JUDGES - CHAPTER 11
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of
an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.”
a Gildeadite he was of the tribe of Manasseh, and his being described as a “mighty
man of valor,” and his being listed in Heb 11:32 as one of the great men of faith,
rule out our viewing him in anything other than a good context.
Like all of the other judges, he is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the
stigma attached to his birth simply foreshadows that which attached to the Lord’s
birth, for there is no doubt that the Jewish leaders considered Him to have been born
of fornication (Jn 8:41).
meaning heap of witness: rolling for ever, as a place name is, as already
noted, a symbol of Calvary; but here as the name of a person who was the father of
one who is a type of Christ, and being connected with the idea of what is eternal, it
may also have a figurative application to God, reminding us that the Lord Jesus
Christ was not begotten by human generation, but by the power of God the Holy Spirit.
mother must therefore be viewed as a type of the believing remnant which “brought
forth” Christ, Mary being the human instrument through whom that miracle was
accomplished. The fact that Jephthah’s
mother is described as having been a harlot, is the symbolic announcement of the fact
that the believing remnant within the apostate mass of the harlot nation, had to
endure the consequences of the nation’s spiritual harlotry, though they themselves
were guiltless. Similarly the believing
remnant within the apostate mass of the professing church today must also endure the
consequences of that apostasy.
meaning of his name he will open is particularly appropriate, for the One he
portrays is the great Opener. By His
death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ has opened the gates of hell and death,
as He has also opened the way into the presence of God for those who trust Him as
Savior, He Himself being the new and living way into heaven.
the name of a place which is a type of Calvary, Gilead will remain for ever the
symbolic witness to man’s ruin, and God’s love in providing the Remedy for that
ruin in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they
thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s
house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.”
is presented in Scripture as the wife of Jehovah, so that these other sons of Gilead
very clearly represent both those unbelieving Jews who rejected the Lord Jesus Christ
and cast Him out, and also those who comprise the apostate church today, for in spite
of lip profession of faith, they also reject Christ.
“Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and
there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him.”
speaks of Christ’s turning to the Gentiles after being rejected by His Jewish
brethren; and few will fail to note the parallel between rejected David’s flight
from Saul, during which time there were gathered unto him others who were also
disfranchised. The type is fulfilled
today by the believing remnant within the apostate mass of the professing but
meaning good, is a particularly apt symbol of that state in which believers of
this present age dwell in association with a rejected Savior.
“And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war
this brings us prophetically to the coming Tribulation era, in which Israel will find
herself once again the object of the concerted hatred of the Gentiles.
As noted already, Ammon, meaning tribal: peoplish, represents mere
religious profession linked with intellectualism.
This is largely the character of professing Christendom today, and will be the
character of the apostate church that will be left behind at the Rapture, and that
will rule religiously for the first three and a half years of the Tribulation.
That apostate travesty will be no less the enemy of believers in the
Tribulation than was Ammon the enemy of Israel in the days of Jephthah.
The practical truth being declared in this warfare between Ammon and God’s
earthly people Israel, is that empty profession, linked with intellectualism, is
always the enemy of what belongs to God.
“And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the
elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob.”
this points to the repentance of the remnant in the Tribulation, and their turning to
Christ for deliverance. Practically, the
lesson is that when confronted with the intellectualism of mere profession, we too
are to find our deliverance in Christ, not in our own power or wisdom, for we have
neither, save as we abide in Him.
“And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight
with the children of Ammon.”
continues to foreshadow the repentance of the remnant in the Tribulation, and is a
reminder to us also that we are not to submit to the enemy represented by Ammon, but
are to oppose wholeheartedly the evil which he represents.
“And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel
me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in
he would be their deliverer, Jephthah must hear the confession of wrong from the lips
of his brethren; and so will it be in regard to Christ and the Tribulation remnant.
They too will be made to confess that they had expelled Him from the
“And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to
thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and
be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”
Gilead’s acceptance of their once-despised and rejected brother we have the
foreshadowing of the remnant’s repentant acceptance of Christ in the Tribulation.
