was to make this request of him, Come, and be our captain. They knew of no one on their side that was able to undertake that great trust, therefore, they admitted they were unfit for it, but they know him to be a bold man, and skillful with weapons and strategy, and therefore he must be the man. Can you see how God prepares men for the service he plans to use them for, and makes their troubles work for their successes? If Jephthah had not been forced to leave home and country by his brethren's unkindness, he would not have had such an opportunity as this afforded him to exercise and improve his military genius, and so to promote his special abilities and to become famous. And so, many days after he had been thrust out in disgrace, he was fetched back again with honor.
_________________________verse 6 notes_____________________________
(Judges 10:17; NKJV) “Then the people of Ammon gathered together and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled together and encamped in Mizpah.” The children of Ammon were gathered together—Literally, they cried against Israel—they sent out criers in different directions to stir up all the enemies of Israel; and when they had made a mighty collection, they encamped in Gilead.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
7 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?—Judges 11:7(KJV)
7 But Jephthah said to them, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”—Judges 11:7(NLT)
And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead…
Jephthah was willing to go to war with them, but when he answered their request, he took advantage of the occasion to scold his brethren for their abuse of him and for denying him his rightful inheritance. He felt like he had every right to be angry with them and to seek revenge. His brethren would in all probability have been among the elders making up the delegation on that day, since his was an important family. But even if they were not there, he could rightfully accuse the elders, since they did not make his family do right by him, which they should have done (for their business is to defend the poor and fatherless, Psalms 83:3,4).
did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house?
It does appear that at least some of these elders were his brethren; because who else but his own brothers could be thought to hate him enough to force him out of his father's house? It is not at all improbable that they were among the elders of Gilead, considering the importance of their family. The magistrates of the city might have assisted Jephthah's brethren in kicking him out, when they should, as he thought, have protected him, and made sure that he was treated justly; since even though he was illegitimate, he was due some portion of the inheritance, though it might be small. The determination of all controversies about inheritance belonged to the elders; and therefore it was their faults they did not protect him from the injuries done to him by his brethren. Thus he lays his expulsion upon the shoulders of the elders of Gilead, although it was only by his brethren that he had been driven away from his father's house; however, inasmuch as they had either approved of it, or had not interfered as magistrates to prevent it.
Jephthah expressed to the elders his astonishment that they had formerly hated and expelled him, and now that they are having trouble, they come to him expressing their distress, and wanting to make him their leader in time of war. We cannot infer from this scolding that the expulsion and disinheriting of Jephthah was a legal wrong; but from what Jephthah said, we can assume that he definitely looked upon the thing as a wrong that had been done to him, and found the reason for it to be the hatred of his brethren. The Mosaic Law contained no regulations pertaining to this matter, since the rule laid down in Deuteronomy 21:15-17 simply applied to the sons of different wives, and not to a son by a harlot
From the objections Jephthah makes against accepting their offer: Did you not hate me, and expel me? it shows that he is not about to forget the embarrassment and pain associated with his poor treatment by these elders. Magistrates, that have the power to protect those that are wronged, and yet they fail to do anything about it, are themselves guilty of committing the same shameful act. Jephthah might have replied to their request in this way; "You hated me and expelled me, and therefore how can I believe that you are sincere in this proposal, and how can you expect that I should do you any service?" It was not that Jephthah was unwilling to serve his country, but he thought it was fitting to give them a reminder of their former unkindness to him, so that they might repent of their sin in treating him wrong and causing him so much pain, and in the future they might be more evenhanded when satisfying their obligations. It was Joseph, who humbled his brethren before he made himself known to them. The particular case between the Gileadites and Jephthah resembled the general state of the case between Israel and God at this time. They had thrust God out by their idolatries, yet in their distress begged for his help; he told them how justly he might have rejected them, and yet graciously delivered them. So did Jephthah. Many slight God and good men until they stand in need of their help, and then they earnestly desire God's mercy and good men's prayers.
and why are ye come unto me now, when ye are in distress?
