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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 11

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he [was] the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.

Was a mighty man of valour.Magna vi animi et corporis fuit, as Sallust saith of Catiline: He was stout and strong, hardy and able to suffer hardship, as a good soldier should do; one that had done great exploits, and had oft looked death in the face upon great adventures in the field.

And he was the son of an harlot. — A bastard this was a blur to him, through the fault of his parents. The Hebrews call such a one Mamzer that is, a strange blot: the Greeks, υβριδα , a reproach. The English, in disgrace of such births call all whores harlots, from Arlett, a skinner’s daughter, on whom Robert Duke of Normandy begat our William the Conqueror. Howbeit God made choice of such a one here to be a deliverer of his people; and hath registred him among other of his worthies, famous for their faith. Hebrews 11:32 This is for the comfort of bastards, if believers and born of God. John 1:12-13 We read in our Chronicles of one Faustus, the son of Vortiger, who wept himself blind for the sin of his incestuous parents. And that David had good assurance that the child born of his adultery with Bathsheba went to heaven, is gathered from those words of his, "I shall go to him; he shall not return to me."

Verse 2

And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou [art] the son of a strange woman.

They thrust out Jephthah. — Little thinking that they should one day be glad to be beholden to him. It is good for great men, who now work their own wills without wit, to remember that greatness may decay, the wheel may turn, and they may have need of those they now slight; as Sir James Paulet had of Cardinal Wolsey when he came to be Lord Chancellor, whom the said Sir James had, out of humour, set by the heels when he was a poor schoolmaster; Negotiat. of Card. Wolsey, p. 2. and as Sir Francis Askew had of Archbishop Holgat, whom he had much molested in law when he was a country minister. Godw., Catal., p. 625.

Discite iustitiam moniti, et non temnere quenquam.

The Pope, who is the devil’s by-blow, was worthily thrust out of England A.D. 1245, as before he had been out of France and Arragon, it being said that the Pope was but like a mouse in a satchel, or a snake in a man’s bosom, … England had been his ass; but at length she cast her rider, and would no longer bear his burdens. Speed, 622.

For thou art the son of a strange woman.Vulgo quaesitus, as the Latins call such: the Hebrews shatuki, from shatack, tacere, because when others are praising their parents, such must hold their peace. But Jephthah was hardly dealt with, to be put to shift for a livelihood, and to get it before he ate it.

Verse 3

Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him.

Dwelt in the land of Tob. — Or, Of the Tubiemites, as histories call it. Some think it took its name from one Tob, the possessor of it: who might be so surnamed for his goodness, as Aristides was by the Athenians surnamed Justus, and Phocion Bonus. Of Probus the Emperor it was said, Si Probi nomen non haberet, habere cognomen posset: Flav. Vopisc., in Probo. that he was Probus or honest all over.

Verse 4

And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.

In process of time. — Heb., After days. Junius rendereth it, post annos illos, after those years, that is, those eighteen years mentioned in Judges 10:8 .

That the children of Ammon made war against Israel. — About which time also the Greeks made war against Troy, and after ten years took it.

Verse 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:

The elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah. — Whereunto they were necessitated: for else a bastard might not bear office, Deuteronomy 23:2 for an admonition of chastity in regard of the infamy and contempt of such a polluted posterity. Upon a like necessity of the Catalinarian conspiracy breaking out in Rome, M. Tullius Cicero was made consul, though a new man, and none of the ancient nobility: which when it was objected unto him, he answered, Satius est meis gestis florere, quam maiorum opinione uti, …, Sallust. that it was better to be a foundation of nobility to his posterity, and a pattern of virtue, than to be famous only for his noble ancestors. Two things he said he had to support him under whatsoever crosses or obloquies of men, Optimarum artium scientiam et maximarum rerum gloriam, Epist. Famil., lib. vii. the knowledge of good arts, and the glory of his great acts: the one whereof should never be taken from him whilst alive; the other, no not when he was dead.

Verse 6

And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.

Come, and be our captain. — See Trapp on " Judges 11:2 ".

Verse 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?

Did not ye hate me, and expel me? — It may be some of his brethren were elders, or at least they cast him out formula iuris, by an order of the elders giving judgment against him.

And why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? — May not God justly say as much to most of us? we seldom seek to him till needs must. It was a trim saying and very true of General Vere to the King of Denmark, that kings cared not for soldiers until such times as their crowns hung on the one side of their head.

Verse 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.

Therefore we turn again to thee now. — We see our former oversight, and are ready to make thee amends.

Verse 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?

Shall I be your head? — He would make his bargain wisely, to prevent all differences for the future, and the rather because he had been before but coarsely used by them.

