Judges 10-11 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine, and we want you to experience the life change that comes from knowing God's word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
Turn in your Bibles to Judges, chapter 10. We are continuing our study through the scriptures, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, every book in the Bible, all 66, from one cover to the other, reading everything except for the maps. We're going through each book. We're in the book of Judges.
After the book of Judges, we bounce back to a New Testament book. I think it's Romans at that time. Then we'll go back to first-- Ruth, 1 Samuel, et cetera. We may cover Ruth in this study of Judges, just because it's right there, and it's short enough. But we're in Judges, chapter 10.
Now the best place to begin-- the only logical place to begin a study in Judges, chapter 10, is in Deuteronomy, chapter 8. So you didn't see that coming, and you don't have to turn there. But I'm going to remind you of something as a set-up because I told you before that the Book of Judges is rated R for raunchy. And it's an unusual book.
It's a very dark period in Israel's history. They have had many of those periods. But you should at least keep in mind a warning that was given to the people of God by Moses, the servant of God.
I'm reading a couple of verses out of Deuteronomy, chapter 8, where he says, "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks, of water, of fountains, springs that flow out of the valleys and the hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees, pomegranates," et cetera. Verse 10, "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. Be aware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, his judgments, and his statutes, which I command you this day; lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built beautiful homes and dwell in them"-- you're prosperous as a nation-- "when your herds and your flocks multiply, your silver and gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, when your heart is lifted up and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage."
"Then you say in your heart, my power and might of my hand have gained me this wealth. And you shall remember the Lord your God for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant, which He swore to your fathers as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God."
Hold that thought. I am now also in Deuteronomy but in chapter 28, just a couple of verses. "It shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and statutes which I command you this day, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you."
Now the chapter begins by saying, you obey God, you do what He said, you're going to be blessed in a number of ways. Then after that, he says this. "Cursed you shall be if you disobey. Cursed you shall be in the city. Cursed you shall be in the country.
Cursed you shall be in the basket in your kneading bowl. Cursed you shall be in the fruit of your body, the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle, the offspring of your flock. Cursed you shall be when you come in and cursed shall you be when you go out.
The Lord will send on you cursing, confusion, rebuke, and all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken me. The Lord will make the plague cling to you until he has consumed you from the land in which you are going to possess." Same chapter, it's a long, long chapter. Don't worry. I'm not reading it all to you.
"Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart for the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, in need of all things. And He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth.
As swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you do not understand." Continuing on. "If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues, great and prolonged plagues, and serious and prolonged sickness."
I believe the book of Judges is a very contemporary book because we have a nation of Israel who did not heed those warnings. And so they go through these cycles throughout the entire book of Judges. We called it the sin cycle, where they start serving the Lord at the beginning, and then they forget the Lord.
They start lusting after other things, worshipping other gods. God allows them to be taken captive by a nation. They cry out to God. They whine.
They complain. They beg, and so God delivers them, sending them a judge. They serve the Lord with vigor. Then the cycle starts all over again, and it just keeps going through this book, each time worse and worse.
I told you before-- I think, a couple of weeks ago, maybe several weeks ago-- I quoted you Arnold Toynbee. Arnold Toynbee was a British historian, taught at King's College in London, brilliant intellect. And he noted that of 22 nations that appeared on the world stage, 19 of them collapsed when they arrived at the moral status of the United States of America, a sobering warning.
I found a quote along those lines. Dr. Stephen Mueller, who is the president of Johns Hopkins University, said, "Failure to rally around a set of values means that we are turning out highly skilled barbarians. Society as a whole is turning out barbarians because of the discarding of the value system that it was built on, to restore its lost value system, America would have to return to its faith in God. There can be no value system where there is no supreme value that transcends man's natural self-centeredness, where one man's values are esteemed as good as another's."
We have that happening today, your value system versus my value system, your opinion versus my opinion, your system versus my system. One is as good as the other. But when our country was founded, when Israel-- let's stick to the Scripture-- was founded, it was one nation under God.
But in the book of Judges, we see that nation under God trying to get out from under the God they were under, trying to break free of those constraints, appealing to no ultimate value system, but just comparing one person's opinion to another person's opinion, one person's tweet to another person's tweet, your idea, my idea. Instead of the ultimate appeal to God as a value system, so the nation is forsaking God. And we see that in the Book of Judges.
Now with that in mind, in chapter 10, "After Abimelech, there arose to save Israel, Tola." Just to fill you in for your memory's sake, you probably have a iron, steel trap memory, but just in case you don't. Abimelech was one of those rulers-- the ruler that is mentioned in the chapters previous to this-- who was the son of Gideon, who usurped authority by going to the men of Shechem because he was a Shechemite.