“And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to
fight against the children of Ammon and the Lord deliver them before me, shall I be
Christ can be the Deliverer of Israel, they must be willing to receive Him as their
King, and this the believing Tribulation remnant will be willing to do.
“And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between
us, if we do not so according to thy words.”
Lord would be responsible for seeing that the covenant was kept, and so will it be in
“Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head
and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh.”
meaning watch tower, the place where the Israelites were assembled, reminds us
that in the Tribulation, Israel will also be gathered together again at “Mizpeh,”
i.e., under the watchful protecting eye of God.
“And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon,
saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my
“And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of
Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from
Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again
noted in our study of chapter nine, there are details in these histories which appear
to typify events that will be fulfilled in the Tribulation, the revelation of those
details, however, being reserved for disclosure to, and encouragement of, those who
will be living at that time.
every enemy of God’s people, this Ammonite king is a type of Satan, and his laying
claim to the land portrays Satan’s determination to try to recover that which was
recovered from him when the Lord Jesus Christ defeated him at Calvary.
Practically, the activity of the Ammonite is a type of the ceaseless activity
of the flesh within the believer, to regain the control that was taken from it at the
moment of the believer’s conversion. As
might be expected of one who portrays religious intellectualism, this evil Ammonite
king attempted to justify his claim on grounds of reason.
It is also by appeal to mere human reason that the flesh all too often
succeeds in luring the believer into disobedience of God.
counterpart of the Ammonite’s claim to the land will occur in the Tribulation when
the Beast will attempt to make himself master of the world.
“And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon:”
patience is but a figure of God’s, of Whom it is written, “The Lord ... is
longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come
to repentance” 2 Pe 3:9. Even the
terrible Tribulation judgments will have as their objective the bringing of sinners
to repentance so that they might be saved.
“And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of
Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:”
continued patient reasoning with the enemy Ammonite continues to remind us of the
patience of God towards those whose stubborn rebellion makes them His enemies, that
patience being declared in what is recorded in Isa 1:18, “Come now, and let us
reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as
white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye
refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath
“But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto
the Red Sea, and came to Kadesh apartness: set apart for a purpose;”
“Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray
thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto.
And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent:
and Israel abode in Kadesh.”
in mind that Israel’s experiences are but the typological foreshadowings of ours,
the refusal of Edom and Moab to grant them passage declares the truth that the flesh
within us - two aspects of which are represented by these two enemies who were blood
relatives of Israel - is the inveterate foe of the Spirit, and therefore of every
believer. The flesh will never permit
the intrusion of the Spirit into its domain, the inseparable difference between the
two being declared by the Lord Himself in Jn 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh
is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit;” Paul adding the warning
that, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” 1 Co 15:50.
abiding in Kadesh apartness: set apart for a purpose is designed to teach us
the necessity of also abiding in that place of separation from the world and unto
God, of which Kadesh so clearly speaks.
“Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of
Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and
pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon
was the border of Moab.”
passing through on her way to Canaan is a symbolic picture of our passing through
this world on our way to heaven, though it is to be remembered that Canaan is not
primarily a type of heaven, but rather of the spiritual sphere into which faith
brings us as believers. Israel’s
refraining from crossing the borders of Edom and Moab, therefore, is the symbolic
warning to us to maintain a clear separation between ourselves and the activity of
the flesh which is represented by these two blood relatives of Israel.
the east is the direction that speaks of sin and separation from God, Israel’s
coming “by the east side of the land of Moab” is the warning that as Moab stood
between the Israelites and Canaan, so does the flesh separate us from that full
communion with God which will be enjoyed only when we have left the “wilderness”
and are home in heaven.
is instructive to note that in Dt 2 Israel was forbidden to meddle with the Edomites,
Moabites and Ammonites, God’s declaration being that He would not give those
peoples into the hand of Israel, which may seem strange until we remember that they
represent the evil activity of the flesh - and the flesh will be with us to the end
of life’s journey. As the Canaanites
who remained in Canaan after Joshua’s initial conquest of the land were left “to
prove Israel” and “to teach them war” Jg 3:1-4, so is the flesh left with us
for the same purpose.
pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon
was the border of Moab.” The river
Arnon, meaning lion of perpetuity: I shall shout for joy, is a figure of
Christ Who is not only the equivalent of a river of life to believers, but also the
the One Who separates them from the evil which is portrayed by Moab.