Here he insinuates, that it was not love and respect for him, but necessity, that brought them to him with this request; and that since they treated him so harshly, they could not reasonably expect he would have any regard for them or their request.
___________________________verse 7 notes________________________________
(Psalms 82:3-4; KJV) “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.” Defend the poor—You are their natural protectors under God. They are oppressed: punish their oppressors, however rich or powerful: and deliver them.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
(Deuteronomy 21:15-17; NKJV) “If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved, then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn. But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.”
8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.—Judges 11:8(KJV)
8 “Because we need you,” the elders replied. “If you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead.”—Judges 11:8(NLT)
And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah…
The elders had nothing to say in reply to his objection; instead they simply stated the purpose of their mission.
The predatory incursions by the Philistines, and the children of Ammon were made on the parts of the land adjoining their territory. But the Ammonites, being animated with the spirit of conquest, carried out numerous attacks across the Jordan River; so that the central and southern provinces of Canaan were extensively plundered and ravaged. The Philistines are not mentioned at this time because they were not as active as the Ammonites.
Often those things which men reject (Jephthah), God chooses to use and to do great things through them. Jephthah made it a condition of his helping them that he would be the civil ruler of the Gileadites after the military campaign was over. It is a gauge of the Gileadites' misery that they enthusiastically consented to do this, making a solemn covenant with Jephthah to that effect "before Jehovah" in Mizpah. Strahan may have been correct when he wrote that, "Jephthah did not think that the word of the elders was as good as their bond; and he would not budge an inch without their sworn vow, “Yahweh be witness between us.” Some have appeared to be a little critical of Jephthah for making, "his own elaboration of the condition for him delivering his country," but the distressing circumstances of his birth, the hostility of his brothers, and his being excluded from his country were not at all favorable for the development in Jephthah of any other attitude than that which he manifested here; he did not trust them to keep their word. We feel a great admiration for him, because, in spite of the unwholesome environment in which he was forced to live, his name nevertheless appears in the roster of God's faithful servants (Hebrews 11:31).
therefore we turn again unto thee now;
Being mindful of the injury they had done him, and repenting of it, of which their return to him was an evidence of regret; now their intention is to remove the disgrace and dishonor that had been directed against him, by conferring such a high honor on him; to be their chief ruler. I can hear the spokesman for this delegation of elders say humbly: “We are convinced that we have dealt unjustly with you, and we wish now to repair our blunder, and give you this sincere proof of our regret for having acted unjustly, and of our confidence in you.” There was a sense of urgency in their request that reveals that they believed Jephthah was the man they needed to lead them; the best man for the job (see Judges 10.18).
THERE MAYBE TWO LESSONS HERE FOR US:
1. A warning for us not to look down on or trample upon anyone because they are unpleasant, or to harm anyone that we have the advantage over, because, whatever we think of them now, the time may come when we may need them, and may be glad to be indebted to them. It is wise to make no man our enemy, because we don’t know how soon our troubles may be such that we will need to have this man as a friend.
2. An encouragement to important men who are slighted or badly treated. Allow them to bear it with meekness and cheerfulness, and leave it to God to make their light shine out of obscurity.
that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead;
The goal of their coming to him was not only to bring him back with them to his own country, and to fight against the Ammonites, but for him to be the sole governor of Gilead; not of all Israel, but of the tribes beyond Jordan, which inhabited the land of Gilead. They couldn’t promise more than this, although afterwards he was judge over all Israel, even though there was a law in Israel, that no spurious person (of illegitimate birth; bastard.) should enter into the congregation, or bear any public office; that unless both parents of a man were born citizens, he should be reckoned spurious, and have no share in the government; (Judges 11.2), (Deuteronomy 23:2).