His father had a concubine in Shechem that was his mom. He talked the men of Shechem into sponsoring him as their leader. And he took the 70 legitimate sons of Gideon and killed them, bashed their head in on one stone. So he failed as their leader. They tried to make him king.
It was a horrible period of their history, and so that's in the past. "After Abimelech"-- after that son of Gideon-- "there arose to save Israel, Tola." He's the next judge. "Tola, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo."
It always gets a laugh for obvious reasons. If you're looking for names for your newborn son, you stay out of this chapter. None of those are noteworthy for your son's name, Dodo, Puah, Tola. I would just recommend stay-- although, Dodo is a word that means "loving," so it's a nice name. But come on, Dodo.
So all that we know of Tola is that he had this in his background, these guys' names. But we know what tribe he was from. He was "a man of Issachar." He dwelt "in Shamir in the mountains of Ephraim. He judged Israel 23 years, and he died and was buried in Shamir."
Now we don't know anything else about him. We know his name. We know a little bit about his tribe, his allotment, where he reigned, what family he was a part of, but that's it. We don't know what he did.
There was no great exploit, like that of Gideon. So that leads some scholars to believe that rather than doing great exploits, like Gideon did or like Deborah did, that Tola was a judge in the sense that he simply adjudicated cases for those northern tribes. He brought the peace. He brought justice during that time.
It's a generic kind of a judge. "After him,"-- so after those 23 years of adjudication-- "after him arose Jair." That's how we usually pronounce it. That is a mispronunciation.
The Hebrew pronunciation would be "ya-eer." But most Americans, you get them to say, "ya-eer," and you have a little bit of a difficulty, so we just kind of go "Jehr," you know, like we're hicks or something, but it is "ya-eer." "After him arose Jair, a Gileadite." So he is northeast of the Jordan River, east of the Jordan River, where two and 1/2 tribes settled. He is in that area, and he judged Israel for 22 years.
Now we don't know much about what he did either, probably adjudicated cases like Tola did. However, we were given a little bit of insight into his personal life in the next verse. "Now he had 30 sons who rode on 30 donkeys, and they also had 30 towns," which is "called Havvoth-jair," or the towns-- the tent villages, you might say-- of Jair "to this day, which are in the land of Gilead, and Jair died and was buried in Kamon." It's an odd fact about him.
Remember Ripley's Believe It or Not? You know how you have these strange but true things that happened or incidences or occurrences or items like a 500-pound pumpkin that was discovered in California, 500 pounds, but it really did happen. It's Ripley's Believe It or Not.
Or a cow that was arrested in Cambodia because of the traffic accidents that it caused. If you've ever been to that part of the world, you've seen animals along with cars and all sorts of vehicles, really no traffic laws. So that's one of the things that make you go, "Huh."
A cow that got arrested, I don't know how they press charges. Maybe they take it out, you know, from the milk. I don't know what they did. But holy cow, they arrested this thing, and it's in Ripley's Believe It or Not.
Well, the Bible sort of has its own believe it or not. A bush that speaks, believe it or not, it happened. Ask Mo. Moses was there.
Balaam's donkey that rebuked him. Hey, man, how come you're beating me? I've been a faithful donkey all these years." And that's not the weirdest part of the story.
The weirdest part of the story is that he didn't go, I can't believe my donkey just spoke. He starts arguing with his donkey. That's the weird thing, believe it or not. And believe it or not, you've got this, 30 boys, 30 donkeys, 30 towns.
We can infer that he was a polygamist. He obviously had more than one wife to produce 30 sons. That doesn't include the daughters. They obviously were in the mix. But it's just counting the 30 sons that his wives had.
Then it adds the fact that he bought them all a donkey, not a Mustang, not a Jaguar, a donkey. But in those days, donkeys were symbols of prosperity and peace. Kings rode on donkeys in times of peace.
Back in Judges, chapter 8, it speaks about those who ride on white donkeys, speaking of the upper class of people. But to be able to get each of your boys a donkey in those days meant you were prosperous. You were well-off.
But nothing else was recorded of him, just he had 30 boys. They had 30 donkeys. They had 30 towns. So what this speaks to me of is having affluence but no influence.
They had prosperity but no punch, no power to affect their country. They just-- he just sort of was a place-holder until the next guy came along. He died, and he was buried.
"Then the children of Israel"-- again, here's the cycle-- "did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals"-- those pagan gods-- "and the Ashtaroths," the gods of Syria. You can put names in like Rimmon and Hadad. Those were false gods that were worshipped in Syria.
