We ended last week with
The Ammonites, a nomadic people who
lived to the east, had crossed the
After 18 years of harassment, the
When they did, He stirred them with the realization the time had come for their liberation.
Part of the judgment of God has been a lack of competent leaders.
So as they sense His restoration of them & that the time has come for them to rise up & throw off the oppression of the Ammonites, they begin to look for the one God will send to lead them.
1Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of
valor, but he was the son of a harlot; and
Gilead is a region that lies to the east of the
It’s named after the grandson of Manasseh, whose descendants became the largest & most important clan in Manasseh.
Jephthah was the son of the man who was the chief of the Gileadite clan.
And as was often the case, being
the chief, he was named “
Jephthah went to a region called Tob on the eastern
The city of
Because of his natural qualities as a leader, other discontents & landless men began to attach themselves to Jephthah.
They became the “Tob-Mob” & raided caravans & border towns.
4 It came to pass after a time that the people of
Ammon made war against
The 18 year Ammonite oppression of
As nomads, they weren’t the kind of people to conquer then set up a central government & administrate a new system.
Their oppression & domination
They came, not to rule, but to plunder.
It was a classic example of rape, pillage, & steal; much like the Vikings when they raided Europe & England.
So, as the Ammonite tribes begin to mass in the East for yet another raid, the elders of the eastern tribes send word to Jephthah, asking him to lead in their defense.
7 So Jephthah said to the elders of
Jephthah says, “Hey, I thought I wasn’t good enough to even live among you – and now you want me to LEAD you?”
They say, “We were wrong. Come prove it by leading us to victory.”
9 So Jephthah said to the elders of
Jephthah asks what their intentions are.
If he’s good enough to lead them in battle, will they then recognize his ability to lead them in peace?
Jephthah is really only concerned with freeing his family from the stain of his past, the blot of his parentage.
His mother may have been a harlot, but
his father was
The elders agree to receive him back into Jewish society if he leads them to victory.
11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of
As I said, Mizpah is another name for Ramoth-Gilead, the lead city in Tob & Jephthah’s base.
In a formal ceremony there at Mizpah, Jephthah is made the ruler of the people.
His first formal act was to try the route of negotiation with the Ammonites.
12 Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of
the people of Ammon, saying, “What do you have against me, that you have come
to fight against me in my land?” 13 And the king of the people of
Ammon answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because
Jephthah asked the Ammonite chief, who’d managed to pull
together their clans into a united force, why he was hassling
The Ammonite ruler replied that
14 So Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the people of Ammon, 15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah:
This is a gutsy move – He’s identifying himself to the enemy
as the ruler of
This was like painting a big ole’ target on his forehead.
Just like in chess, the end of the game comes with the death or capture of the king.
[Far Side cartoon – “Bummer birthmark!”]
Jephthah’s formal announcement of himself as the leader of
He wasn’t just some opportunistic bureaucrat who’d run away at the first sign of battle.
He’s a man of courage who’s willing to take the lead in facing danger.
The best place to lead from is the front, not the rear.
People are inspired to follow when they see their leader is committed, that he or she believes the goal is worthy of pursuing & is willing to take a risk to attaint it.
Leaders who give stirring speeches but don’t follow through to do what they tell others they ought to do create a credibility gap; people don’t trust them.
We hear countless stories about politicians, people who pursue leadership in public office who advocate environmental causes, but who drive huge gas-guzzling vehicles.
They advocate a strong military but dodge the draft or secure deferments for their children.
They want to expand government welfare, but they won’t give a single dollar of their own income to charity.
They pass all kinds of new taxes but hire the best lawyers & CPA’s to figure out how to pay the least amount of tax themselves.
Jephthah was a leader who put his money where his mouth was.
He lets the Ammonites know who’s
going to lead
This kind of boldness inspired
& emboldened the men of
‘Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of
the people of Ammon; 16 for when Israel came up from Egypt, they
walked through the wilderness as far as the
The best route from
But they’d been denied access, so
Jephthah demonstrates in all of this a thorough knowledge of
God’s word & the history of
Instead of just refusing, Sihon attacked
Bad move, because he was totally
defeated & as the prize of victory, the Ammorite territory had fallen to
Note there’s a difference between the Ammorites & Ammonites.