Article 11.4: Elder
ELDER The term elder, or old man as the Hebrew literally imports, was one of extensive use, as an official title, among the Hebrews and the surrounding nations, because the heads of tribes and the leading people who had acquired influence were naturally the older people of the nation. It had reference to various offices. Genesis 24:2; 50:7; 2 Sam 12:17; Ezek 27:9 As betokening a political office, it applied not only to the Hebrews, but also to the Egyptians, Genesis 50:7 the Moabites and the Midianites. Numb 22:7 The earliest notice of the elders acting in concert as a political body is at the time of the Exodus. They were the representatives of the people, so much so that elders and people are occasionally used as equivalent terms; comp. Josh 24:1 with Josh 24:2, 19, 21 1 Sam 8:4 with 1 Sam 8:7, 10, 19 Their authority was undefined, and extended to all matters concerning the public welfare. Their number and influence may be inferred from 1 Sam 30:26 ff. They retained their position under all the political changes which the Jews underwent. The seventy elders mentioned in Exodus and Numbers were a sort of governing body, a parliament, and the origin of the tribunal of seventy elders called the Sanhedrin or Council. In the New Testament Church the elders or presbyters were the same as the bishops. It was an office derived from the Jewish usage of elders or rulers of the synagogues.—Smith's Bible Dictionary
______________________verse 8 notes____________________________
(Hebrews 11.32) “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:”
(Judges 10.18; NLT) “The leaders of Gilead said to each other, “’Whoever attacks the Ammonites first will become ruler over all the people of Gilead.’”
(Judges 11:2; NLT) “Gilead’s wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. “You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.”
(Deut 23:2; NLT) “If a person is illegitimate by birth, neither he nor his descendants for ten generations may be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”
9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?—Judges 11:9(KJV)
9 Jephthah said to the elders, “Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the LORD gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?”—Judges 11:9(NLT)
And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead…
Here we have the bargain that Jephthah made with the delegation of elders. He had mentioned the harm they had done to him in the past, but, perceiving their repentance, his character was too upright and generous to mention it any more. God had forgiven Israel the disrespect they had shown to him (Judges 10:16), and therefore Jephthah will forgive the elders and his brethren. Only he thinks it prudent to make his bargain wisely, since he is dealing with men that he had reason to distrust; how does he know they will not renege on the bargain after they get what they want—victory over their enemies.
if ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon;
He has a fair question to ask them; should he agree to go along with them, and fight their battle for them? Notice that he is not overconfident of his success, and there is a reason for it; he knows that God would be justified if he allowed the Ammonites to prevail and thereby punish the Israelites even more; therefore he puts an “if” on it.
He has a lot to mull over; will they keep their word; should he put his life in jeopardy for his country; should he give more weight to the law of self-preservation and protect himself from his brethren; if he is victorious, what happens afterwards, will he be left alone with them.
and the Lord deliver them before me;
or into his hands; he depended on the Lord for success, and not on his own courage and valor, and military skill. He doesn’t show any confidence in himself, but he is supremely confident that the Lord can deliver them into his hand. He believes it, and he reminds his countrymen to look up to God as the giver of victory—"Now if, by the blessing of God, I come home a conqueror, tell me plainly shall I be your head?” Jephthah didn’t see the challenge as a political opportunity for himself, but as an occasion for trusting the Lord and serving Him.
shall I be your head?
not only the general of their forces during the war, but the chief ruler of them when the war was over. Jephthah makes things difficult for the elders of Gilead, but they have to swallow their pride and accept his terms. It was humiliating for the nation to appeal to this man whom they had exiled. And he makes it very clear that if he is going to be the judge and deliver them, then he is going to rule over them. There is no question here, since in the Hebrew the words may be taken as Jephthah's laying down the conditions under which he would aid Gilead, conditions to which they agree in the next verse.
“If I deliver you, under God, shall I, under him, rule over you?” The same question is put to those who desire salvation by Christ. "If he saves you, will you be willing that he shall rule you? For on no other terms will he save you. If he makes you happy, shall he make you holy? If he is your helper, shall he be your head?"
