Jephthah: Rags to Riches to Rags – Judges 10-12:7

By John Bellingham on May 25, 2014
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Jephthah: Rags to Riches to Rags

Judges 10-12:7


I. From Rags (10:1 – 11:3)

1)  Israel’s Threadbare Spirituality

  • More ‘judges’ in Israel that function like self-proclaimed kings (ie. Jair)
  • Rampant idolatry – Israel worships the gods of every Canaanite ethnic group that they were supposed to dispossess!
  • Tension in the text between God’s justice (10:13-14) and God’s mercy (10:16)

Application:  The judgment for idolatry in our lives is more idolatry!   God will give us up to the very false ‘gods’ that continue to let us down

2)  An Outcast Leader

  • A ‘mighty warrior’ (recall Gideon)
  • Striking similarities between Jephthah and Abimelech
    1. ‘Illegitimate’ children of Jewish fathers
    2. Cruelly rejected by family and society
    3. Leaders of ‘worthless fellows’ – 11:3             (ie. criminals and vagabonds)
    4. Main difference is that Jephthah was a deliverer of Israel and Abimelech was an oppressor of Israel

II. To Riches (11:4-28)

1)  An Insulting Request

  • Israel’s poor treatment of Jephthah
    1. The one who was rudely rejected is now called upon for salvation
    2. The ‘saviour’ exposes the sinful motive of the heart & threatens not to help
    3. The people repent and pledge themselves to the ‘saviour’
  • Israel’s treatment of Jephthah reflects their treatment of God (10:10-16), and points forward toward Jesus (cf. John 1:11)

Application:  We cannot claim Jesus as Saviour if we’re unwilling to submit to Him as our Lord!

2)  An Effective Leader in Israel

  • Diplomacy with Ammonites demonstrates a strong grasp of Scripture (11:12-28)
    1. Historical Argument – the land in question was never Ammonite!
    2. Theological Argument – the land was given to Israel by Yahweh
    3. Legal Argument – nobody complained for 300 years, so why the fuss now??
  • Empowered by the Holy Spirit to be Israel’s Judge and Deliverer (v. 29; 32-33)

III. To Rags (11:29-12:7)

1)  Jephthah’s Immoral Vow

  • A vow of human sacrifice (cf. Deut 12:31)
  • Worse than the vow itself is Jephthah’s determination to follow through with it
    1. Reveals a deeply flawed understanding of God’s grace and character
    2. The Law makes allowances for a foolish vow to be broken (Lev 27:1-7)
    3. Even in winning Jeththah is the loser

2)  Jephthah’s Brutal Vengeance on Ephraim


1)  Are we trusting and resting in God’s grace or trying to manipulate Him through works-righteousness?

2)  What are our blind spots?  How has the ‘pagan’ culture around us compromised our witness and tainted an otherwise biblical view of God?

3)  The fact that a man like Jephthah is listed in Hebrews 11 testifies to the fact that no sin is too great to be forgiven by God.   Jesus paid it all!



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