Summary: This is the 5th sermon in a series on Judges dealing mainly with Jephthah (judges 10-12) and also mentioning Tola and Jair.

If your life is one big mess…

Tola, Jair, Jepthah

Judges 10:1 – 12:7 Romans 9:20-24, II Cor. 4:7-12, II Timothy 2:20-21

November 1, 2009


Is your life a mess? Jephtha’s was! His story is one of the longest of all the Judges… and it’s not because of his accomplishments. It’s because Jephtha’s life was a mess from beginning to end.

1. His family relationships were a mess

Judges 11:1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family," they said, "because you are the son of another woman."

Jephthah started out as a proverbial black sheep in his own family. He was the son of a different mother than all the other brothers, and though his lineage was none of his own doing, it caused him to start out with a dark smudge on his portion of the family tree. He may have been older than his other brothers causing them to fear that he might expect the eldest brother’s share of the inheritance. What ever the reason, they not only showed their disapproval of him, but actually cast him out of the family quite literally. He had to move out of the house and settle away from family land.

2. His career was a mess

Taking a look at his career as a leader and a soldier we notice that Jephthah evidently had leadership ability, and that the Jewish elders recognized it, for when the Ammonites made war against the tribes of Israel, the elders of the tribe of Gilead came to him to ask if he would lead them into battle against the enemy. His response was,"Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?" That was a good question which threw their own hypocrisy back into their faces. If Jephthah was nothing more than an illegitimate son of a prostitute why call on him when you need leadership?

The elders promised Jephthah that they would indeed make him their leader if he would help them now in their war with Ammon. So Jephthah went to the Ammonite king asking, "What do you have against us that you have attacked our country?" The king’s answer included some revisionist history about Israel taking land from them when they came up out of Egypt. What we see here is an ancient example of what we are seeing today in the Israeli/Palestinian mess, and this ancient king was just another predecessor to today’s Palestinians. He offered Jephthah peace if they would just give up their land and turn it over to Ammon.

Jephthah gave the actual historical account of their disputed land saying, in essence, “Our God gave us this land. Who are you to take it away from us? We have possessed this land for the last 300 years, you’ve had all that time to take it away and didn’t so why try to get it now? We have not done you wrong, but you are doing us wrong now, so let the Lord judge between us and settle the dispute between Israel and Ammon.” So, having tried and failed to negotiate a settlement Jephthah and his troops prepared to war against Ammon.

3. He even made a mess of his greatest victory

The text says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah (Judges 11:29) which means that God intervened on the side of Israel, and gave Jephthah His inner strength for battle. Sadly, it was at this moment, that Jephthah made a foolish and presumptuous vow to God. He promised that if God gave him victory, he would sacrifice the first thing to come out of the door of his house when he returned home from battle. The Lord gave him victory enabling him to devastate 20 towns in the disputed area and subduing the Enemy decisively.

But when Jephthah came home in victory who should come out of his house first, but his only child, a daughter dancing with a tambourine a victory dance for her daddy. Jephthah was crushed. He had made a vow he said he could not break. His daughter did not protest, but asked for a month’s time to be able to grieve with her friends because she would never be able to marry.

This is a perplexing and problematic text in the book of Judges for it suggests the idea of a Spirit filled man of God offering his own daughter as a human sacrifice which we know is against God’s law, and an abomination of a practice carried out by Canaanite heathens. Looking at the Bible Exposition Commentary (Wiersbe) we gain insight on what was actually in the Hebrew text itself. An alternate translation of the Hebrew conjunction “WAW” can mean either “and” or “or” therefore allowing this alternate meaning, “If we take this approach, then the vow was twofold: Whatever met him when he returned home would be dedicated to the Lord (if a person) or sacrificed to the Lord (if an animal).

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