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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 11

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-40



The story of these verses suggests that preceding the deliverance of Gideon’s time (chap. 6). There seem, indeed, to have been no such widespread idolatry and iniquity in Israel before, and for eighteen years the nation suffered at the hands of the Ammonites on the east and the Philistines on the west (Judges 10:8 ). The Ammonites were very bold and pressed their conquests across the Jordan (Judges 10:9 ).

The repentance of Israel (Judges 10:10 ) seems to have been genuine for there is no cloaking of their sin, and yet Jehovah would put in the plow deeper (Judges 9:11-14 ). Just how the communication of these verses was made the record says not. It may have been gathered in substance from the providences in the case, or it may have come directly through the high priest; probably the latter. Nevertheless, when they are ripe for mercy the mercy comes (Judges 10:15-16 ). The ripeness is shown in their putting away sin, and making their backs bare for the punishment, whatever it may be, “Do anything you will to us, O Lord, but send deliverance.” When the sinner in the present dispensation gets into this place of surrender, help through Christ is not long delayed. Compare the close of Romans 7:0 with the opening verses of the next chapter in that epistle.


Jephthah was low-born and had a hard time of it (Judges 11:1-3 ). He was at the head of a band of outlaws, with a history not unlike David at one time; but he was a gallant leader and his innings have come at last (Judges 11:4-11 ). Notice that Jephthah was not without a knowledge of God as shown in Judges 11:9 and Judges 11:11 , so that with all his roving habits and his life of plundering on his enemies, the Ammonites perhaps, he may have been more godly and loyal than the people who cast him out.

THE AMBASSAGE TO AMMON (Judges 11:12-28 )

The record of these verses is self-explanatory, and is noticeable, first, for Ammon’s false assumption based on an untrue interpretation of history (Judges 11:12-13 ); second, Jephthah’s acquaintance with Israel’s past, pointing to the accuracy with which the records were kept, notwithstanding the long period of turmoil since Moses’s day (Judges 11:14-22 ); and third, his abounding faith in Jehovah’s power in the premises (Judges 11:23-27 ).

JEPHTHAH’S VOW (Judges 11:29-40 )

The vow of Jephthah is celebrated for its awfulness and, like others, we have tried to explain it in some other than its literal sense, but the effort has not brought satisfaction. We can understand why he made it, because it was a custom with heathen chieftains on the eve of battle to promise their gods oblations or booty; and also because vows were practiced by the Israelites and approved of God, as we saw in Leviticus 27:0 and other scriptures, although, of course, not vows of this kind. Jephthah lived beyond the Jordan, far from the tabernacle, and on the borders of a heathen country, where human sacrifices were common. It was, too, a time of great spiritual declension in Israel. All these things are to be considered, and yet why did he do it, and why did God permit it, abhorrent to Him as it must have been, if it absolutely occurred? We might as well ask the old question, Why did God permit sin? We can say nothing in answer, but simply wait. There are many mysteries to try our faith and patience. One thing is certain, it furnishes an awful lesson against rash and hasty vows.

It is but just to add that the other view of this matter is that Jephthah consecrates his daughter to a life of virginal service. This indeed would have been a serious sacrifice to him as it ended his hopes as the head of his line, inasmuch as she was his only child. It also deprived her of the crown of motherhood. Judges 11:39-40 are thought to offer justification of this “life of service” view.


Ephraim shows the same jealous spirit in this case as in the earlier time of Gideon. They wanted the glory without earning it, and, although Jephthah dealt with them almost as tactfully as his predecessor, the issue was different (Judges 12:1-3 ).

Judges 12:6 shows the test by which the escaping Ephraimite was discovered. Shibboleth means a stream, and sibboleth a burden. The appropriateness in the demand that they pronounce the first word is that they were trying to pass the fords of Jordan. The Ephraimites had a dialect peculiarity that identified them anywhere.


1. How long was Israel in bondage at this time and to what peoples?

2. How does she testify her sincere repentance?

3. Have you examined the passages in Romans?

4. Give the early history of Jephthah.

5. Give evidences of his reverence for Jehovah.

6. Give the story of Jephthah’s debate with Ammon.

7. Give the story of his vow.

8. Give the story of the word shibboleth.

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Judges 11". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/judges-11.html. 1897-1910.
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