_________________________verse 9 notes____________________________
(Judges 10:16; NKJV) “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” And his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel—What a proof of the philanthropy of God! Here his compassions moved on a small scale; but it was the same principle that led him to give his Son Jesus Christ to be a sacrifice for the sins of the WHOLE world. God grieves for the miseries to which his creatures are reduced by their own sins. Be astonished, ye heavens, at this; and shout for joy, all ye inhabitants of the earth! for, through the love whence this compassion flowed, God has visited and redeemed a lost world!—Adam Clarke's Commentary
God would be justified: “And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war, And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him, And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD. But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out. Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth. And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gilead: But thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war, before the LORD to battle, as my lord saith. So concerning them Moses commanded Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel: And Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle, before the LORD, and the land shall be subdued before you; then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession”—(Num 32:19-29; KJV) Israel did not possess the land at this time, because they did not kill their enemies living in Canaan, but they chose instead to make treaties with them. God could rightly punish them for being disobedient, by allowing their enemies to conquer them and pillage their resources.
10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.—Judges 11:10(KJV)
10 “The LORD is our witness,” the elders replied. “We promise to do whatever you say.”—Judges 11:10(NLT)
And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah…
Verse 10 was the original contract ratified between Jephthah and the Gileadites, which all Israel, it should seem, agreed to afterwards, for it is said (Judges 12:7), he judged Israel. Here, we see that the elders agreed to his offer, and they not only gave their word to do it, but made their reply in the form of an oath. They gave Jephthah an immediate positive answer, as if they had anticipated what he would say and agreed to an answer: "We will do according to thy words; command us in war, and thou shalt command us in peace." They do not take time to consider it. The case was too simple to need a debate, and the necessity too pressing to allow a delay. They knew they had power to conclude a treaty for those whom they represented, and therefore bound it with an oath.
the Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words;
They are promising to make him their leader; they appealed to the omniscient God as the judge of their sincerity, and called on Him to be a witness of their agreement, and swore by Him to fulfill their part of the agreement. If they fail to keep the agreement, they expect that the Lord would take vengeance on them, and punish them for the breach of this covenant and oath, in some way or another.
The Hebrew equivalent of “witness” is “hearer”. The elders promise or oath is this: "Jehovah be hearing between us," i.e., be hearer and judge of the things concerning which we are negotiating; "truly according to thy word so will we do".
Whatever we have to say, we need to remember that God is a hearer, and to speak accordingly.
11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.—Judges 11:11(KJV)
11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their ruler and commander of the army. At Mizpah, in the presence of the LORD, Jephthah repeated what he had said to the elders.—Judges 11:11(NLT)
Then Jephthah went with the elders of Israel…
From the land of Tob, they went into the land of Gilead, his native country, where the people of Gilead were all assembled.
and the people made him head and captain over them;
They ratified and confirmed what the elders had promised, and by common consent they made him head and captain, so that he would be not only captain of the forces of Gilead, but head of the country for life. Jephthah, in order to obtain this little honor, was willing to lay his life on the line for them (Judges 12:3). Now, the question arises, “shall we be discouraged in our Christian warfare by any of the difficulties we may meet within it, when Christ himself has promised a crown of life to him that overcometh?
Notice how they reversed their former position of opposition to Jephthah, and they did it even though he was the son of a harlot; and according to the law in (Deuteronomy 23:2), such a person was not supposed to be a civil magistrate. But this was a case of necessity, and no doubt, they were directed by the Lord, who could dispense His own law: besides, they had agreed among themselves before they had settled upon a candidate for this position, that the one who should begin to fight with the children of Ammon should be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead; so, when they assembled at Mizpeh, where it is probable they consulted the Lord, and acted under his direction,  & (Judges 10:17, 18) and where this was officially authorized, as it seems from the following clause.
and Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh (see Article 11.5);
Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead to Mizpah, where the congregation of Israel was assembled, and where the Shechinah, or divine Majesty was present. According to Jarchi and Kimchi, it was not the Mizpeh mentioned in (Joshua 11:3, 8), as the latter says, but this was on the other side of the Jordan River, in the land of Gilead; however, as it was a somber meeting; the Lord was there, and, in his presence, Jephthah repeated all the conditions and obligations under which he would accept the honor conferred upon him. He spoke of all that passed between him and the elders of Gilead; and, no doubt, he prayed to God. His prayer and desire was that He would signify His approval and ratification of their agreement, and would give him success in his undertakings against the children of Ammon. What happened at Mizpah was the confirmation by the Gileadites of the agreement establishing Jephthah as the civil and military ruler of the Trans-Jordanic territory where the Gileadites lived.
Several writers have supposed that there must have been some kind of a sanctuary at Mizpah, but Keil assures us that, "These words imply no more than that Jephthah confirmed all his previous words with an oath."
Jephthah's pious acknowledgment of God in this great affair: He uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh, that is, upon his elevation to captain and ruler, he immediately withdraw to do his devotions, and in prayer, he spread the whole matter before God, both his selection to the office and his execution of the office; his eyes would always be on the Lord, and he would do nothing without him, that he would not lean on his own understanding or courage, but depended on God and his favor. He expresses before God all his thoughts and cares in this matter; for God allows us to be free and open with Him.
1. "Lord, the people have made me their head; will You confirm the choice, and accept me as thy people's leader under thee and for thee?" God justly complains of Israel (Hosea 8:4), they have set up kings, but not by me. "Lord," said Jephthah, "I will be no head of their making without thee. I will not accept the government of them unless You allow me to." Had Abimelech done this, he might have prospered.
2. "Lord, they have made me their captain, to go before them in this war with the Ammonites; will I have Your presence? Will You go before me? If not, don’t let me accept the promotion. Lord, show me that it is a just cause. Assure me of success in the enterprise." This is a rare example, something all of us should imitate, particularly those who are leaders; in all our ways let us acknowledge God, seek his favor, ask for His counsel, and take him along with us; so that our administration will prosper. Thus Jephthah opened the campaign with prayer. That was likely to end gloriously which began so piously.
All his words - Or, all his matters, the whole business.
Before the Lord - That is, before the public congregation, where God was usually, and then on this occasion He was especially present. In contrast to the judgeship of Gideon, who was initially called by the Lord, Jephthah was initially called by other men. However, the Lord was called to witness their selection, and He placed His Spirit on Jephthah to achieve victory: “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon” (Judges 11:29; KJV). The calm wisdom, astute forethought, and indomitable energy which he was enabled to display, were a pledge to himself and a convincing evidence to his countrymen, that he was qualified by higher resources than his own for the momentous duties of his office.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
If you read the verses that follow this portion of Scripture, you will find an extended section where Jephthah outlines the way that the Ammonites came into the land. He makes it clear that the land really belonged to the Israelites who gained the land in a legitimate way. The Ammonites were, of course, attempting not only to drive the Israelites off the land, but were also trying to exterminate them. The same thing is happening in the land of Israel today. Especially since 1948 when Israel once again became a nation, the enemy has been trying to remove them from the land, exterminate them, and actually drive them into the sea. Israel had a legitimate claim to the land.
Article 11.5: Mizpah
MIZPAH Miz'pah and Miz'peh (a watch-tower), the name of several places in Palestine.
1 The earliest of all, in order of the narrative, is the heap of stones piled up by Jacob and Laban (Genesis 31:48) on Mount Gilead (Genesis 31:25), to serve both as a witness to the covenant then entered into and as a landmark of the boundary between them (Genesis 31:52). On this natural watch-tower did the children of Israel assemble for the choice of a leader to resist the children of Ammon (Judges 10:17). There the fatal meeting took place between Jephthah and his daughter on his return from the war (Judges 11:34). It seems most probable that the "Mizpeh-gilead" which is mentioned here, and here only, is the same as the "ham-Mizpah" of the other parts of the narrative; and both are probably identical with the Ramath-mizpeh and Ramoth-gilead, so famous in the later history.
2. A second Mizpeh, on the east of Jordan, was the Mizpeh-moab, where the king of that nation was living when David committed his parents to his care (1 Sam 22:3).
