Day 12

Jephthah Becomes Israel’s Leader

from the Judges reading plan


Judges 11:1-40, Leviticus 18:21, Leviticus 20:2-5, Matthew 5:34-37

BY Rebecca Faires

Scripture Reading: Judges 11:1-40, Leviticus 18:21, Leviticus 20:2-5, Matthew 5:34-37

When God delivers His people, He “raises up” a deliverer to lead them. Take Moses and Gideon (Exodus 9:16; Judges 6:12), Othniel and Samuel (Judges 3:9; 1 Samuel 2:35), Jeroboam and Cyrus (1 Kings 14:7; Isaiah 45:13), and of course, Jesus (Jeremiah 23:5)—just to name a few.

But when we read about these deliverers in Scripture, we see that God’s people were often impatient, just like we so often are. And so instead of waiting for God to raise up a leader of His choosing for them, they would drudge up their own. They sought out their own solutions instead of seeking God’s perfect will.

That’s what’s happening in this passage with Jephthah. God didn’t raise up Jephthah to be Israel’s leader.  Instead Jephthah, who had surrounded himself with worthless men (Judges 11:3), got the call to lead from the elders. He wasn’t raised up by God—he was urged to leadership by men who were gripped with fear and desperation.

That should have been their first red flag: the desire to circumvent God’s way of doing things. David later explained it this way, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). But it’s hard to wait on God, and it seems much easier to just get on with our own solutions. However, apart from God, our own solutions can go terrifically wrong. But God is also kind, and He often forestalls judgment as we find our way back to Him.

Jephthah wasn’t a totally bad guy. He knew the Scriptures, and he knew the history of Israel. He tried to get the land back and reclaim Israel’s territories. But, like you and me, while Jephthah loved goodness and sought to do right, he also had some sneaky, low-dealing tendencies.

The combination of human error and ignoring God’s way brings us to Jephthah’s horrifically rash vow. I don’t know if human sacrifice was on his mind when he made the extravagant promise, or why he persisted in carrying out the vow after he realized his daughter would be its victim. But it’s a chilling image of what can happen when a people ignore God’s way and stubbornly turn away from His principles. Jephthah took his bad promise too far, and a celebration was turned into a funeral.

May the Lord protect our hearts from rushing to do things—even good things—our own way and on our own terms. May He give us courage to relent and humility to repent when we make bad decisions. May we lean on His strength and His promises, not our own, and may our “yes” mean “yes,” and our “no” mean “no” (Matthew 5:36-37). We can stop and turn our hearts toward Him. Even when it seems like we are already too committed to our own way, God waits to lead us back to His.

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Post Comments (60)

60 thoughts on "Jephthah Becomes Israel’s Leader"

  1. Kristen Elizabeth says:

    I’ve always thought that the daughter sacrifice was so strange. I like this commentary to explain it a bit. Too many times I want to rush ahead of God because, let’s face it, sometimes I think I know better if God appears to be a bit slow in my thinking. It’s a good reminder to wait for God’s perfect timing.

  2. Melody Coney says:

    I just graduated nursing school and got my RN license recently and while I watch all the other people in my cohort get jobs and move forward while I’m still with no job, its‘ hard not to want to take things into my own hands. I definitely want the Lords will and I my prayer is that He would take the wheel, that He would lead me to the right job with the right people at the right time. I trust Him fully but I’m human and sometimes I feel my prideful self wanting to speed up the process of doubt where He has called me. Jesus I trust you. I need your guidance and provision in my life.,

    1. JKS says:

      I actually just went through the exact same thing – I graduated with my BSN in May and became an RN in June and tried for months to get a job. It was frustrating to feel like God was not providing a way for me in the area where I knew He had so clearly called me to be. All of my friends were getting jobs left and right and I wasn’t even getting interviews. I wrestled with it and prayed about it for weeks, and then the very day I found out I passed the NCLEX, I got a call about an interview on my first choice floor, and three more calls followed in the weeks to come. Now I’ve started on a floor that I didn’t even apply to, one that is so far out of my comfort zone. But I know it’s exactly where the Lord has called me to be. His timing is perfect. His plans are good. I know He has something perfect in store for you, and it’s always worth the wait.

  3. Jenny Fowler says:

    Wow. Excellent commentary! Thank you!

  4. KC Derond says:

    So to offer a sacrifice meant to give it to the Lord. She would be the Lord’s forever. That’s why they mention at the beginning that he was an only child (all his brothers had a different mother) and that she was his only child (he would never have his family name carried on) and would never truly be related to his fathers’ grandchildren. It makes so much sense now!

  5. Wendy says:

    I listened to a teaching on this from Calvary Chapel Philadelphia that’s much different; reminds us that Jephthah is one Hebrews Hall of Faith . . . that he probably did not kill his daughter. I recommend it. https://subsplash.com/ccphiladelphia/lb/mi/+b6b3b90

  6. Naomi LaBoo says:

    I don’t believe he killed his daughter! She became like a nun! That is why she asked to go away not mourn the end of her life but the fact that she would never marry. God would not give victory to a person who would sacrifice his own daughter.

    1. Colleen Marie Olson says:

      YES! She would never marry, or bare children. It was a time for “mourning” the “death” of her life.

    2. Anna says:

      That’s exactly what I thought and many commentaries agree. I don’t think it was human sacrifice but rather a spiritual sacrifice. She was consecrated to the Lord…like a nun as Naomi said.

    3. Kailee Tidball says:

      I’m intrigued. His prayer to the Lord says he will offer “as a burnt sacrifice” and then at the end of the 2 mo that it days her father “did to her according to the vow which he had made” so that sounds as though he offers to her as a burnt sacrifice. Though, it says AND she had no relations with a man which sounds like it was a part of the vow. Lots to study! Thanks for bringing this up!

  7. Alexandria Weaver says:

    I’m so at odds right now…what if I am making things happen in my way and not in his? I have gotten approved for a car and I don’t see all the Funds to get into it( I can afford payments but it’s the getting into the is were I am short at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s going to work or happen.) I will walk away but I am really excited over that idea of having that freedom that a car gives. I am stuck and need the wheels to get out and explore the city of been living in for the last six months in a more deeper experience. But after this Devo I now question it all! My will or his!
    Lord forgive me for my selfishness and pride and trying to correct myself towards understanding and following your well may I please not forget this and moments from now to the end of my days. May I walk full aware of your will for everything and moments for my life! Thank you for grace and goodness!

    Y’all pray for me in this!

    1. Dana says:

      If you have doubts keep praying!! I’m praying for you too!

  8. Sarah D. says:

    This video from the Bible Project was also helpful in understanding some of the meaning in Judges! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kOYy8iCfIJ4&t=211s

    1. Dana says:

      Thank you for sharing this!

      1. Jana says:

        Yes, great share. Thank you!

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