Verse 10

And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.

The Lord be witness. — "An oath for confirmation is to men an end of all strife": Hebrews 6:16 ορκος quasi ερκος , an oath is a hedge to keep men within compass of duty.

Verse 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.

Then Jephthah went. — He not only forgave, but forgot all former unkindnesses, burying them all in the love of his country. So did Camillus among the Romans, Themistocles among the Athenians, …

Verse 12

And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king 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 Jephthah sent messengers. — He would treat before he would fight: not for want of courage, as Philip said of the Athenians, but in obedience to God. Deuteronomy 20:10 So the Romans first sent heralds to require right, and proffer peace, before they proclaimed war: Cuncta prius tentanda, saith the poet. Ovid. And Omnia prius experiri consilio quam armis sapientem decet, saith the comedian. Terent. It becometh a wise man to prevent blows as much as may be.

To fight in my land. — This he could not have said if they had not made him their head. Now he hath a just title, and pleadeth it.

Verse 13

And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those [lands] again peaceably.

Because Israel took away my land. — This was a lie; but that is a small matter with many, where anything is to be gotten. Hegesippus saith of Pilate, that he was Vir nequam et parvi faciens mendacium, a naughty man, and one that made no bones of a lie. All this country that the king of Ammon layeth claim to, was first the Moabites’, and from them won by Sihon king of Amorites, and from him by the Israelites.

Verse 14

And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon:

And Jephthah sent messengers again. — By whom, negat ac pernegat, he utterly denieth that they had at all wronged the Ammonites.

Verse 15

And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:

Israel took not away. — It falls out often that plain dealing puts craft out of countenance. "There is no such thing as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine heart," saith Nehemiah to his adversary; so here.

Verse 16

But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh;

But when Israel came up from Egypt. — It appeareth that Jephthah was a good historian. Public persons had need to be so: skilful in the sacred history especially, and in their own chronicles.

Verse 17

Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken [thereto]. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not [consent]: and Israel abode in Kadesh.

Then Israel sent messengers. — Apologies in some cases are very necessary - if not vocal, yet real - to stop an open mouth, and clear up our innocency.

Verse 18

Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon [was] the border of Moab.

Then they went along through the wilderness. — This was the naked truth of things. And truth, like our first parents, is most amiable when most naked.

Verse 19

And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.

Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land. — This he not only denied to do, but came out with all his forces to fight with them. John, king of Navarre, did none of all this: but because, being himself a Frenchman, and having the greatest part of his patrimony in France, he would not suffer the Spaniard, whom the Pope then favoured against Louis, king of France, to lead his army through the middle of his country into Aquitane; and because he would not deliver up to the Spaniard three of his strongest forts to be garrisoned against the French king, …, he was presently proclaimed a schismatic, a heretic, a traitor to the see apostolic, deprived of his kingdom, his posterity disinherited, and his enemy put into possession of all. Guicciardin.

Verse 20

But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.

See Trapp on " Judges 11:19 "

Verse 21

And the LORD God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.

And the Lord God of Israel. — Not the Archiflamen of Rome, nor any earthly power whatsoever: but "the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords," the great proprietary of the world.

Verse 22

And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.

See Trapp on " Judges 11:21 "

Verse 23

So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?

So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed. — He argueth that the land in question is Israel’s out of all question, by a threefold right: (1.) Of conquest; (2.) Of divine donation; (3.) Of prescription. Judges 11:25

Verse 24

Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.

That which Chemosh thy god giveth thee. — Namely, The land of the Zanzummims, Deuteronomy 2:19-20 which their god Chemosh had not in very deed given them, for "we know that an idol is nothing in the world," 1 Corinthians 8:4 and nothing he can give, Jeremiah 10:5 but only the king of Ammon thought so; like as in 2 Chronicles 28:23 , it is said that "the gods of Damascus smote" or plagued Ahaz, that is, in the opinion of Ahaz.

Verse 25

And now [art] thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them,

And now art thou anything better than Balak? — Heb., An bonus es tu prae Balaco? … an contendendo contendit? an pugnando pugnavit? Here he pleadeth prescription: and he doth it with great intention of spirit, and contention of speech. As men must not be hot in a cold matter, so neither cold in a hot.

Verse 26

While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that [be] along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover [them] within that time?

Three hundred years. — So he calleth the time for a round number, making the most of it, now that he pleadeth prescription.

Verse 27

Wherefore I have not sinned against 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.

Wherefore I have not sinned against thee,q.d., My cause is good, and so shall my courage be.

