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The history of the Judges during the commonwealth of Israel, and their government is continued. In this chapter we have the relation of Jephthuh's administration. His birth, valor, contest with Ammon in the deliverance of Israel, victory, and rash vow, and the event of it, on the person of his daughter: these form the contents of this chapter.
It was remarked in the preceding chapter, that the men of Gilead were consulting who to appoint as their leader, to go out with them to battle against the Ammonites. The Lord was about to appear for their deliverance. And when the Lord comes forth for this purpose, he never needs an instrument in order to accomplish his gracious designs. The distinction that is here made between the children of lawful wedlock, and those sprung from unlawful connections, is uniformly marked through the bible. There is indeed more in it, in a spiritual sense, than is gene rally considered. The married state is expressly said to be a figure of the union between Christ and his church. So the apostle explains it; Ephesians 5:24-32 . But notwithstanding all this, we find instances in scripture, in which the Lord is pleased to show that publicans and harlots are not disqualified for participating in the mercies of Jesus. Perhaps a more illustrious instance cannot be found than in that of Rahab the harlot. And was not this a type of the call of the Gentiles, to whom the Lord was not married as to Israel? Compare Joshua 2:1-14 . with James 2:25 ; Hebrews 11:31 .
The gathering of vain men unto Jephthah, is not unsimilar to David's army, when he became their captain, when everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became their captain. See 1 Samuel 22:2 . But in all this, do I not see Jesus pictured out as the real David, and the captain of his people? Never, dearest Lord, should I have gathered with others unto thee, nor have sought to have thee to reign over me, if I had not been in soul distress, by reason of sin; in a state of insolvency by reason of debt to the law of God, and miserably discontented in the claims of a guilty conscience, until I found ease under thy precious banner, as the captain of my salvation.
Reader! spiritualize this passage, and see if the cry of the soul to Jesus in the hour of extremity is not similar. Before the soul is brought to this, we are like Gilead, without an head. But when ruin is before us, like the disciples on the lake, the language then is, Lord! save or we perish. Matthew 8:25 .
If the Reader connects with this view of Jephthah, the history of Joseph with his brethren, he will discover some similarity. But if he spiritualizeth the subject with a greater than Joseph, and recollects how the Lord Jesus was despised of his brethren, of whom it is said, that neither did they believe on him, he will find a greater beauty still. John 7:3-5 .
Just so the sinner in his approaches unto Jesus, when once convinced that there is salvation in no other. Oh! it is precious when once brought by the Holy Ghost, to give all the glory to Him, as our head, and to crown him Lord.
It is said of the adored Redeemer, that Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest, but was called of God, as was Aaron. Hebrews 5:4-5 . It is beautiful, and even glorious in the contemplation of redemption-work, that in all Jesus did and accomplished; the Father's gracious hand is seen joined with the Savior's work in the plan of mercy. My Father, saith Jesus, worketh hitherto, and, I work. John 5:17 . I cannot close the perusal of this account of Jephthah's uttering all his words before the Lord, without reminding the Reader of that most sublime view of the Son of God, lifting up his eyes to heaven, just as he was about to enter on his last act, in the finishing redemption, and saying; Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee, etc. John 17:1-4 .
I include the whole of the treaty, which passed between Jephthah, and the leader of the Ammonites, in one point of view, not only for the sake of shortness, but also for the sake of connection. In the perusal of this passage, I would desire the Reader to keep in remembrance the spiritual state of God's church, while he reads the historical events of God's people. And in this sense, I would call upon him to look back, and recollect how Moses was commanded to go in unto Pharaoh, and demand the release of God's people, before that the Lord brought them out. And was not Ammon ' s oppression of Israel similar? Was it not the church of Jesus, Satan endeavored to ruin and destroy? Let my people go, that they may serve me, was the demand of God? Was not our nature God's right by creation, before that Satan ruined that nature by the fall? And if Ammon pleaded long possession of those territories, were not these lands the Lord's gift to his people before? Reader! If Satan hath had long possession of our poor humbled nature, do not forget you are the Lord's prior possession, both by creation and by redemption. For Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 .
I pray the Reader to remark Jephthah's anointing. It was the same spirit which came upon Jephthah, which descended upon the Lord Jesus, only with this difference, on Jephthah, according to the measure of the gift of Christ; upon the Lord Jesus without measure. But it is delightful to contemplate, that the anointing and qualifying of the Lord Jesus and his church is one and the same. All these worketh that one, and the selfsame spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. See Ephesians 4:7 ; Joh 3:34 ; 1 Corinthians 12:11 .