"The gods of Sidon," that would be the Phoenician gods of Baal and Asherah. "The gods of Moab"-- like Chemosh-- "and the gods of the people of Ammon," Moloch was their God. "And the gods of the Philistines," one of them was named Dagon. You'll meet him later on, a fish god.
"And they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him." So the Lord was hot. "The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon."
Ammon is east of the Jordan River. If you were to look at a modern map, you would find the country of Jordan and its capital city of-- anybody-- Amman. Amman is the new name of Ammon, the Ammonite kingdom, modern-day Jordan. So those people east of the Jordan River were the Ammonites.
So get the picture. They left God. They forsook God. They pushed God away.
They got rid of God in their national life. And because they got rid of God, they replaced Him. Anytime somebody forsakes God, they look for a substitute. Man must worship something.
Even if he says, "Oh, I don't worship anything. I'm agnostic, or I'm atheist," there's some master passion, some drive that he has, some ideal, could be himself, could be his education, could be a political party, an ideology, a person, a vehicle, a bank account, a status symbol. Everybody worships something. But I'm always amazed to discover, once a person says, I'm pushing God out of my life, what they turn to replace Him.
And sometimes these are seemingly smart people. But you look at what they live like and what they believe in and their superstitions. And it's like maybe they should be named Dodo.
Much later on down the pike is going to come another young prophet by the name of Jeremiah. Jeremiah will be called by God to deliver pretty tough messages to the nation. And in chapter 2 of Jeremiah, God tells Jeremiah to deliver this message. He said, "My people have committed two evils.
Number one, they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water. And second, they have hewn out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." So they have got rid of God. They left Me.
They forsook me, the fountain of living water. And in the place of Me, God, the fountain of living waters, they've dug out cisterns that really are busted and broken and really can't hold water. Now that that is an analogy that would be very understandable and dear to the heart of a Middle Easterner.
Because in that arid climate, to pick up rainwater that comes only seasonally, usually in the winter months and early spring, they will dig out-- they have in the past, and you can see them all over the country when you take a tour-- they'll show you cisterns, where they dig out a solid rock, this hole, this cavernous cave. And they put pitch on it or some kind of a limestone pitch to cover it like you would a swimming pool. And then they take the rainwater that falls, and they diverted into a channel, and they collect it.
And so it gives them water year-round. Especially during the drought-stricken months, they have some kind of water. But because it's standing water, it can be stale. And things swim in it, and things grow in it.
And so you have to strain it. It's a little bit laborious. You can drink from it, but why would you want a cistern, especially after you dig it out and it's a broken cistern. You find there's a fault in the rock. That's what the passage infers.
They've hewn out cisterns, broken cisterns. So you spend months digging out a cistern. You fill it with pits. You collect rainwater.
And you come back a couple of days later, it's empty. And you discover there's a fault in the rock. There's a crack in the rock. Water comes in, but water seeps back into the ground, so it's faulty.
So they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water. Living water is always preferable to standing water. Living water means an artesian well or a source like a river or a spring coming downward. It's alive. It's flowing.
Why would you leave a flowing source of water for standing stagnant water, especially in a broken cistern that really can't hold anything? "My people have done this," God said. They have turned aside from Me, and they've replaced Me-- they've replaced the fountain of living water with a hole in the ground.
Their own making, their own desires, their own will can hold no water. When life really gets tough and things really get hard, and you're really thirsty and you need a drink, good luck. It can't help.
So that is happening here. They forsook God. They replaced Him with all of these other gods. So the Lord sold them into the hands of the Philistines.
Really, you love their god so much? OK. You really love those idols? OK, I'll turn you into idol central. "From that year"-- verse 8-- "they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel for 18 years, all the children of Israel who were on the other side of the Jordan, in the land of the Amorites in Gilead." That's the eastern side.
"Moreover, the people of Ammon crossed over the Jordan to fight against Judah, also against Benjamin"-- those two southern tribes where the city of Jerusalem is-- "and against the house of Ephraim"-- that's in the center-- "so that Israel was severely distressed. And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, 'We have sinned against You because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals.'" Same old song, same old tune, same lyrics, they're in trouble. Oh, God. God delivers them.
See ya, God. They're in trouble. Oh, God, and it just keeps going, so watch this. "But the Lord said to the children of Israel, 'Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites," and from the people-- Amorites-- "and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines, also the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites?"
Now the Maonites are the ones who develop mayonnaise. No, I'm just kidding. The Maonites is probably-- just I throw those things out just to get you woke. Not woke, awoke, very different thing.