Transit et attollit vires in milite causa:

Quae nisi iusto subest, excutit arma pudor. ”

The Lord the Judge be judge this day. — It appeareth by this whole discourse, that Jephtha was an orator as well as a soldier. Achilles had this charge from his father,

Mυθων τε ρητηρ εμεναι, πρηκτηρα τε εργων .” - Homer.

Verse 28

Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.

Hearkened not to the words of Jephthah. — For his ears were stopped with pertinacity, pride, and covetousness. God also hath a controversy against him, and a purpose to destroy him.

Verse 29

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.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. — See Judges 3:10 .

Verse 30

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,

And Jephthah vowed a vow. — Perplexed and confused, yea, rash and inconsiderate, to say no worse of it, out of a preposterous zeal. Jerome saith, In vovendo fuit stultus, in praestando impius, he was a fool for vowing, and yet a worse fool for so performing. That he did perform his vow, it is most certain. Judges 11:39 But how and in what manner, there are quot homines, tot sententiae; quot sententiae, tot sensus; quot sensus, tot dissensus; the doctors are divided, and it is very hard to determine. It may seem by the text that he sacrificed his daughter, and not separated her only as a recluse, and one devoted to God. Which fact of his, if he did it, hath no approbation from God; the Scripture leaveth it uncensured. Ferus saith that no man ever durst determine whether Jephthah did well or ill herein, because it is uncertain whether he did it by the motion of God’s Spirit, or of his own mind, seeing this is not revealed. But, beside other of the ancient fathers and rabbis who generally condemn Jephthah, Augustine, though in his questions upon the Judges he go about to excuse him what he may, yet in his questions upon the Old Testament, if at least they be his, he is bold to call Jephthah’s devotion foolish, and himself facinorosum et improbum, a lewd and rash man in that enterprise.

Verse 31

Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.

Shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up. — Or, Or I will offer it up; for Fau is sometimes a conjunction disjunctive, as Genesis 26:11 Exodus 21:10 ; Exodus 21:15 ; as if he should say, I will sacrifice it, if lawfully I may; or consecrate it unto God howsoever, if it be not fit for sacrifice.

Verse 32

So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.

So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon. — He stayed not their coming, but went over to them to fight them, being caelo, Christo, Deo armatus, - not Styge armatus, as the poet saith of Achilles, - and that he was therefore insuperable.

Verse 33

And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, [even] twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

And he smote them from Aroer. — The Ammonites had better have kept home, content with their own country, a great part whereof they now lose by reaching after more, like the dog in the fable, and are so beaten that they cannot recruit.

Verse 34

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she [was his] only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.

He had not of his own, son nor daughter. — Heb., Of himself. No more had God any son of himself, begotten of his own substance, but only Jesus Christ: whom yet he freely parted with, to be offered up as a slain sacrifice for our redemption. Ama amorem illius, saith Bernard.

Verse 35

And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.

He rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter!

… Usque adeo nulla est sincera voluptas,

Sollicitumque aliquid laetis intervenit … ” - Ovid.

It is seldom seen that God alloweth unto any here a perfect contentment. Something men must have to complain of, that shall give an unsavoury verdure to their sweetest morsels, and make their very felicity miserable.

And I cannot go back. — But were there no priests to inquire of, what was the law in that case? Or were they also ignorant, or forgetful? Could nobody think of Leviticus 27:4 , but Jepthah must follow his own counsel?

Verse 36

And she said unto him, My father, [if] thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, [even] of the children of Ammon.

Do to me according. — A generous virgin this was, and a most morigerous [dutiful] daughter: only she should have admonished her father to advise with the priests about such an unwonted sacrifice; for sometimes both grace and wit are asleep in the holiest and wariest breasts.

Verse 37

And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.

And bewail my virginity. — She saith, not the loss of my life, but the want of posterity; which in those days was counted a great curse.

Verse 38

And he said, Go. And he sent her away [for] two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.

Upon the mountains. — Which were solitary places, where she might pour forth her complaints with more freedom.

Verse 39

And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her [according] to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,

That she returned unto her father. — As Damon did to Dionysius; as Regulus the Roman did to the Carthaginians, though it were to receive punishment; they would not break their words, but die rather than lie.

Who did with her according to his vow.See Trapp on " Judges 11:30 "

And it was a custom in Israel. — Or, An ordinance; and that for two reasons, saith Augustine: first, That parents might be admonished not to vow so rashly; secondly, That this noble virgin’s obedience to her father might be eternised.

Verse 40

[That] the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

To lament. — Or, To talk with her, as Judges 5:11 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Judges 11". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/judges-11.html. 1865-1868.
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