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Bible Commentaries
Judges 11

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

Verses 1-11

Jephthah was a brave man whose mother was a harlot. The men of Gilead allowed his brethren to drive him away so he could not receive a part of the inheritance of their father. He went to live in the land of Tob where loose men gathered around him and helped conduct raids on those nearby. When Ammon made war with Israel, the men of Gilead began to search for a leader who would be rewarded by being made head over them.

Jephthah recalled the wrong committed against him by the elders allowing his brethren to drive him away. He said he would lead them in battle if they would make him head over them as they said. They all went to Mizpah and formally made this agreement with the Lord as their witness ( Jdg_11:1-11 ).

Verses 12-28

Jephthah then tried to use diplomatic means to avert a war. He sent to the king of the Ammonites and asked why he had come to fight against their land. His answer was that Israel had taken away his land when they came up out of Egypt. Jephthah sent back messengers to remind the king that Israel had come to Kadesh and then asked first the king of Edom and then the king of Moab to let them pass through. They circled the land of both kings and then asked the king of the Amorites if they could pass through his land. He too denied them passage and then brought his army out to war against Israel. He was defeated and Israel took possession of the land which God had given them. Also, Balak the king of Moab had not tried to fight with Israel over the conquered land nor had he laid any claim to it. Israel had occupied the land for 300 years without challenge so there was no force to the king of Ammon's challenge. Despite the force of Jephthah's arguments, the king of Ammon would not be swayed from warring against Israel ( Jdg_11:12-28 ).

Verses 29-33

The coming of the Spirit of the Lord on Jephthah proved he was God's appointed leader. He immediately rose up and traveled through the area gathering an army to fight for the freedom of Gilead. This area, from the Arnon River to the Jabbak River, covered the inheritance of Reuben and half of Gad. Before going into battle, Jephthah vowed he would give to the Lord the first thing that came out of his house to meet him if the Lord gave the Ammonites into his hand ( Jdg_11:29-33 ).

Verses 34-40

With God's help, the Ammonites were subdued with a great slaughter. Jephthah's daughter, who was his only child, was the first to come out of his house to greet him and celebrate his victory with dancing (Compare Exo_15:20 ; 1Sa_18:6-7 ). Ordinarily, a father would rejoice to see his child running out to meet him upon his return home. However, because of the vow he had made to God, Jephthah tore his clothes and cried out.

His daughter considered a vow to the Lord to be so important that she told her father to do to her whatever he had promised. Her one request was that she be allowed to go to the mountains and bewail her virginity because she would never know a man. When the time was up, Jephthah kept his vow. From that day forward, the young women of Israel devoted four days a year to go to the mountains and sing praises for Jephthah's daughter ( Jdg_11:34-40 ).

Lev_27:28 speaks of devoted offerings to the Lord, which may well explain Hannah's vow to the Lord in reference to Samuel prior to his conception ( 1Sa_1:8-11 ). However, God despised the human sacrifices the nations made to Molech ( Lev_18:21 ; Lev_20:1-5 ; Deu_12:29-31 ). What then are we to do with a man of faith making a vow that would cause him to do the very thing God hated ( Heb_11:32 )? Keil suggests the vow could have been fulfilled in a spiritual sense with the girl remaining unmarried and her being dedicated to God for the rest of her life. If we cannot accept that idea, it would appear we must think of this as one of the flaws found in a man who otherwise served God well. The importance of keeping one's promises to God would still be seen in the midst of a terrible sin.

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Judges 11". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/judges-11.html. 2014.
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