The Maonites is another term for the Midianites, which was taken over by Gideon, and God delivered the Midianites into the hands of Israel through Him. "They oppressed you, and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods.
Therefore, I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen. Let them deliver you in your time of distress."
Now there's only one problem with crying out to the gods you have chosen. There's only one problem with crying out to Chemosh and Hadad and Baal and Asherah and all those other gods and goddesses. There's only one big problem. They don't exist.
They're fake, man. They're fake news. They're made up. People make up those gods. There's only one true living God in the universe.
There's only one.
So you can pray all day long, like the priests of Baal and Asherah did on Mount Carmel. All day long, they cut themselves. They hopped around. They prayed, while Elijah watched the whole thing, 1 Kings, chapter 18. He gets out there, and I think he prays 18 or 21 words, very short prayer.
But it's not the length of your prayer. It's the One to whom your prayer is addressed. That's where the power is. You pray for five hours to a god that doesn't exist, that people make up in their own minds.
Or you pray a short prayer to the only true and living God. You're going to get very different results. So God says, cry to them. Let them deliver you.
Now this to me is the saddest stage at which a nation can come to, when God actually gives them over to what they asked for. "I want to be free from the constraints of religion. I don't want a church or a pastor or a priest or organized religion to tell me what to do. I don't like organized religion." I can only infer you like disorganized religion then because that's what you got.
When people say, I-- I-- I want to do what I want to do. The saddest place you can come to is when God says, OK, I'll give you exactly what you want. Romans, chapter 1, "God gave them over." Because they did not wish to retain God in their thinking, God gave them over to a debased mind to do whatever they wanted to do.
Now when a nation gets to that place, where the nation has forsaken God. And God finally says, Your wish has been granted. You can have all that you've asked for, complete freedom from Me. I will restrain you no longer. That's the worst possible place a nation can come to.
"Then the children of Israel said to the Lord, 'We have sinned. Do whatever seems best to You, only deliver us this day, we pray. So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord."
Now this is different. They prayed. They cried. They were all emotional. It wasn't good enough.
But the second time around, they prayed and cried, but they did something. It's called repentance. They turned from these false gods and turned to the Lord. You see, it's more than just turning to God.
"Oh, I prayed. I've given-- I-- I love the Big Guy. I pray to Jesus. I've turned to Him."
Yeah, but have you turned from those things that are sinful experiences in your life? Have you turned from those other gods, those values, those practices? So they put away the foreign gods.
And it says, "and served the Lord, and His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel." There is your God. There He is. That's the Lord.
Yes, He sounds really hard at first. "I'm not going to deliver you." He's getting them to the place where they mean business, where they go, Oh, Lord, please, we'll do anything. Do anything You need to us. We're going to put away these gods and serve only You.
You see, sometimes the Lord won't answer your prayer because He is leading you along to this place of earnestness and intensity and reality and repentance. But that's His heart. He really wants to restore. And so it says, "His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel."
Than the people of Ammon gathered together and encamped in Gilead, and the children of Israel assembled together and encamped in Mizpah. And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, 'Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.'"
That statement sets up the next judge, the ninth judge in the book of Judges, a guy by the name of Jephthah, chapter 11, verse 1. "Now Jephthah, the Gileadites"-- so he's also up north and east of the Jordan River, he's from the area of Gilead-- "Jephthah, the Gileadite, was a mighty man of valor." Now stop right there. Remember Gideon?
And the angel of the Lord said, Hey, you mighty man of valor, and it didn't seem to fit Gideon because Gideon was a scaredy cat. He was threshing wheat in the wine press. He wouldn't even go public with it. He was hiding, so he really wasn't a mighty man of valor.
But the Lord turned him into one. Jephthah actually was a warrior. He was a fighting man.
He was adept at military skill. That's the idea behind the phrase. "Jephthah was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot."
So he was an illegitimate child. "And Gilead begot Jephthah. Gilead's wife bore sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, 'You shall have no inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman.'"
So today we would call this child abuse. We would call this family abuse. There's a number of things this would fall under. In those days, this was pretty common, and this is a horrible thing to have in your status, in your background.
But Jephthah rose above it, as we will see. Though, he's not a pretty guy. I mean, he's got a lot of flaws, as you will see.
"Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob"-- or "Tahb," that's way, way up north. And notice this, "Worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him." Let me give you my take on Jephthah. Jephthah was like a gang thug.
He was a fighter. He was a scrapper. He had a rough background. His legitimate brothers scorned him growing up, so he grew up with a tough edge. And he becomes a leader but like a mafia boss leader, you know.
