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Commentary » Judges 11:1-Judges 11:17 » Family-Times.net
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Jephthah’s Call to Leadership

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At a mine disaster in West Virginia Phil Donahue, a young televison reporter, arrived just as the local pastor arrived. He was rough-hewn, and didn’t speak well but gathered all the families in a circle, and they held each other in their arms while he prayed for them. As they wer … More


The eighth judge of Israel was a man of great character, by the name of Jephthah. In his early life he was despised by his half-brothers as an illegitimate son of their father and he became an outcast and was exiled to the land of Tob (vv. 1-5). It was a normal practice to send away illegitimate children in those days so they would not share in the inheritance. Jephthah acquired the skills of a fighter and became notorious for his ability to wage war. It was this reputation that caused the tribes to contact him when they desperately needed a leader against the Ammonites (v. 6). He would not accept their invitation until they solemnly pledged full allegiance (v. 7). The elders of Gilead had swallowed their pride in approaching him to be their leader and he was not going to let pride stand in his way (vv. 8-11). While his self-seeking impulse is evident, his strong faith in God is also evident.

Jephthah’s first act as a statesman was to accuse Ammon of violating their territorial borders (v. 12). His accusation was countered by the Ammonites who claimed that the region had originally belonged to them and they had the right to get it back (v. 13). Jephthah then went into a detailed statement of history defending Israel’s right to its territory east of Jordan (vv. 14-17). They had no claim to it.


What I am is more important than where I have come from. Many people today depend more on their degrees than on their character. A good question to ask is - What am I doing now that will cause people to listen to what I have to say in the future?

Judges 11:1-17 (English Standard Version)

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. And Gilead's wife also bore him sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, "You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman." Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. And they said to Jephthah, "Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites." But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father's house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?" And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead." Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head." And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "The LORD will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say." So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah. Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, "What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?" And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, "Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably." Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said to him, "Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, 'Please let us pass through your land,' but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh."

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