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Jephthah's (Not So) Tragic Vow


Begin with an involving introduction that surfaces need. Use a provocative question, human-interest story, simple assertion, startling statement, a catalog of information, or create a conflict/problem.Review big picture > immediate context.
Establish the problem that the text provides the solution to. Big Idea:

1. Jephthah’s Character (10:17-11:28)

Jephthah’s Background (10:17-11:11)

The leaders of Gilead offer a proposal of headship to anyone willing to lead their army against the Ammonites.Jephthah’s brief family history follows in which we learn that he was a mighty warrior (Gideon), but the son of Gilead and a prostitute (Abimelech). When Gilead’s other sons grew up they drove Jephthah away so he would not receive any of the inheritance. He wasn’t on speaking terms with the Gileadites because his brothers drove him out. He hung out with “worthless men”, reminiscent of Abimelech (Ch.19). After the Ammonites attacked, and no one accepted the proposal of Gilead’s leaders, they asked Jephthah. Here we learn that the elders of Gilead are Jephthah’s half-brothers, the same one’s who drove him away. Despite their prior rejection, Jephthah accepts their offer to become head, also similar to Abimelech. However, Jephthah does give credit to the Lord for any victory they might achieve (9). And he repeats his oath before the Lord (10).Considering his background, we wouldn’t expect Jephthah to be capable of delivering a history lesson to the king of the Ammonites, but that’s exactly what he does.

Jephthah’s Knowledge (11:12-28)

In his first act, Jephthah reaches out to the king of the Ammonites seeking an explanation for their attack upon Gilead. The king responded that Israel had stolen his land when they came out of Egypt, and that he wanted it back.Jephthah sends back a lengthy history lesson that shows not only his interest in the nation of Israel, but his agreement with their interpretation of history. Isreal only took what God had given to them, which did not include Ammonite territoy.
ESV‘Today you are to cross the border of Moab at Ar. And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’
We won’t spend time analyzing his explanation, but it should suffice to show that he believed God’s revelation as recorded by Moses and Joshua! His response proves his knowledge of Scripture.If Jephthah were a rash individual as so many interpret him to be, why would he send messengers to negotiate peace with Ammon, not once, but twice! Jephthah was not rash in becoming Gilead’s head, nor was he rash to enter into war.That should go a long way in reforming our opinion of the man’s character. Yes, he comes from a questionable background that causes us to raise our eyebrows, but this section shows the man was no Abimelech.
Although there are several parallels with Abimelech, there are just as many parallels with God. The dialogue between Jephthah and Gilead demonstrates the relationship between Israel and God. Identical themes are found in 10:6-16 and 11:1-11.
Dale Ralph Davis points out the following parallel themes between these two passages: Rejection > Distress > Repentance > Objection > Appeal > Acquiescence. Both were despised and rejected by their own people. They were valued only for their immediate usefulness. They were desired mostly for their ability to provide military victory.
From my perspective, Jephthah can be seen as a man with great strength, poise, and patience. His past was not pristine, but it does not have to define his actions as we move forward in the narrative.Does anyone presently possess the level of maturity they had when they were younger?Whatever we conclude about Jephthah’s character is going to inform how we interpret everything that follows...


Jephthah’s Character (10:17-11:28) shows that a man with questionable experiences in the past can grow in his knowledge of the Scripture and become useful to God.Jephthah’s Commitment (11:29-40)Jephthah’s Conflict (12:1-7)Clearly point to Christ. End with a charge.
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