I said, he's not a pretty personality. He's really rough around the edges. Because he is from part Israeli background, Gilead, but he is the son of a harlot, he's probably half-Canaanite. In fact, Josephus, the Jewish historian, said the wife of Gilead was a Gentile. So we can infer from all that history that she was probably Canaanite, so he's half Canaanite, half Israelite.
Canaanites, big on pagan worship with all those gods that we saw mentioned. Israel was having its problems even worshipping God, so that's his background. And what's interesting is that people that come around him, it's called "worthless men" in our translation. It goes by several different descriptions, depending on what translation you read.
But New King James calls them "worthless men banded together and went out raiding with him." These guys are desperadoes. These guys are idle. If you were to look at the make-up in the Middle East of who becomes a terrorist, it is young men who are idle.
They've got nothing to do. There is no plan for them in society to pivot toward, and they grow up with all the anger and animosity of their family. And society doesn't really have many activities for them, and it's a perfect breeding ground for terrorism. They're looking for action. They're looking to go beat somebody up and steal stuff, plunder.
Now having said that, I don't want to completely depreciate this group. It sounds like a pretty bad group. However, if you remember David had a group of mighty men, 400 of them. People who were desperate, people who were in debt, and men who were discontented, the Bible says, formed David's mighty men, same kind of group. But they became a true fighting force for David and loyal to him in his kingdom.
Not only that, but think of the Lord Jesus for just a moment. Isaiah said, "He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows equated with grief." He's marginalized. He's pushed aside. He's not giving status, similar to Jephthah.
And then look at the people Jesus chose around Him. If you know anything about the make-up of the disciples, they would not have been able to stick together. You had an Israeli terrorist freedom fighter, along with a tax collector.
And then Paul says, "You see your calling, brethren, how not many mighty noble are called according to the flesh. But God has chosen the foolish things of this world, the weak things of this world, to confound the wise." That's us. So we can say, "Yeah, these are worthless men, bad guys." Yep. But, boy, can God do amazing things with us once He gets a hold of us.
"Now it came to pass after a time, that the people of Ammon made war against Israel. And so it was the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob." Remember, he fled. He got out, man.
They hated him. They pushed him aside. They marginalized him. He moved up north.
"Then they said to Jephthah, 'Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.' So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, 'Did you not hate me and expel me from 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 again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.'"
Look, we're not going to be shy. We need a guy who can beat up those guys. You got a bunch of worthless men.
You guys are fighters. You're scrappers. That's why we've come to you.
"So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, 'If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon and the Lord'"-- Yahweh-- "'delivers them to me, shall I be your head?' The elders of Gilead said to Jephthat, 'The Lord will be witness between us if we do not do according to your words.' Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord in Mizpah. Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king, the people of Ammon, saying, 'What do you have against me that you have come to fight against me in my land?'"
Now before we get to that, I want to make a distinction. Jephthah is conscripted by the people of the land to be their judge, to be their leader, to be their military fighter, fight the wars. This is different from Gideon.
Here with Jephthah, it's a formal contract between a group of people in trouble, going to find this man and saying, please help us, versus with Gideon, the Lord called him. There's no mention of the Lord calling him. Now there's a mention of the Spirit of God coming upon him and using him, and He does, therefore He is mentioned.
But it is different from previous judges, where the Lord appointed them. The angel of the Lord, like with Gideon, appeared to him and called him and equipped him. Here, it's more of a formal contract with Jephthah whereas Gideon is called by God.
So verse 12, first of all, "Jephthah sent messengers to the king"-- that's the king of Ammon-- "saying, 'What do you have against me that you have come to fight against me in my land?' And the king of the people of Ammon answered the messengers of Jephthah, 'Because Israel took away my land when they came out of Egypt from the land of Arnon as far as the Jabbok to the Jordan. Now therefore restore those lands peaceably.'"
This king's going all the way back a few hundred years in their history, saying, hey, look, we want what you guys took from us, the land. Now it's a good thing that Jephthah knows the history of Israel. You might say it's a good thing Jephthah knows his Bible because he's going to school this king in not revisionist history, like the king's into, but actual history, really what happened.
But, first, before the battle, he sends emissaries, ambassadors. He wants to negotiate if he can. Why fight when you can negotiate?
So he sends ambassadors, like, so what up, dude. What are you trying to fight us for? Why have you come against us? Because you stole our land a few years ago when the children of Israel left Egypt and took our land.