And significantly Israel’s next step was not simply to bypass the enemy, but
to defeat him in battle, and take his land.
“And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon sweeping away: scraping away,
king of the Amorites sayers, the king of Heshbon device: reason; and
Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.”
Amorites sayers, represent false professors, and Heshbon clearly speaks of the
natural man’s schemes and reasoning. As
the people and the city ruled by Sihon the enemy of Israel, they combine to warn
believers that false profession and human reasoning or intelligence are the foe of
those who are of the household of faith. The
meaning of Sihon sweeping or scraping away is the symbolic warning that the
evils portrayed by his people and city are capable of sweeping away, destroying the
believers’ testimony and their enjoyment of their spiritual inheritance.
As Israel was to make war with this enemy and dispossess him, so are we to
actively oppose the spiritual evils they represent.
“But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered
all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz trodden down, and fought against
the opposition of Sihon was active rather than passive (not only did he deny Israel
passage through his land, he actively fought against them), so is it with the evils
which he and his people represent. False
profession and fallen human intelligence are the active enemies of faith.
meaning of Jahaz trodden down ought to remind us that we must either tread
down this foe, or be ourselves trodden down by him.
“And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand
of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the
inhabitants of that country.”
victory assures us that we too can defeat the enemy represented by Sihon and his
people. If they remain the victors it
simply declares that we have refused to engage them in battle.
The delinquency of the professing church today is all too clearly revealed in
that the evils represented by Sihon and his people rule virtually unopposed
“And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites sayers, from Arnon
lion of perpetuity: I shall shout for joy, even unto Jabbok he will empty
out, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.”
territory from which this enemy was driven, and which was now the territory given by
God to Israel was marked by three boundaries, the first of which speaks clearly of
the dominion of Christ, the true Lion of perpetuity; while the second reminds
us that in a soon coming day He Himself will “empty out” all of false profession
and human scheming which the failure of His people have permitted to remain.
The third boundary, the Jordan, which speaks of death reminds us that however
much circumstances may seem to indicate the contrary, His dominion is universal and
continues beyond the boundary where that of man ends - at Jordan, death.
“So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before
his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?”
verses record Jephthah’s rebuttal of the Ammonite king’s false claim, and it is
to be noted that in ch 10:8 the land is described by God as having been formerly that
of the Amorites, not the Ammonites. Sihon
the king of the Amorites had taken it from Moab; but having been taken from Sihon,
and given to Israel by God, it had been in the undisputed possession of Israel for
three hundred years. Well might Jephthah
ask what possible claim the Ammonites could have to land which had never been theirs,
but which had belonged to Moab until taken from them by the Amorites, God then taking
it from the Amorites and giving to Israel. The
Ammonites, however, blind to reason, and refusing to accept the clear evidence of
history, choose to go to war with Israel in an attempt to seize by force this
territory to which they had no legitimate claim.
That war, however, is but a type of two still future, the type being fulfilled
when Satan will attempt to seize dominion of the world at the end of the Tribulation;
and again in his final disastrous attempt at the end of the Millennium, following
which he will be cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.
full significance of these details will undoubtedly be more clearly grasped by those
living during the Tribulation, but while it seems that full disclosure is reserved
until then, we may nonetheless learn the practical lesson that the religious
intellectualism which Ammon typifies will also attempt to claim that to which it has
no legitimate right. The extent to which
an apostate professing church has surrendered to the claims of the spiritual Ammonite
is all too clearly seen in the degree to which God’s order has been subverted and
replaced with an order conceived by human intelligence functioning in defiance of
“Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess?
So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we
argument was that as the Ammonites possessed what they imagined their god Chemosh had
given them, so would Israel possess what their God Jehovah had given them, that is,
the territory to which Ammon laid false claim. Jephthah’s
reference to Chemosh may not be taken to imply that he believed in the existence of
such a god, but rather that he was using an argument the Ammonite king couldn’t
“And now art thou any thing better than Balak waster, the son of
Zippor a bird (especially a sparrow), king of Moab from father: what
father: from (her [the mother’s]) father? did he ever strive against Israel, or
did he ever fight against them,”
chapter 22 records Balak’s attempt to have Balaam curse Israel, but it records also
his admission that he was afraid to engage them in battle.
Jephthah’s argument was irrefutable: if Moab, to whom the land had once
belonged before being taken from them by Sihon the Amorite, had never disputed
Israel’s claim to it, on what possible grounds could Ammon pretend to have any
claim to it?
“While Israel dwelt in Heshbon device: reason and her towns, and in
Aroer destitute and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the
coasts of Arnon lion of perpetuity: I shall shout for joy, three hundred
years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?”
“Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war
against me: the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and
the children of Ammon.”
“Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of
Jehpthah which he sent him.”
is nothing more illogical than that so called “wisdom” which rejects God’s way,
and replaces it with the product of man’s fallen corrupt intellect.
“Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead heap
of witness: rolling for ever, and Manasseh causing to forget, and passed
over Mizpeh a watch-tower of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over
unto the children of Ammon tribal: peoplish.”
the OT the Holy Spirit’s coming upon a man was not of itself proof that the man was
godly, witness for example His coming upon the evil king Saul, and His using Balaam
to pronounce blessing rather than cursing upon Israel; but as noted already, Heb
11:32 leaves no doubt that Jephthah was a man of God, and clearly also a type of
Christ as the Deliverer of Israel in the coming Tribulation.
Whatever specific Tribulation events may be foreshadowed in this company
assembled by Jephthah, there is at least the suggestion that at that time there will
be in a general sense the gathering of the believing remnant of Israel under the
banner of the Lord Jesus Christ.
further symbolic picture, however, is also set before us here relative to our
conflict with the world’s wisdom, particularly as it involves spiritual things.
It was from Gilead, which speaks clearly of Calvary, that Jephthah began his
march against Ammon. That place where the true Jephthah engaged and defeated the powers
of darkness, must be the place where we too begin each battle with those same powers,
for it is only as we walk in fellowship with the Lord, as men who have been crucified
with Him, that we can hope for victory. He
marched also from Manasseh, which means causing to forget, and the further
lesson being taught is that in our conflict with the world’s wisdom, we are to
emulate Paul, who has written, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth
unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high
calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13-14).
The memory of past defeats will discourage us; the recollection of past
victories may inspire confidence in self rather than in the Lord.
“And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without
fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,”
“Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to
meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the
LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”
is virtually no disagreement among commentators that Jephthah was wrong in making
this vow. Man cannot buy God’s favor
by such foolish methods, nor can man bargain with God, for he has nothing to offer
that God doesn’t already possess. There
is, however, sharp disagreement as to whether the vow involved the offering of a
human sacrifice, and until relatively recent times, it was generally accepted that
that is exactly what was involved.
however, point out that “and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” may
also be rendered “or I will offer....” so that if the first thing coming
out of the doors of his house were a person, then he would dedicate that
person to the Lord, but if it were a clean animal he would offer it as a burnt
offering. This seems to be the correct
rendering, for it is difficult to believe that Jephthah could have been so ignorant
of God’s will as to imagine that He would ever accept a person as a burnt offering.
As the sequel reveals, Jephthah’s vow appears to have consigned his daughter
to perpetual virginity.
“So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them;
and the Lord delivered them into his hands.”
victory is not to be construed as Divine approval of Jephthah’s vow, but rather as
an example of God’s sovereign response to the genuine repentance of His people.
He is not governed by the imperfections of the human instruments He deigns to
as already noted, Israel had been forbidden to make war on Edom, Moab, and Ammon, see
Dt 2, and comments on verse 18, the prohibition did not extend to
the Israelites to defend themselves when attacked by these nations, as in the present
instance, for example, and the lesson is easily discerned.