3. A third was "the land of Mizpeh," or more accurately "of Mizpah," the residence of the Hivites who joined the northern confederacy against Israel, headed by Jabin king of Hazor (Josh 11:3). No other mention is found of this district in the Bible, unless it be identical with—
4. The valley of Mizpeh, to which the discomfited hosts of the same confederacy were chased by Joshua (Josh 11:8), perhaps identical with the great country of Cœle-Syria.
5. Mizpeh, a city of Judah (Josh 15:38) in the district of the Shefelah or maritime lowland.
6. Mizpeh, in Joshua and Samuel; elsewhere Mizpah, a "city" of Benjamin, not far from Jerusalem (Josh 18:26; 1 Kin 15:22; 2 Chr 16:6; Nehe 3:7). It was one of the places fortified by Asa against the incursions of the kings of northern Israel (1 Kin 15:22; 2 Chr 16:6; Jere 41:10), and after the destruction of Jerusalem it became the residence of the superintendent appointed by the king of Babylon (Jere 40:7) etc., and the scene of his murder and of the romantic incidents connected with the name of Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. It was one of the three holy cities which Samuel visited in turn as judge of the people (1 Sam 7:6, 16), the other two being Bethel and Gilgal. With the conquest of Jerusalem and the establishment there of the ark, the sanctity of Mizpah, or at least its reputation, seems to have declined. From Mizpah the city or the temple was visible. These conditions are satisfied by the position of Scopus, the broad ridge which forms the continuation of the Mount of Olives to the north and east, from which the traveller gains, like Titus, his first view, and takes his last farewell, of the domes, walls and towers of the holy city.
—Smith's Bible Dictionary
_______________________________verse 11 notes_______________________________
(Judges 12:3; NLT) “So when I realized you weren’t coming, I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the LORD gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you now come to fight me?” A common form of speech in the East for undertaking a duty of imminent peril. This Jephthah had done, having encountered and routed the Ammonites with the aid of his Gileadite volunteers alone; and since the Lord had enabled him to conquer without requiring assistance from any other tribe, why should the Ephraimites take offense? They ought rather to have been delighted and thankful that the war had terminated without their incurring any labor and danger.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
(Joshua 11:3, 8; NLT) “ the kings of Canaan, both east and west; the kings of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites in the towns on the slopes of Mount Hermon in the land of Mizpah…And the LORD gave them victory over their enemies. The Israelites chased them as far as Greater Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward into the valley of Mizpah, until not one enemy warrior was left alive.”
Table 10:Time line: Micah through Sampson
(All Dates are Approximate)
1375 BC Micah's Idolatry Judges 17
1375 BC Danites Settle in Laish, Take Micah's Idols Judges 18
1375 BC A Levite's Concubine Degraded Judges 19
1375 BC Israelites Defeat the Benjamites Judges 20
1375 BC Wives for the Benjamites Judges 21
1374 BC Israelites Capture Jerusalem, Hebron Judges 1
1374 BC Israel Rebuked and Defeated Judges 2
1374 BC Israel's idolatry and Servitude; Othniel Judges 3
1334 BC Eglon Judges 3:12
1316 BC Ehud Judges 3:15
1235 BC Deborah and Barak Judges 4
1235 BC The Song of Deborah and Barak Judges 5
1169 BC Gideon and the Midianites Judges 6 - 8
1129 BC Abimelech Conspires to Become King Judges 9
1126 BC Plot against Abimelech Judges 9:22
1126 BC Abimelech is Slain Judges 9:50
1118 BC Tola, Jair Judges 10
1097 BC Jephthah's Covenant with the Gileadites Judges 11
1090 BC Jephthah, Ephraim, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon Judges 12
1090 BC Israel Oppressed by the Philistines Judges 13
1075 BC Samson's Marriage and Riddle Judges 14
1075 BC Samson Burns the Philistine Crops Judges 15
1075 BC Samson and Delilah Judges 16