Sunday, September 17, 2006

JUDGES 10-11

10:1-5 Tola and Jair

10:1 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir. 3 After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. 4 And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. 5 And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

After Abimelech was killed, the next 40 or so years seem to have been uneventful under two judges. You do see evidence of continued polygamy, as evidenced by Jair’s 30 sons. He also liked to display his wealth, putting all this 30 sons on donkeys at a time when Israelites did not ride horses.

10:6 Further Disobedience
6 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him.

Somewhere in this time, Israel turned to even more idol worship, adding other gods to Baal and Ashtaroth, the Canaanite deities. The also worshipped gods of several other countries as they came into contact with them. This finally led to their forsaking the Lord and not serving him. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Whatever you serve will take you away from service to the Lord, whether it is a pagan god, money, success or popularity.

When you put any of these in first place instead of God, you sin. The first commandment was “You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me” in Exodus 20:3. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” God wants first place in your devotion, but, not only first place, but total and complete devotion.

10:7-9 The Consequences of Disobedience

7 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, 8 and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. 9 And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.

When Israel forsook the worship of the Lord, the Lord forsook Israel and quit protecting them. They again fell into oppression, this time by the Philistines and the Ammonites. The Philistines would continue to be enemies of Israel right up until Samuel’s judgeship, when the Lord defeated them as recorded in 1 Samuel 7. This was double trouble, as the Ammonites attacked from the east, and the Philistines from the west. That is why they were severely distressed.

10:10-16 Repentance

10 And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites (Masoretic text; Septuigint has “Midianites”) oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” 15 And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.

Israel finally came to repentance, when things got bad enough. The Lord responded by pointing out his grace to them. He had saved them from 7 enemies, but they responded by worshipping that many foreign gods. They depth of God’s grace was matched by the depth of their depravity.

The Lord also pointed out that their false gods did not save them. But, when they returned to serving him, he acted to protect them again.

10:17 Israel Needs A Leader

17 Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. 18 And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

The deliverance of Israel began with the actions of the Ammonites, who gathered together in Gilead and prepared to attack. Israel also mustered to defend itself, camping at Mizpah. Gilead may refer to all the land east of the Jordan river, in what is now the country of Jordan. Mizpah was where Laban overtook Jacob as he fled from him, and they made a covenant and marked it with a pile of stones. Laban called it Mizpah, a place of watching, saying the Lord would watch between them and hold Jacob accountable to his part of the covenant.

11:1-3 The Biography of Jephthah

11:1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 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.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.

These 3 verses are a bracket in the story to give the biography of Jephthah. He is similar to Abimelech, in that he is the son of a leader, but not by his wife. He was excluded by the sons of the wife and driven out to Tob, which 2 Samuel 10:6-8 tells us is up near or in Syria. Like Abimelech, he became a warrior and recruited other outcasts to follow him. He is an ancient outlaw, or warlord, or ronin.

11:4-11 From Outcast To Leader

4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight with the Ammonites.” 7 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?” 8 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 with the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight with the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.” 11 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.

There must have been no one around that seemed capable of leading the Israelites into battle, because they went to Jephthah and recruited him. He gave them a hard time, since he had been driven out by them. But, they promised to make him their leader.

Ironically, as Laban had told Jacob, Jephthah tells the elders God will be a witness between them.

So, although Jephthat bore many common traits with Abimelech, he actually became a leader or judge of Israel.

11:12-28 Jephthah’s Parlay

12 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?” 13 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.” 14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, 16 but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17 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. 18 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. 19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’ 20 but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. 22 And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23 So then the Lord, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them? 24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the Lord our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The Lord, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.” 28 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him.

Jephthah first parlayed with the king of the Ammonites, and asked why they were attacking Israel.

The king responded that they came for justice, seeking the return of the land Israel had taken from them. This sounds like some of today’s disputes, doesn’t it?

Jephthah responded with his own history lesson, denying that Israel had taken anything from Ammon. It is true that Israel did not attack Ammon, as God had forbidden it, according to Deuteronomy 2:19, as their land had been given to them by God as the children of Lot. Israel did attack and defeath the Amorite king, Sihon, and took possession of his kingdom. One portion of Sihon’s kingdom had formerly belonged to Moab and Ammon, and had been conquered by Sihon and occupied by the Amorites. This is recorded in Numbers 21:26, although the land is called Moab, and this is the land the king is talking about. Joshua 13:25 records Joshua giving out this land and even calls it “half the land of the children of Ammon”.

Jephthah also made reference to Chemosh, the god of Moab, and presumably of Ammon, saying if he hasn’t given you this land before, why try to take it now?

His final argument is, we have held this land for 300 years, and you did not try to take it back, so why do it now? But, the Ammonites were determined, and believed Israel weak, so they refused to leave.

11:29-33 Victory By The Spirit

29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever [1] comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it [2] up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and empowered him to win the battle and defeat the Ammonites.

Verse 30 records a terrible vow Jephthah made to the Lord, in return for victory, to sacrifice someone from his household, the first one who comes out of his house to greet him when he returns. The Lord did not require this vow and there is no precedent for it in battle.

11:34-40 Jephtha Fulfills A Sinful Vow

34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. 39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

Jephthah only had one child, and she came out to meet him to celebrate his victory. Jephthah determined to keep his vow, even though the Lord is silent. His daughter likewise cooperates with this vow.

Leviticus 1:2 specifies the burnt offering as an offering of livestock. If one could not bring livestock, he sacrificed birds. The offering is made by a priest. In Leviticus 17, the Lord commanded that burnt offerings only be made at the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who offered a burnt offering elsewhere was to be cut off from his people. Leviticus 20:1-5 records the Lord forbidding any Israelite from offering his children to Molech, which was a fire sacrifice. The penalty was death.

There were burnt offerings for vows. Leviticus 22:18-19 tells us the Lord said it must be a bull or a male sheep or goat without blemish. Finally, Leviticus 27 tells us that vows concerning persons are valued by the payment of silver. So, there was no basis for Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter in a vow to the Lord.

The Lord used Jephthah to bring deliverance from the Ammonites, but Jephthath had his flaws. And, the Philistines are still oppressing Israel. Jephthah only brought 6 years of peace to Israel.
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