Jephthah’s challenge to the Ammonite king was – “When did this territory ever belong to you?”
“And when did
But v. 23 is the real reason
24 Will you not possess whatever Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God takes possession of before us, we will possess.
Jephthah presents a challenge to the Ammorites; it’s a challenge based on his faith in God.
He knew the land had been given by
So he says, “If you think your god is stronger than our God, bring it on!”
“Our God is red-hot, your god ain’t diddly-squat.”
25 And now, are you any better than Balak
the son of Zippor, king of
After making the contest between them a proof of whose God was stronger, Jephthah reminded the Ammonite king that his god had already been whooped by Yahweh.
The Moabites also worshipped Chemosh,
Jephthah said, “If the lands you’re raiding today really belong to you, why have you waited 300 years to lay claim to them?”
27 Therefore I have not sinned against you, but
you wronged me by fighting against me. May [Yahweh] the Lord, the Judge, render judgment this day between the
The Ammonites’ reasons for war were just a smoke-screen for their lust for plunder.
So when Jephthah poked holes in them, it didn’t change anything.
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and
Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead; and from Mizpah of
34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah,
there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and
she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35
And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said,
“Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who
trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord,
and I cannot go back on it.” 36 So she said to him, “My father, if
you have given your word to the Lord,
do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies,
the people of Ammon.” 37 Then she said to her father, “Let this
thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on
the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.” 38 So he
said, “Go.” And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her
friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. 39 And it was
so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out
his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man. And it became a custom in
We looked at this passage on Sunday.
1 Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over toward Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!”
The tribe of Ephraim lived on the west of the
When they heard about Jephthah’s victory over the Ammonites, they grew jealous & went to confront him.
They did the same thing with Gideon when he defeated the Midianites.
They came out to challenge him with why they’d not been invited to the battle.
Gideon handled them with kid gloves & quiet diplomacy, & they went home grumbling but feeling superior.
Jephthah deals the Ephraimites very differently.
They’ve threatened him with violence so he throws it right back at them.
2 And Jephthah said to them, “My people and I were in a great struggle with the people of Ammon; and when I called you, you did not deliver me out of their hands. 3 So when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the people of Ammon; and the Lord delivered them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”
The Ephraimites are a great example of those who are chronic complainers.
They never do anything themselves, but are always there to criticize & complain what others do.
When someone proposes a venture of faith, they talk about all the reasons why it won’t work.
Then when it succeeds, they get indignant that they weren’t invited to be a part of it.
Faith in God ought to produce a personality & demeanor that is fundamentally positive & joyful.
A cynical, scornful, critical & negative exterior is a sign of an inner lack of faith.
Psalm 1:1 says,
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
One of the reasons why it’s so important that we be a committed part of the Body of Christ is so that we can lovingly reflect back to each other what we see in one another.
I recently passed out a questionnaire to about a dozen people, that had 40 questions aimed at helping me understand how they saw me.
The point of the exercise was that we often think one thing about ourselves while we project something different.
Knowing how we’re perceived by others is important because there ought to be a continuity between our inner & outer lives.
The responses I got back were very enlightening.
For the most part, I knew what my strengths and weaknesses are, and they were affirmed by the survey.
But one quality was a huge surprise to me.
I think I’m a pretty positive & happy guy.
I love to laugh, to enjoy a good time, & I understand what it means to be joyous in the Lord.
I thought that I presented to others a generally joyous demeanor.
But across the board, people marked me as deficient in joy.
So I’ve decided to get all new friends. No!
Really, at first I just didn’t understand how I could get such low marks regarding joy.
I really resisted what the survey said & found myself wanting to chalk up the replies to their mis-reading me.
That was easy when it was just a few of the first questionnaires I got back, but when it was all of them, I realized I had some serious thinking to do.
I came to the shocking realization I had deluded myself.
While I thought I was filled with the joy of the Lord, I all too often allow circumstances to effect my mood.
My faith in God does get eclipsed by circumstances.
I’ve asked the Lord to change me in this regard; to make my faith more consistent and firm.
From the Ephraimites challenge of both Gideon & Jephthah, we can learn that negativity & cynicism is something that can spread from one person to another.
There seems to be something about the Ephraimites as a whole that saw them become whining complainers.