Surely the vow of Jephthah proceeded from the want of faith; else why did he doubt, why did he say if the Lord would deliver Ammon into his hands? And Reader! make an observation of it in your own experience whenever faith fails, the ill effects of it are near at hand. A little faith, or lively exercise, will carry a believer through great difficulties. But if the Lord for the trial of our grace, and to let us see what mere feathers we are in the wind of temptation, if the Lord for a moment withdraws the arm of his strength, by which our faith is upheld; depend upon it, in that moment we fall. Hence our dear Lord, in the exercise of his mercy when upon earth, so much praised the evidences of faith in his people, as if he seemed to suspend these mercies on this very principle. Believest thou that I am able to do this? According to your faith, so be it done unto you. Matthew 9:28-29 .
Observe who it was that made Jephthah victorious. Yes! As in heaven so on earth, the armies of God overcame by the blood of the Lamb. It is always delightful to trace from whence our mercies flow; because through grace all the praise will then return to the right owner. Revelation 12:11 .
Various have been the opinions of pious men, on the subject of Jephthah's vow, and the event of it. But as the Holy Ghost hath not thought proper to make the subject clear, it should seem that it is the Lord's pleasure thus to leave it somewhat obscure; perhaps for the greater exercise of pious men's faith. If, as I before remarked, this vow of Jephthah proceeded from the weakness and littleness of his faith, certainly the Lord's rebuke was manifested in the punishment which followed. If, as some think, that Jephthah did not offer his daughter in sacrifice; for human sacrifices were not allowed by the law, then perhaps her being devoted to a single state, and sent to the temple service, is in some mea sure explained, in her being allowed two months to bewail her virgin state, by which that great hope all Israel were so tenacious of, in giving birth to Him who as the seed of the woman, was to bruise the serpent's head, was in her case done away. And then the latter verse, which speaks of the daughters of Israel going yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah, seems corresponding with it. But on the other hand, if her father really sacrificed her, which seems the most probable of the two, (though the reluctancy of Jephthah doth not much prefigure the voluntary gift of our heavenly Father, in giving up his only begotten Son for our redemption,) yet the pure and virgin state of the daughter, becomes no unapt representation of the spotless innocency of Jesus, who in the prime of life, offered himself a sacrifice for the salvation of his people. But I presume not to decide the point. Certain it is, that the Holy Ghost hath left the subject in obscurity. And therefore it becomes us to read it with humble waiting for his divine instruction. If the Reader recollects the promise of Jesus concerning the Spirit ' s teaching, and places himself under this heavenly teacher, not only in this, but in every other intricate passage, as far as is necessary to be understood, the Holy Ghost will guide him unto all truth. John 16:13 .
READER! ponder over this chapter, and remark with me, how very striking the marks of distinguishing grace! While all the sons of Gilead, in hawkish descent, were passed by; Jephthah, the son of an harlot, is chosen to be the servant of the Lord to his people! From hence let you and I learn never to overrate anything, from the mere outward and adventitious circumstances of birth, or human distinction. Not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are. And oh! that the God of all grace, may give us both grace, that we may know by heartfelt experience, the sweetness and preciousness of being the distinguished object of so much mercy, which may be a never-failing source of comfort here, and of everlasting happiness hereafter.
But while we behold in Jephthah, this distinguishing mark of the divine favor, let the Reader learn in his instance, how to appreciate the grace of God, while beholding the little deserts of men. Reader! it is delightful, indeed it is, to observe in the history of all men, even the best of men (for this is the uniform character of the whole race) that God's mercies, (even the richest of mercies, Jesus himself) have never been bestowed because we have merited them. No, blessed God! all are founded in thine everlasting love; they originate in thine own free and sovereign mercy. Thou art the first cause; and thou art the final end. For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever and ever, Amen. Reader! let us pass over all other considerations, all other subjects, and in the view of Jesus, the first, best, and most comprehensive of all gifts, the mercy of all mercies, here rest our contemplation. And thus far imitate Jephthah's vow to say, if our God will indeed give Jesus into our arms, in our heart, and form him there by the sweet influences of his Holy Spirit, the hope of glory; then will we give up for a burnt-offering, every other joy, and relinquish all that flesh and blood holds dear, so that Jesus be the strength of our heart, and our portion forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Judges 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34