Judges 10-12

Tola Becomes Israel’s Judge

10 After Abimelech died, Tola son of Puah, son of Dodo, was the next person to rescue Israel. He was from the tribe of Issachar but lived in the town of Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. He judged Israel for twenty-three years. When he died, he was buried in Shamir.

Jair Becomes Israel’s Judge

After Tola died, Jair from Gilead judged Israel for twenty-two years. His thirty sons rode around on thirty donkeys, and they owned thirty towns in the land of Gilead, which are still called the Towns of Jair. When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.

The Ammonites Oppress Israel

Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. They served the images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia.

  • This list just keeps getting longer

They abandoned the Lord and no longer served him at all. So the Lord burned with anger against Israel, and he turned them over to the Philistines and the Ammonites, who began to oppress them that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites east of the Jordan River in the land of the Amorites (that is, in Gilead). The Ammonites also crossed to the west side of the Jordan and attacked Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim.

The Israelites were in great distress. 10 Finally, they cried out to the Lord for help, saying, “We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal.”

11 The Lord replied, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites?

  • This list keeps getting longer too

When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you.13 Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!”

  • God sees their hearts, knows they will just take him for granted once more
    • 2 deeper issues:
      • 1 – Their ‘other gods’ are not really gods at all
        • Isa 46:1-4
      • 2 – Their tears are manipulative. By saying the right thing, they are trying to get something out of God.
        • This is what we can call the ‘religious’ mentality. “In order to get something from God, I need to do something for him first.”
        • What are some other attitudes or thoughts you might see in someone with a religious mentality?
        • The Bible never teaches religion
          • 2 reasons:
            • 1 – we could never offer God anything anyway. He is the one who offers us the ultimate gift
              • Eph 2:8-9
            • 2 – God wants relationship, not religion
          • The human heart loves religion.

15 But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.”

  • “Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies” – what about this sentence reveals their underlying beliefs about God’s character?

16 Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery.

  • God is actually a big softie. BUT, he is going to allow them to pick a leader who is disturbingly like them.

17 At that time the armies of Ammon had gathered for war and were camped in Gilead, and the people of Israel assembled and camped at Mizpah. 18 The leaders of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever attacks the Ammonites first will become ruler over all the people of Gilead.”

Jephthah Becomes Israel’s Judge

11 Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. “You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.

  • This isn’t like David’s mighty men – this is more like the criminal underworld. Jephthah is a kingpin.

At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel. When the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob.The elders said, “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!”

  • Not the same as “Be our ruler” – and Jephthah knows it.

But Jephthah said to them, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”

“Because we need you,” the elders replied. “If you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead.”

  • Notice their approach to Jephthah – “we don’t really want you, but we’ll turn to you because we’re desperate, and we want you gone ASAP.” Sound like their approach to anyone else?
    • How does a religious mentality affect people’s relationships with one another?

Jephthah said to the elders, “Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the Lord gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?”

  • He drives a hard bargain

10 “The Lord is our witness,” the elders replied. “We promise to do whatever you say.”

11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their ruler and commander of the army. At Mizpah, in the presence of the Lord, Jephthah repeated what he had said to the elders.

12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon, asking, “Why have you come out to fight against my land?”

13 The king of Ammon answered Jephthah’s messengers, “When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they stole my land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River and all the way to the Jordan. Now then, give back the land peaceably.”

14 Jephthah sent this message back to the Ammonite king:

  • Jephthah is apparently a fast talker, a wheeler-dealer, so he tries to talk the Ammonites out of attacking.

15 “This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not steal any land from Moab or Ammon. 16 When the people of Israel arrived at Kadesh on their journey from Egypt after crossing the Red Sea, 17 they sent messengers to the king of Edom asking for permission to pass through his land. But their request was denied. Then they asked the king of Moab for similar permission, but he wouldn’t let them pass through either. So the people of Israel stayed in Kadesh.

18 “Finally, they went around Edom and Moab through the wilderness. They traveled along Moab’s eastern border and camped on the other side of the Arnon River. But they never once crossed the Arnon River into Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab.

19 “Then Israel sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled from Heshbon, asking for permission to cross through his land to get to their destination. 20 But King Sihon didn’t trust Israel to pass through his land. Instead, he mobilized his army at Jahaz and attacked them. 21 But the Lord, the God of Israel, gave his people victory over King Sihon. So Israel took control of all the land of the Amorites, who lived in that region, 22 from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River, and from the eastern wilderness to the Jordan.