Those we consistently hang out with are going to effect both our inner disposition & outward behavior, either for good or ill.
Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
Think about your upbringing – where your parents positive people of faith or negative & scornful? How has their attitude shaped you?
What about those you spend a lot of time with today?
This is why it’s so important Christians be part of a small group, meeting with others who are serious about following God and committed to help one another grow.
Who is going to tell you in a loving way that there’s something you need to surrender to the Spirit’s work?
4 Now Jephthah gathered together all the men of
The men of Ephraim were good-talkers & skilled at intimidation
& put-downs, but that’s all they were good for. When it came to battle, they were pathetic &
got qucikly whooped by the men of
5 The Gileadites seized the fords of the
As a strategic move to keep the Ephraimites from getting
away, some of the men of Gilead rushed to the ford, or crossing of the
When the men of Ephraim tried to retreat, they were caught.
Since the culture of the Ephraimites & Gileadites was so close it was difficult knowing which tribe a guy was from.
They looked & dressed alike. And it was easy for the men of Ephraim to fake being one of the Gileadites.
The only difference was that the dialects of the 2 groups
had changed one little thing in the 300 years they been separated by the
The Gileadites had the “sh” sound while the Ephraimites had reduced it to the simple “s” sibilant.
So when a new guy wandered near the ford, the men guarding it would tell him to say the word “Shibboleth” which means “stream.”
An Ephraimite would not be able to pronounce it straight-away & would be revealed.
A total of 42,000 Ephraimites were killed in this battle with the Gileadites.
You don’t hear it too much anymore, but just a generation ago, the word “shibboleth” was fairly common in English.
It referred to any marker that identified someone as belonging to a group.
· A guy wearing khakis, a Lacrosse polo shirt, with a Ralph Lauren sweater over his shoulders, the arms tied in a knot, was an 80’s shibboleth for a yuppie.
· A young woman dressed all in black, with black hair, black eyes, & dark dusky lipstick, with multiple piercings was a 90’s shibboleth for a Goth.
· A Yarmulke is a shibboleth for a Jew. While a kafiyya is a shibboleth for a Muslim.
The point is, belonging to a group finds expression in identifying features.
The Bible is clear in both the OT & NT that the people of God ought to be marked by specific traits.
The quality of their lives ought to be on a higher plane than those who live without God.
The difference ought to mark our priorities, our values, how we react; even the way we dress.
And as with the origin of the shibboleth, it ought to even affect our speech.
Life & death for the men of
In the same way, eternal life & death is determined by only one word – “Jesus.”
The one question that decides a man or woman’s fate is whether or not they can pronounce that name correctly.
Now, obviously, I don’t mean whether or not a person can sound out the letters & pronounce the word –J-E-S-U-S.
I mean, can they claim the NAME.
To be saved, a person must not just be able to say a word; they must know the NAME of Jesus, & they only know the name if they are in relationship with Him.
Think of it this way – The Ephraimites’ language & culture had lost the ability to pronounce the “sh” sound.
It wasn’t a part of their lifestyle or experience, so they couldn’t say the word, & died.
In the same way, the only person who can truly claim the name of Jesus is someone who’s been born again & entered into new life.
That new life is lived under the Lordship of Jesus, with a new lifestyle, culture, & language.
I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
Now, Paul is not saying that we can reduce salvation down to some kind of rote formula of saying a sequence of words, as though heaven’s gate was opened by reciting an incantation – “Jesus is Lord.”
He’s saying that a person’s pattern of speech reveals his/her heart.
The ancient world saw a much closer & necessary connection between what one said & what one believed.
Speech was understood as a reflection of the inner person.
Jesus said that the words of the mouth express what’s in the heart. [Mat 12:34]
This is true for all of us & the people we meet every day.
If you want to know what a person is thinking about, what their values are, & whether they believe in God, just listen to them for a few hours.
If you want to know whether or not they’re saved, listen for how they speak about Jesus.
Their view of Him determines their destiny. Jesus is the shibboleth of eternal life.
7 And Jephthah judged
8 After him, Ibzan of
Like some of the other judges, Ibzan had several wives – 60 kids would require that.
11 After him, Elon the Zebulunite judged
13 After him, Abdon the son of Hillel the
As we saw last week with Gideon’s sons, rulers used donkeys for transportation, so these 70 sons & grandsons were a part of Abdon’s administration.
