Several judges had already presided over the nation of Israel and they were primarily used by God in order to deliver Israel from her oppressors and bring His people back into a right relationship with Him; however, the people would often rebel and invite more oppression into their lives. Under Israel’s judge Othniel (Judges 3:7-11), Israel was oppressed 8 years and then experienced 40 years of peace. Israel disobeyed God again and faced another 18 years of oppression until Ehud (Judges 3:12-30) delivered them, which gave them 80 years of rest in the land. Shamgar (Judges 3:31) was a judge, but not much is known about his reign. Israel then experienced another 20 years of oppression because of their disobedience, but God sent Deborah and Barak (Judges 4-5) to deliver His people and give them 40 years of peace. Once again, Israel did evil in the sight of God and was oppressed for 7 years until God called out a man named Gideon (Judges 6) to give them victory over the Midianites (Judges 7-8). The defeat of the Midianites brought Israel 40 years of peace until Gideon’s son, Abimelech (Judges 9), led a rebellion which brought civil war in the land. After Abimelech was destroyed (Judges 9:50-57), Tola (Judges 10:1-2) judged Israel 23 years and then Jair (Judges 10:3-4) judged Israel 22 years.
Unfortunately, Israel had not learned their lesson even though they had been repeatedly oppressed because of their continued disobedience and rebellion against God. ”Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him” (10:6-7). Israel’s failure to worship God alone brought an 18 year oppression from the Philistines and Ammonites (10:7-9). When Israel could not handle the oppression any longer, they cried out to the Lord for forgiveness (10:10), but God rejected their cries and told them to call out to the other gods for deliverance (10:11-14). Upon hearing God’s cold response to their cries of distress they said, “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray” (10:15). Israel decided to put away the foreign gods and serve the Lord, which got the attention of God and “His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel” (10:16). As a result of Israel’s repentance and lifestyle change, God allowed another judge to be raised up to deliver Israel from her oppression (10:17-18). Jephthah, a mighty man of valor, was driven out of his home at a young age because he was the son of a prostitute (11:1-3); however, after some time had passed, the elders of Gilead approached him to be their leader in a war against the Ammonites (11:4-6). Jephthah agreed to be their leader against the Ammonites if they would make him their head after he was victorious over their enemies (11:7-9). The elders of Gilead agreed to the terms (11:10-11) so Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon and he told them that he was angry because Israel had taken some of his land (11:12-13). Jephthah responded to the king by declaring that their land was actually the land of the Amorites when Israel took possession of it and Israel had remained there for hundreds of years because God had given the land to them (11:14-27). The words of Jephthah were not well-received by the king of Ammon (11:28) so the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and he made his way to battle against the people of Ammon (11:29). Before entering into battle, Jephthah made a vow to the Lord saying, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lords, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (11:30-31). Jephthah eventually fought against Ammon and the Lord delivered Israel’s enemies into his hands (11:32-33), but when he returned home from battle, his only child was the first thing to come out of the doors of his house to meet him (11:34). Jephthah was distraught by the fact that it was his daughter whom he would have to offer as a sacrifice to the Lord in fulfillment of his vow (11:35). His daughter encouraged Jephthah to keep his vow to the Lord, but she requested to be allowed to lament her virginity for two months before the vow was fulfilled (11:36-37). Jephthah permitted her to go and then she returned to her father, who carried out his vow to the Lord (11:38-40). Scholars have debated whether Jephthah actually sacrificed his daughter or if she was actually sentenced to be a lifelong virgin. Scripture seems to indicate that Jephthah sacrificed his only child as a fulfillment of his vow. No matter which view a person takes, Jephthah’s vow was made in haste and should be a warning to anyone who would make a vow to the Lord without thinking about the ramifications. Jephthah then had to deal with Ephraim’s jealousy over his military success (12:1-6), but he went on to rule Israel for 6 years until he died (12:7). After Jephthah judged Israel, there were several judges to follow: Ibzan judged Israel 7 years (12:8-10); Elon judged Israel 10 years (12:11-12); and Abdon judged Israel 8 years (12:13-15).
Dear God, may any promise or vow made to You not be done in haste.