23 “So you see, it was the Lord, the God of Israel, who took away the land from the Amorites and gave it to Israel. Why, then, should we give it back to you? 24 You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the Lord our God gives us. 25 Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he try to make a case against Israel for disputed land? Did he go to war against them?

26 “Israel has been living here for 300 years, inhabiting Heshbon and its surrounding settlements, all the way to Aroer and its settlements, and in all the towns along the Arnon River. Why have you made no effort to recover it before now? 27 Therefore, I have not sinned against you. Rather, you have wronged me by attacking me. Let the Lord, who is judge, decide today which of us is right—Israel or Ammon.”

28 But the king of Ammon paid no attention to Jephthah’s message.

Jephthah’s Vow

29 At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and from there he led an army against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, 31 I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

  • God has already given Jephthah his spirit, yet here is Jephthah wheeling and dealing with God. Makes sense, given his upbringing and history, yet it’s not the right approach to God.
    • Q: What are some things about someone’s upbringing that might affect their approach to God?

32 So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory. 33 He crushed the Ammonites, devastating about twenty towns from Aroer to an area near Minnith and as far away as Abel-keramim. In this way Israel defeated the Ammonites.

34 When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “Oh, my daughter!” he cried out. “You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.”

  • Wait, it’s his daughter’s fault? He can’t take responsibility for his own actions/decisions
    • Q: What is it about the religious mentality that leads to lack of personal ownership of someone’s choices?
  • Violation of Deut 18:10 (also repeated in Deut 12, Lev 18)

36 And she said, “Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the Lord has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites.

  • Too bad the poor girl didn’t know about Lev 5:4-6

37 But first let me do this one thing: Let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin.”

38 “You may go,” Jephthah said. And he sent her away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children.39 When she returned home, her father kept the vow he had made, and she died a virgin.

So it has become a custom in Israel 40 for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter.

  • Possible discussion here about whether he really killed her
  • Block: “With his vow Jephthah had tried to secure his present, but through it he ends up sacrificing his future.”

Ephraim Fights with Jephthah

12 Then the people of Ephraim mobilized an army and crossed over the Jordan River to Zaphon. They sent this message to Jephthah: “Why didn’t you call for us to help you fight against the Ammonites? We are going to burn down your house with you in it!”

Jephthah replied, “I summoned you at the beginning of the dispute, but you refused to come! You failed to help us in our struggle against Ammon. So when I realized you weren’t coming, I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the Lord gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you now come to fight me?”

The people of Ephraim responded, “You men of Gilead are nothing more than fugitives from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them.

  • Now Israelites are attacking each other.

Jephthah captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. Then they would take him and kill him at the shallow crossings of the Jordan. In all, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed at that time.

Jephthah judged Israel for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead.

 

Conclusion:

The hard part about studying Judges is that it is a study in the various ways that people refuse to follow God. Approaching God in the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” mentality is really just religion unmasked. The human heart loves religion because we want to be in charge, we want God at our beck and call. But God says, “I am God and there is no other,” not even me. I need to approach God based on his terms, which ironically is grace.

 

We also see how our relationships with other people, even people we really care about, are affected negatively when we approach God based on works.

 

But we see a few very hopeful things:

  1. God is so gracious to people who don’t deserve it
  2. Anyone who ever thinks, “God can never use me,” forgets that he even uses people like Jephthah. The Bible is full of stories of messed up people who are used by God. Jephthah was used almost in spite of his character – imagine how much God could use a messed up person like you who wants to be used by God.

 

Isaiah 46

Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon,

bow as they are lowered to the ground.

They are being hauled away on ox carts.

The poor beasts stagger under the weight.

Both the idols and their owners are bowed down.

The gods cannot protect the people,

and the people cannot protect the gods.

They go off into captivity together.

“Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,

all you who remain in Israel.

I have cared for you since you were born.

Yes, I carried you before you were born.

I will be your God throughout your lifetime—

until your hair is white with age.

I made you, and I will care for you.

I will carry you along and save you.

 

Deuteronomy 18:10 – Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire

Leviticus 5:4, 6 – “Or suppose you make a foolish vow of any kind, whether its purpose is for good or for bad. When you realize its foolishness, you must admit your guilt… Then you must bring to the Lord as the penalty for your sin a female from the flock…

 

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