When the evils represented by these three, engage in activity against us, we
are to oppose that activity with all our might.
“And he smote them from Aroer destitute, even till thou come to
Minnith apportionment, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the
vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus
the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.”
regret being unable to read the spiritual significance of these two places, unless it
is that in them God would have us see both the nature and the end of the evil
represented by Ammon. It is destitute of
any ability to bestow life; and the final apportionment of those who choose to live
by the principle of mere human intelligence will be a place in the lake of fire.
The general picture, however, is of the destruction of what Ammon represents,
i.e., mere empty profession linked with natural wisdom, and in the present context,
foreshadows the Lord’s defeat of His foes at the end of the Tribulation.
“And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came
out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her
he had neither son nor daughter.”
daughters represent the passivity of a man’s will; and sons, the activity of his
will, its being emphasized that Jephthah had only this one child may be to remind us
that the Christian life is to consist of more than merely refraining from evil: there
must be also the corresponding activity of doing good.
If there is nothing more in the believer’s life than abstention from evil,
that life will simply turn in upon itself, and produce no fruit for God’s glory.
Many a local church today is dying because it is governed only by this
“And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said,
Alas, my daughter! thou has brought me very low, and thou art one of them that
trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back.”
stands as a solemn warning against the folly of seeking to merit blessing by means of
something we imagine we can do to compel God to act. The creature is in no position to bargain with the Creator.
Man’s proper place before God is that of a penitent suppliant who can be
blessed only as he is willing to gratefully receive what Divine grace, love and
wisdom are pleased to bestow.
the judgment seat of Christ Jephthah’s bitter lament will be echoed by many a
believer who on earth had nothing more than the spiritual equivalent of that only
the dreadful finality of such error is declared in his cry, “... and I cannot go
back.” There will be no possibility of
undoing the error once the soul has gone into eternity.
“And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the
Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as
the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of
obedient submission in accepting the consequences of her father’s foolish vow is in
perfect accord with the principle of submission which she portrays.
“And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone
two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I
and my fellows.”
a month is the twelfth part of a year, and twelve is the number of Divine government
on display, and two is the number of witness or testimony, the lesson here appears to
be that of symbolic testimony to the folly of failing to balance submission to
God’s will with a corresponding activity in executing it.
The tragedy of such failure is declared in that those two months would be
marked by wailing; and inasmuch as fruitlessness is the concomitance of virginity, it
was that prospect of fruitlessness that evoked her lament.
The fact that her companions joined in the lament declares the truth that
submission to God’s will without a corresponding activity, has an adverse effect on
regret being unable to see the spiritual significance of her wailing “upon the
mountains,” for in Scripture, mountains usually portray kings and/or governing
bodies. One thought, though, suggests
itself: elders of assemblies should take note, and faithfully teach the folly of
“And he said, Go. And he sent
her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity
upon the mountains.”
“And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her
father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no
man. And it was a custom in Israel,”
being said that “she knew no man” appears to confirm the view that her father’s
rash vow dedicated her to perpetual virginity rather than to presentation to God as a
“That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah
the Gileadite four days in a year.”
yearly continuation of the lamentation continues to emphasize the need of guarding
against the one-sided obedience portrayed in Jephthah’s only child being a
daughter. The fact that it continued for
four (number of testing) days each year is clearly to remind us that the preservation
of the record of this sad incident is not only to instruct us, but to test our own
regard to Jephthah’s failure relative to this foolish vow, it is to be remembered
that there was failure in the lives of virtually all the individuals who are types of
Christ, so that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is essential in discerning those
parts of the life that do portray Christ, and those which do not.
Not every event in the life of David, for example, could be said to be typical
of Christ; and so it is with virtually all the types.
concluding this section it must be said also that if we have been correct in seeing
in Jephthah’s victory over the Ammonites, a picture of Christ’s victory over
earth’s rebels at the end of the Tribulation, then the events connected with this
daughter must also have typical significance relative to the Tribulation, but I
regret being unable to discern just where those details fit into the typological