"Jephthah"-- verse 14-- "again sent messengers to the king of the people of Ammon and said to him, 'Thus says Jephthah, Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the people of Ammon, for when Israel came up from Egypt, they walked through the wilderness as far as the Red Sea, and they came to Kadesh. Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, Please let me pass through your land. But the king of Edom would not heed.
And in like manner, they sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. And they went along through the wilderness and bypassed the land of Edom and the land of Moab, came to the east side of the land of Moab, encamped on the other side of the Arnon, but they did not enter the border of Moab for the Arnon was the border of Moab.
Then Israel'"-- he just knows all these little facts. It's like he's schooling him, man. He's going back a few hundred years and taking him to school.
"'Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon, the king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, please let us pass through your land into our place. But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. So Sihon gathered all the people together and camped in Jahaz and fought against Israel. And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them.
Thus, Israel gained possession of all the land of the Amorites who inhabited that country. They took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok, from the wilderness to the Jordan. So now the Lord, God of Israel, has dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel.
Should you then possess it? Will you not possess whatever Chemosh your God gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God takes possession of before us, we will possess.'"
One thing about Jephthah, he was an excellent student of his own history, or at least his father's side. Remember, he was an illegitimate child. His mom was a Canaanite. Dad was an Israelite, a Gileadite.
But it is correct. His take on history is absolutely accurate. When the children of Israel left Egypt, the Bible tells us it was only-- it should have been-- an 11-day journey from Egypt to the border of Israel if you went up the coast. It didn't take them 11 days. It took them 40 years.
The Lord led them by the Red Sea. They went down to Sinai. They eventually went to Kadesh. They sent spies out into the land of Israel to find out what it's like.
The spies came back-- remember the story in the book of Numbers-- two spies said, The Lord's with us, man. Let's go for it, Joshua and Caleb. The other 10 didn't believe it, saw giants, spoke fear, not faith, fear.
Because of their report into the hearts of the children of Israel, and people love to believe fear rather than words of faith, it travels a lot faster. People get spooked and scared a lot easier than people who say, it's OK. You're going to be OK.
So the whole nation wandered for 40 years, 38 more years, because they did not believe that God wanted them to have the land. So after that, they decided, let's go to the east. And let's go around all the way to the Jordan River that way. So they went around Edom.
They went around Moab. They asked permission to go through. They said, we won't take any of your food. We'll bring our own food.
We'll eat our own food. We won't mess your land up. Please just let us get passage. King said, no. The next king said, no.
So the children of Israel went between the Arnon River and the Jabbok River, which is Ammorite territory. Now right now the Ammonites are saying, we want our land back. Jephthah's saying, your land ain't your land. We went through Ammorite territory between those two rivers.
You Ammonites don't know your history. You've got it all confused. Be content with whatever your false god gives you to inhabit. God gave us this land. We ain't budging, gave them the hard line.
And now, verse 25, "'Are you any better than Balak, the son of Zippor, the king of Moab? Did he ever strive against Israel? Did he ever fight against them? While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and its villages in Aroer and its villages and all the cities along the banks of the Arnon for 300 years, why did you not recover them within that time?'"
Now after 300 years, there's certain proprietary rights that a nation has. We've been sitting here for a long time. You guys haven't raised a finger till now.
"'Therefore, I have not sinned against you. But you wronged me by fighting against me. May the Lord, the judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon. However, the king of the people of Ammon did not heed the words which Jephthah sent him.
Then'"-- here it is-- "'the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh. He passed through Mizpah of Gilead. And from Mizpah of Gilead, he advanced toward the people of Ammon. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, If you will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the people of Ammon shall surely be the Lord's. I will offer it up as a burnt offering.'"
Now this is stupid. But it's pagan, very typical of pagan generals to vow to whatever god they were into, god of their territory, that if they won the battle, they would give a sacrifice. Canaanites were big on human sacrifice. God forbade it in the law. He absolutely forbade human sacrifice.
He's half Canaanite, raised by a Canaanite mom. Obviously not a strong Jewish father during this period of Judges. With the Canaanite influence and with the pagan influence around him, and that becomes a custom of the time, he makes this vow.
And here's what it reveals about how bad things were at the time. Jephthah is treating God, Yahweh, as if you were a Canaanite god. He is projecting onto the true God of the universe, who says, don't sacrifice babies, children, humans. Don't do that. Don't kill them.
He is projecting onto the God of the universe the same attributes of a petty, mean, vindictive Canaanite god or goddess. So he doesn't know the Lord very well. Oh, he may know scripture a little bit. He may know Israel's history.
He doesn't know Israel's God. To make this vow, it'd be needless. You don't make vows like this. You don't need to.
