Judges 11

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1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a great man of war; he was the son of a loose woman, and Gilead was his father.

2 And Gilead's wife gave birth to sons, and when her sons became men, they sent Jephthah away, saying, You have no part in the heritage of our father's house, for you are the son of another woman.

3 So Jephthah went in flight from his brothers and was living in the land of Tob, where a number of good-for-nothing men, joining Jephthah, went out with him on his undertakings.

4 Now after a time the children of Ammon made war against Israel.

5 And when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the responsible men of Gilead went to get Jephthah back from the land of Tob;

6 And they said to Jephthah, Come and be our chief so that we may make war against the children of Ammon.

7 But Jephthah said to the responsible men of Gilead, Did you not, in your hate for me, send me away from my father's house? Why do you come to me now when you are in trouble?

8 And the responsible men of Gilead said to Jephthah, That is the reason we have come back to you; so go with us and make war against the children of Ammon, and we will make you our head over all the people of Gilead.

9 Then Jephthah said to the responsible men of Gilead, If you take me back to make war against the children of Ammon, and if with the help of the Lord I overcome them, will you make me your head?

10 And the responsible men of Gilead said to Jephthah, May the Lord be our witness: we will certainly do as you say.

11 So Jephthah went with the responsible men of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them; and Jephthah said all these things before the Lord in Mizpah.

12 Then Jephthah sent men to the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What have you against me that you have come to make war against my land?

13 And the king of the children of Ammon said to the men sent by Jephthah, Because Israel, when he came up out of Egypt, took away my land, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and as far as Jordan: so now, give me back those lands quietly.

14 And Jephthah sent again to the king of the children of Ammon,

15 And said to him, This is the word of Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the children of Ammon;

16 But when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the waste land to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh;

17 Then Israel sent men to the king of Edom saying, Let me now go through your land; but the king of Edom did not give ear to them. And in the same way he sent to the king of Moab, but he would not; so Israel went on living in Kadesh.

18 Then he went on through the waste land and round the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and put up their tents on the other side of the Arnon; they did not come inside the limit of Moab, for the Arnon was the limit of Moab.

19 And Israel sent men to Sihon, king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said to him, Let me now go through your land to my place.

20 But Sihon would not give way and let Israel go through his land; and Sihon got together all his people, and put his army in position in Jahaz, and made war on Israel.

21 And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hands of Israel, and they overcame them; so all the land of the Amorites, the people of that land, became Israel's.

22 All the limit of the Amorites was theirs, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and from the waste land even to Jordan.

23 So now the Lord, the God of Israel, has taken away their land from the Amorites and given it to his people Israel; are you then to have it?

24 Do you not keep the lands of those whom Chemosh your god sends out from before you? So we will keep all the lands of those whom the Lord our god sends out from before us.

25 What! are you any better than Balak, the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever take up a cause against Israel or make war against them?

26 While Israel was living in Heshbon and its daughter-towns and in Aroer and its daughter-towns and in all the towns which are by the side of the Arnon, for three hundred years, why did you not get them back at that time?

27 So I have done no wrong against you, but you are doing wrong to me in fighting against me: may the Lord, who is Judge this day, be Judge between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.

28 The king of the children of Ammon, however, did not give ear to the words which Jephthah sent to him.

29 Then the spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah, and he went through Gilead and Manasseh, and came to Mizpeh of Gilead; and from Mizpeh of Gilead he went over to the children of Ammon.

30 And Jephthah took an oath to the Lord, and said, If you will give the children of Ammon into my hands,

31 Then whoever comes out from the door of my house, meeting me when I come back in peace from the children of Ammon, will be the Lord's and I will give him as a burned offering.

32 So Jephthah went over to the children of Ammon to make war on them; and the Lord gave them into his hands.

33 And he made an attack on them from Aroer all the way to Minnith, overrunning twenty towns, as far as Abel-cheramim, and put great numbers to the sword. So the children of Ammon were crushed before the children of Israel.

34 Then Jephthah came back to his house in Mizpah, and his daughter came out, meeting him on his way with music and with dances; she was his only child; he had no other sons or daughters.

35 And when he saw her he was overcome with grief, and said, Ah! my daughter! I am crushed with sorrow, and it is you who are the chief cause of my trouble; for I have made an oath to the Lord and I may not take it back.

36 And she said to him, My father, you have made an oath to the Lord; do then to me whatever you have said; for the Lord has sent a full reward on your haters, on the children of Ammon.

37 Then she said to her father, Only do this for me: let me have two months to go away into the mountains with my friends, weeping for my sad fate.

38 And he said, Go then. So he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends to the mountains, weeping for her sad fate.

39 And at the end of two months she went back to her father, who did with her as he had said in his oath: and she had never been touched by a man. So it became a rule in Israel,

40 For the women to go year by year sorrowing for the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite, four days in every year.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Judges 11      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 11: Jephthah’s victory.

This chapter and most of the next are about the judge Jephthah. He was Gilead’s son by a prostitute, so Gilead’s other sons despised him, and drove him out from his homeland. He fled to the land of Tob, where he lived amongst reckless men. When the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to the land of Tob to ask if Jephthah would lead their army. At first, Jephthah challenged them, and asked why they would come to him for help after expelling him from their county. However, the elders swore by the Lord that they would accept him as their leader, so he agreed to go with them.

Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon, to ask why his people were attacking Gilead. The king said that Israel had taken away their land, but Jephthah recounted to them the history of Israel’s time in the wilderness, specifically pointing out that they not made war with the nations of Canaan. The only exception was the Amorite king Sihon’s attack on Israel, in which the Israelites defended themselves and defeated the Amorites. So, Jephthah explained that Israel had not taken land from the Ammonites. But the people of Ammon did not listen, and prepared for war.

While preparing his army against the people of Ammon, Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: if He would grant Gilead victory, Jephthah would make a burnt offering of the first thing which came out from his house upon his return home. Battle ensued, and the army of Jephthah utterly defeated Ammon.

When Jephthah returned home, his daughter – his only child – came out of the house to greet him with music and dancing. He tore his clothes in despair, and told her about his vow to the Lord. His daughter told him to keep his word, and asked to be left alone for two months to lament her virginity. Then, when the time came, Jephthah carried out his vow to the Lord.

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Jephthah’s dealings with both the Ammonites and his own family show that serving the Lord leads us to seek peace, not conflict or war. His account of the Israelites’ struggles showed that his people had only defended themselves against other nations, but had not fanned the flames of war. We are to do the work of making peace in our lives, while upholding and defending what is true (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 1683).

The people of Ammon stand for knowing what is true, but then corrupting that truth to live a life based in falsities. For example, if we know the Lord regenerates us, and then tell ourselves that we no longer hold any responsibility for our eternal state, we have falsified the truth. This view completely distorts the truth: the Lord regenerates us as we work to live righteously (see Swedenborg’s work, Sacred Scripture 18[3]).

The spiritual meaning of a ‘daughter’ is an affection for spiritual truths and the life they offer. Affection is the offspring of feeling delight in truths; as we develop these affections, we learn to recognize that they come from the Lord, for he is the source of all good things (Arcana Caelestia 3336[2]).

Jephthah’s daughter was his deepest love, his greatest affection. She was a virgin, representing the spiritual qualities of purity and innocence. Her request for two months of solitude can be understood as our need to reflect during any giving to the Lord, to be sure that our intentions are pure, without any selfish expectations (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Providence 121).

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