15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite
died and was buried in Pirathon in the
With these last 3 judges, we don’t read that they were military leaders.
Following these 3, a long period of oppression began under
the hand of what would become
For 40 years they brutally harassed the people of God until God raised up the best know of the Judges - Samson.
His story is a classic example of wasted potential.
1 Again the children of
This was by far the longest
When they hear the word “Philistines,” most people think of Goliath, the giant warrior David slew with a sling.
The Philistines were originally from the
For reasons that remain a mystery, these people, called the Sea-peoples by historians, left Crete in a mass migration that landed on virtually every shore of the Mediterranean.
The Philistines landed at first in
They then sailed north a short distance and landed on the largely unoccupied shore of Canaan, right about the same time as the conquest under Joshua.
Today, the word “Philistine” has a strong negative connotation and is used as a cultured put down for someone who’s an uneducated brute.
If you call someone a Philistine it means they’re rude, crude, & barbaric.
Which is interesting because technologically & culturally, the Philistines were far more advanced than either the Canaanites or the Israelites.
The archaeology of their ancient
sites reveals they’d entered the iron age while
Their wide-ranging voyages across
By the time we read about here, the Philistines were a good
150 years ahead of
Their superiority meant their
ability to dominate
2 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, [about 15 miles from Jersualem] of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children.
We never do get her name.
3 And the Angel of the Lord . . .
As is so often the case with this phrase, “The angel of the Lord” this isn’t merely a messenger, it’s Jesus Himself.
Just as He had appeared to Gideon, now He appears to Samson’s parents.
3 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you
are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a
son. 4 Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar
drink, and not to eat anything unclean. 5 For behold, you shall
conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child
shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver
The message was that this woman’s barrenness would be
removed with the conception & birth of a child who would grow to be
The woman was told to be sure not to drink any wine, nor to eat anything unkosher, or to allow the child’s hair to be cut.
All because he was to be devoted to the vow of the nazarite.
The word ‘nazarite’ means “to separate/consecrate”
It has nothing to do with the
Rather, it was something God provided for in the law to allow people to show a season of special devotion to Him.
· A person wasn’t allowed to drink any alcohol, & just to make sure they didn’t they were to draw the line well back from it by also abstaining from anything grown on the vine; grapes, raisins.
· They were also to make sure they didn’t come into contact with any dead body by which they would become ritually unclean.
· Finally, they were not to cut their hair.
We’ll see why these three prohibitions were important this coming Sunday.
What’s important to notice here is that Samson’s mother was told that she was to take care toward these things, because as her child developed in her, what she did affected him.
Also, the Nazarite vow was usually something one did for only a period of time, maybe a year, or half a year.
Samson’s vow was lifelong and began even before His birth.
6 So the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A Man of God came to me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome; but I did not ask Him where He was from, and He did not tell me His name. 7 And He said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ ” 8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.” 9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband was not with her.
Manoah didn’t just chalk up his wife’s report about seeing an angel to her imagination.
He prayed about it and asked for confirmation and more detail.
So the messenger came again, but to the woman as before; Manoah wasn’t there.
10 Then the woman ran in haste and told her husband, and said to him, “Look, the Man who came to me the other day has just now appeared to me!” 11 So Manoah arose and followed his wife. When he came to the Man, he said to Him, “Are You the Man who spoke to this woman?” And He said, “I am.” 12 Manoah said, “Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?” 13 So the Angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14 She may not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor may she drink wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean. All that I commanded her let her observe.” 15 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You.”
Hospitality & entertaining strangers was an important mark of piety & morality & Manoah sense the need to show a warm welcome to this visitor so he asks if he would like some food.
16 And the Angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know He was the Angel of the Lord.) 17 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, “What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?” 18 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”
While Manoah wanted to prepare a meal, the visitor said an offering would be more appropriate.
It’s clear this visitor is none other than Jesus when he identifies His name as Wonderful.
19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the Lord. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on— 20 it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar—the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 When the Angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the Lord.
22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!”
Okay, maybe he’s not too smart!
23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have told us such things as these at this time.”
She appears to have a lot more on the ball than her husband.
24 So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
This was a region in the center of