Now we haven't read it yet, but we're going to get to it in the book of Samuel. King Saul is fighting the Philistines. Jonathan, the son of Saul, is apart from his dad and the army. And he gets this weird thought one day.
He says, you know, if we're serving the Lord God of the universe, if God wants to defeat an enemy, He doesn't really require an army. The Lord can deliver and save by many or by few. So he goes to his armor bearer, and he goes, I got this crazy thought. And he tells them the crazy thought.
He goes, you know, there's this army, King Saul, and we're afraid of the Philistines and stuff. But, you know, if God really wants to deliver the Philistines into our hands, He could do it with just you and me, if He wanted to. The armor bearer goes, yeah.
Maybe he's thinking, yeah, but I hope you're not actually going to take him up on that. But he says, you know what? Whatever is in your heart, I'm game.
So he says, well, let's go over to the camp of the Philistines. And let's just see if the Lord's in this or not. And he sets this little thing up, is if they call us, then we know the Lord's in it. If they say, stay away, we know that he shouldn't. And so it all panned out, and they won the battle.
Well, little did he know, that his dad, Saul, had made a vow, a stupid, dumb, crazy, idiotic-- I'll pick up any more words, but that sort of exhausted it for me-- vapid vow. He tells his army, he says, no one in my army is allowed to eat anything at all, all day long, until we get victory on the Philistines. Now, that's stupid.
If they're fighting men, they need to eat. They need energy, man. They need protein. They need something.
So they're out there fighting this battle, slugging it out, trying to mop it up, you know, going to get some of those ranks. And they're just feeling exhausted. Well, Jonathan didn't know that his father has made that vow.
And his father, Saul, says, whoever does transgress my command and eat something, I'm going to kill him. So the Lord gives the victory to Jonathan and his armor bearer. But he doesn't know about his dad's vow, so he comes back and tells him the story and how the Lord used he and the armor bearer to defeat the Philistines.
But during the day, because he was getting worn out, he found a beehive with honey in it. He reached his spear up, grabbed a little bit of the honeycomb, and ate it. And, you know, it says, he brightened up, right? He got a sugar rush, and it brought him to the end.
His dad hears that his son-- even though he wasn't present when he made the vow, wasn't there-- he was busy winning the battle, his dad says, kill him. Execute my son. Now how stupid of a vow is that, to say kill my son.
But the Israelites said, we're not going to kill him. We're not going to do it. We're going to disobey you.
None of us are going to lay a hand on him, for the Lord has given him the victory. So why make a stupid vow like Saul or a stupid vow like this. I got a little carried away on that, but let's get back to the text.
"So"-- verse 32-- "Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. And he defeated them from Aroer as far as Minnith, 20 cities, to Abel-keramin, with a very great slaughter. Thus the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter coming out to meet him. Remember the vow he made? His daughter coming out to meet him, with timbrels and dancing, and she was his only child. Beside her, he had neither son, nor daughter.
Now remember the vow. Whatever comes first out of the door, I'm going to sacrifice as a burnt offering. He comes home. His daughter comes out.
Now I've tried hard-- this is a difficult text-- I tried hard to think like he would be thinking. And it's hard to put yourself in his sandals. So what was he thinking? He didn't have any other children.
He only had one daughter. He makes a stupid vow like that. Who did he expect to come out of the house? I don't know, maybe his wife.
I was trying to think this through. He probably did not expect the daughter to come out. I'm at a loss.
"And it came to pass when he saw her, that he tore his clothes and said, 'Alas'"-- that's a deep, sorrowful lament. "'Alas, my daughter, you have brought me very low. You are among those who trouble me for I have given my word to Yahweh, the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.'
So she said to him, 'My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do according to what has gone out of your mouth because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.' Then she said to her father, 'Let this thing be done for me. Let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander in the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.'
So he said, 'Go,' sent her away for two months. She went with her friends and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. And so it was so, that at the end of two months, she returned to her father."
I think I'd be tempted just to keep going. "And carried out his vow with her, which he had vowed. She knew no man, and it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite.
Now this text has brought a lot of confusion, and there is a debate. Some say, he went through with it and killed his daughter and offered her up as a burnt offering, like a Canaanite general would do. But some say, no, not so fast, not necessarily so. It could be that he let her live as a virgin-- commanded her to live as a virgin her whole life. That's sort of the intent here.
And so if you want to know the reasons why there is the debate, first of all, they say, well, Jephthah, obviously, knew the Old Testament because he's quoting their history. And so he must have known the texts of Scripture that say, don't do that. So for him to say, I'm actually going to kill my daughter, would go against everything that he knew. I don't know if that's really a strong case.
