The prophet Jeremiah heard a complaint, that is to say, a remark in secret about him, which caused him to be terrified. There were false accusations against him for prophesying evil (Jer. 21:8-10). Those who were not open enemies hoped that Jeremiah made a mistake so they could attack him (Jer. 20:10). But Jeremiah did not falter, to the end. In the last study we told the story of Gideon, the hero of the Old Testament who gave great victories to Israel, and was the judge for 40 years (Judges 8:28). He committed a sin and Jehovah destroyed his house, killing 79 children, without taking into account his services (Judges 8:27). It is the very Jehovah who declares that any evil that may happen to a city, comes from him (Amos 3:6). In this study we will speak of Jephthah.
Who was Jephthah? He was a valiant man, despite being the son of a prostitute. The father of Jephthah was Gilead, who had many children of his legitimate wife. When his sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, saying: You will not have inheritance in the house of our father, for you are the son of another woman. Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. And some worthless men gathered about Jephthah and went out with him (Judges 11:1-3).
After some time, it happened that the sons of Ammon fought against Israel. Then the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. The brothers of Jephthah, who had presumptuously driven him out from their father’s house, were worthless men. The only man of valor was Jephthah, who had been rejected for being born of a prostitute. This proves that prostitution was a normal practice in Israel in those days, since, about 300 years later, in the times of Eli, the high priest, great numbers of women would play the harlot at the door of the tent of the congregation with the two children of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Sam. 2:22-25,34).
The men of Gilead spoke to Jephthah, saying: “‘Come and be our chief, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.’ Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘Didn’t you hate me, and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?’ The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘Therefore we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us, and fight with the children of Ammon; and you shall be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’ Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘If you bring me home again to fight with the children of Ammon, and Yahweh deliver them before me, shall I be your head?’ The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘Yahweh shall be witness between us; surely according to your word so will we do’” (Judges 11:4-10). And Jephthah went with them. The paths of this life were incredible! Jephthah’s bothers rejected him for being the son of a prostitute, but did not reject their father, who being corrupt irresponsibly begot a son from a prostitute. Now, the whims of destiny rose Jephthah to be head over his brothers, and over all who lived in Gilead.
Jephthah, then, sent messengers to the children of Ammon to be informed of the reasons for that war. When he found that the allegation of the sons of Ammon was unjust, he prepared for war. The Spirit of Jehovah came on Jephthah so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, to Mizpah of Gilead (Judges 11:29).
And Jephthah made a vow to Jehovah, saying: “If you will indeed deliver the children of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be, that whatever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be Jehovah’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31). In this manner Jephthah fought the sons of Ammon, and Jehovah gave them in his hands and hurt them with a great slaughter. Twenty cities were plundered (Judges 11:32-33).
“Jephthah came to Mizpah to his house; and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances: and she was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. It happened, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are one of those who trouble me; for I have opened my mouth to Jehovah, and I can’t go back’” (Judges 11:34-35). Poor Jephthah! He vowed, sure that his pet dog would come running to him as it usually did, but there came his only daughter. He loved her so much. He would give his own life for her! But he had opened his mouth in a vow, and as he was a valiant man, he would not turn back on his word. For Abraham, Jehovah-jireh provided a way out, but Abraham had not vowed, and the vow is an oral contract with God. The Scriptures say: “When you vow a vow to God, don’t defer to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay that which you vow. It is better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay” (Eccl. 5:4-5). The problems of the sons of Ammon were not Jephthah’s problems, but of the people of Gilead. They were the ones who should make vows. Jehovah accepted the pledge, and collected a high price. Jehovah does not collect little from the ones who owe to him, and asked what was most dear to Jephthah: his precious and beloved daughter. Jehovah gave the victory to Jephthah: the problem of the men of Gilead was solved. They all went away to celebrate, dance, and enjoy life, but Jephthah went away to bitterly cry the death of his daughter, to the day of his own death. His daughter was so faithful to Jehovah, so submissive to her father, that, to protect her father, said: “My father, you have opened your mouth to Jehovah; do to me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth, because Jehovah has taken vengeance for you on your enemies, even on the children of Ammon” (Judges 11:36).
All that Jehovah does, he does not do it in love; for he charges a high price for everything he does. When David sinned, Jehovah said to him: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that would have been too little, I would have added to you many more such things. Why have you despised the word of Jehovah […]” (2 Sam. 12:7-12). The one who asserts what he has done in the past is, by it, collecting the pay for what he has done. Business. Except that Jehovah gives one, and collects four. As with everything he does, Jehovah does it with the purpose of charging for it in the future. When Jephthah vowed a vow, he became a debtor, and paid what he could not stand to pay. Whoever does not take into consideration another person’s suffering does not have love. Jephthah vowed with a need in view, for the Ephraimites refused to help him, and he found himself in a tight fix (Judges 12:1-3).
The charity of God, who is love, demands that he finds a way for Jephthah to keep his daughter. Did not Jehovah make a way out for Abraham? Jephthah was righteous and faithful. He delivered the people of Gilead. He took upon himself the responsibility to save the people. Why was not Jehovah Jehovah-jireh (Jehovah will provide) to Jephthah? The reason for that was that he wanted to intimidate the people. And the fear of Jehovah is greater than the love that he has for his servants. When Jephthah made the vow, he did not know that he had been caught in the trap of Jehovah. He halted. Poor Jephthah.
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira