Judges, Chapter 11

- כ ה ת -

Jephthah the Gileadite Fights the Ammonites

The Ammonites terrorize the Israelite tribes in Gilead. Jephthah comes from this region, but his brothers have dispossessed him of their family’s estate. He has since run away, gathering around him a gang of reckless hooligans. Now, in the face of threat, the elders of Gilead beg Jephthah to save them. Jephthah reminds them that they condoned his banishment and pledges to help them only if they agree to accept him as their leader following the war.  Jephthah sends an emissary to understand the Ammonites’ claims. He discovers that the Ammonites are furious about the Israelites’ conquests on the eastern bank of the Jordan River. 

The spirit of God is upon Jephthah during battle. Jephthah vows to offer a sacrifice to God if he emerges victorious. The battle ends in the utter defeat and surrender of the Ammonites. When Jephthah returns home to Gilead, his daughter greets him, dancing to the sound of tambourines. Jephthah tears his clothes and tells her that he must keep his promise—she must be sacrificed to God. Some scholars argue that what this actually means is that she will become celibate and have no children. Jephthah’s daughter asks for her father’s permission to take some time to meditate in the mountains. She later returns to face her fate. Jephthah’s promise is kept. Jephthah instills courage among the Gileadites despite their clear numerical disadvantage against the Ammonites. Through his hopeful and positive attitude, Jephthah uplifts his people.

“And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon” (Judges 11:6) 

“If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?” (Judges 11:9)

Enthusiasm is excitement over the prospect of fulfillment through spiritual work and sharing.