Others say, well, because he was doing this in Israel, in Gilead, if he would have tried to do this, the rest of the Israelite community who did know the texts of Scripture would not have let it happen. That's certainly a possibility. Third reason they say he did not kill his daughter is because when you get to the book of Samuel, the prophet Samuel speaks favorably of Jephthah, as does the New Testament. Hebrews, chapter 12, in that listing of the heroes of faith in the Old Testament, Jephthah is mentioned.
And then the final sort of shred of evidence that is used to say that he did not kill but kept her alive is back in verse 31, where it says, "'Whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the people of Ammon shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.'" What they will say-- what they will point out-- is that the Hebrew word "and" is sometimes translated and can be translated "or." So that the text in verse 31 could then read, "When I return in peace"-- "whatever comes out, would I return in peace, shall surely be the Lord's or I will offer it up as a burnt offering.
So he was giving the option. You know, if my dachshund comes out of the house first, OK, I'm going to offer it up as a burnt offering. If my daughter does, no way. If my wife does, well, I haven't decided that yet.
But they say it's either or it could be one or the other. So what they will say in trying to deal with this very difficult text is that he dedicated his daughter to the Lord in the service at the Tabernacle. In the Old Testament, there is text-- I think in Exodus-- about women who served at the door of the Tabernacle.
When we get to the book of Samuel, Samuel is dedicated from a young age under the service of the high priest, Eli, to serve in the Tabernacle. The children are dedicated in service from a young age. So it could be that-- they say-- that that's one of the explanations is that he made this oath. But she served in the Tabernacle, like Samuel did, and she stayed a virgin her whole life. It's a possibility.
But because his heart was broken and because he said, "Alas," and because it's worded that way, it could actually be that he did the stupid thing and killed his daughter and offered her up as a burnt offering. If anything, and if that is the case, that doesn't mean God condones it at all. It shows you how low the nation has gotten, that they are now merging, conflating pagan values with the word of God in Israel. It's part of the syncretistic style of worship. That's how low it has gotten at that time.
Now let's say he made this vow, and he said, OK, I made a vow to God. I've got to keep it. I've got to kill her.
What somebody should have told him-- and we'll close with this-- is Leviticus 27. In the law of Moses, there is this section about making a vow. And it says, in Leviticus 27, listen to this.
"Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, when a man consecrates a vow of certain persons to the Lord, according to your valuation, if your valuation is of a male from 20 years old and up to 60 years old, then your valuation should be 50 shekels of silver, according to the Shekel of the Sanctuary. If it is the female, then your valuation shall be 30 shekels. And if from five years old up to 20 years old, then your valuation for a male should be 20 shekels, and for a female, 10 shekels."
So here's the deal. All he would have to do-- even if he made the vow of a burnt offering-- is pay 10 shekels, and he would be released from his vow. Let's close on this note.
This is the reason we need to both know our God and know the word of God. The more you know the Scripture, the principles of the Bible, boy, that's a lifesaver literally. It's like, dude, just pay 10 shekels. You said something stupid that God never required.
I know you made your vow, and everybody thinks you got to keep it. But you don't have to keep it. You can be released from it. You pay 10 shekels. So we underscore the need to know God and to know His word.
Well, that-- we are out of time. I fully was prepared to do all the way to chapter 12, but that's-- ain't going to happen. But we got two chapters knocked out, and we'll continue next time. That's the beauty of going through the Scripture. We stop when it's time, and we pick it up next time.
Father, we thank You that we get to get a little bit of insight into a very dark and confusing time of Israel's history, when there was no king in Israel. And we are told, especially toward the end of this book, every person did what was right in his own eyes. That seems to be a perfect modern-day motto.
Everybody is doing whatever they please, whatever they see fit. And we fear that we're a nation that has come to the brink, where You are giving us over to what we say we want, to the freedoms we say we must have. Father, we pray for this nation.
We pray for wisdom for your people. We pray, Father, that we would walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise. Help us, Lord, to redeem the time as we see the clock ticking. And it just seems like, Lord, you're coming soon.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus. It's in His name we pray, Amen. Let's all stand. We'll sing together, and then you're dismissed.
You can hang around as long as you want. Be kind to one another. Be distanced from one another. It's so unscriptural to be distanced from one another.
I can't wait till we can hug and hang out more closely and shake hands, et cetera. But until then, wash your hands. Use sanitizer.
Do all that stuff, blah, blah, blah. You know-- you know the rules. All right. That's enough.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit CalvaryNM.church. Thank you for joining us during this teaching in our Expound series.