“God Hath Chosen the Foolish Things” (Judges 10-12)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 10-12

Judges 10 – The Consequences of a Broken Covenant

A string of judges followed the death of Abimelech (9:53-56); however, there are none whose achievements are recorded (probably because there was nothing noteworthy about them).

Israel soon fell into a familiar pattern of breaking God’s covenant and forsaking His Law (10:6). Angered by the sins of the people, the LORD removed His protection, and Israel suffered decades of oppression under the Philistines (something that would continue until David became king).

Out of her sorrows, Israel repented of her sins and called upon the LORD (10:9-16) as the Ammonites gathered for war against the nation (10:17-18).

Judges 11 – Jephthah: An Unlikely Hero

Judges 11 brings to mind that God uses the “foolish things of the world to confound the wise…And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen” (1 Corinthians 1:26, 28).

We read that Jephthah was “a mighty man of valour [warrior] (11:1),  a man whose lineage was less than stellar from humanity’s perspective. He was the son of an adulterous woman (11:2), and an illegitimate heir of his father in the eyes of his brethren (11:2). Rejected by his father’s children (11:3), Jephthah found refuge “in the land of Tob” (11:3) where he was joined by nefarious (wicked) men.

Though scorned by his family, when the Ammonites rose up against Gilead, Jephthah was asked to defend and lead his people against them (11:4-6). Shrewdly, he did not miss the opportunity to confront the irony of their rejection and now their invitation for him to be their leader (11:7-11).

Jephthah first petitioned for peace with the Ammonites (11:12-13). When his offer was rejected, he suggested four arguments to refute why the Ammonites’ demand for their ancestral lands was unfounded.

1) Israel had taken the land when the ancestors of the Ammonites made war against Israel (11:14-22). 2) The LORD had given Israel the land according to His promises (11:23-24). 3) Israel had occupied the land as their own for three centuries (11:26). 4) The Ammonites were not making war against Israel, but against her God (11:27-28).

When Jephthah’s offering of peace was rejected, he sought the LORD’s blessing and went to war (11:29-30), but only after foolishly promising to dedicate and sacrifice the first who greeted him after his victory over the Ammonites (11:31-33).

Victorious, Jephthah returned home and was greeted by his only child, a daughter, and the thrill of victory turned to overwhelming sorrow.  [On a personal note: Scholars argue over whether or not Jephthah intended a human sacrifice. I believe that is a foolish proposition since Jephthah had evidenced a great knowledge of Israel’s history (11:15-26) and would have known the LORD did not require, nor would accept human sacrifice]. 

Because she was a virgin and his only child (11:34, 37), Jephthah’s dedication of his daughter was a very real sacrifice for both, knowing she would never bear a child and heir (11:37-40).

Judges 12 – The Hypocrisy of the Ephraimites

You may recall the tribe of Ephraim had complained when Gideon failed to call them to battle against the Midianites (Judges 8:1).  On that occasion, Gideon pacified their complaints by demeaning his own achievements (8:2-3).

Jephthah, however, was in no mood to hear the hypocritical protests and threat of Ephraim after they had refused to go to war when he summoned them (12:1-3). When Ephraim could not share in the spoils of victory, they were ready to war against Jephthah and the Gileadites (12:4).  The civil war between Gilead and Ephraim resulted in the deaths of forty-two thousand Ephraimites (12:5-6).

I close with a word of encouragement: Jephthah, like Joseph, stands out as a most unlikely hero. Joseph was rejected by his brothers, but emerged in Egypt to be the one God chose to save his brethren. Jephthah, the son of a harlot and rejected by his brothers, was the man God prepared to deliver Israel from the Ammonites.

Lesson: I don’t know who you are or what you are; but if you are willing to humble yourself and yield to God, He will use you (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith