Summary: From Jephthah the Gilead we learn an important lesson: Keeping Your Promises-- Even When It Costs You
The book of Judges (chapters l0—12) includes a strange story about keeping your promises and not breaking your vows. It’s the story of Jephthah the Gileadite—a most unusual hero.
The Bible says, “Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute" (Judges 1l:l).
Needless to say, this illegitimate son was not exactly the family favorite. In fact, Gilead’s other sons expelled him from the family Hurt by their rejection, Jephthah fled to the land of Tob, on the edge of the wilderness. There he gathered a band of rogues and rebels around him.
After a while, the Ammonites, marauders from the area attacked Jephthah’s town, and the family sent for Jephthah to come rescue them.
“Come,” they said, “be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites" (Judges 11:6).
What audacity! What hypocrisy! What desperation! His own relatives threw him out, and now they wanted him to come back and defend them.
“Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house?" Jephthah said. “Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?" (Judges 11:7).
So they promised to make him their captain and put him over all the cities of Gilead. Jephthah accepted their offer.
Jephthah had a heart for God despite his background as the illegitimate son of a prostitute, a desert bandit, and a social outcast. And yet, he was a person of great faith in God.
Perhaps the rejection Jephthah felt had driven him closer to God. He may have turned to the Lord as the only One who would accept him.
It is clear, however, that somewhere along the line, he had made peace with God over these issues.
Jephthah took his case to God. “Let the LORD, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites" (Judges 11:27).
I think, even though the scripture may not tell us much about Jephthah’s faith, this shows he had a great faith.
Unfortunately, the Ammonite king rejected Jephthah’s appeal, and he continued to advance toward the Israelites.
Then, “The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah” (Judges 11:29). He rallied a great army and crossed Gilead and Manasseh to meet the enemy at Mizpah.
In route to the battle, he made a solemn vow to God: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, OR some translations have “or" I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering" (Judges 11:30, 31).
And he did, in fact, win a great triumph over the Ammonites. He returned home in triumph as Israel’s great hero, lauded by his neighbors and welcomed by the excited throng.
But when Jephthah reached his house, to his utter dismay, his own daughter ran out to meet him dancing and playing a tambourine (Judges 11:34).
It wasn’t a sheep or a goat. It was his only child! He had promised to sacrifice her to God as a burnt offering.