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Lessons from the life of Jephthah- Judges 11
Lessons from the life of Jephthah
Judges 11

This morning we are going to take a look at a tough passage- Judges 11. In this text we are introduced to a man named Jephthah. God used him to deliver his people from the hands of their enemies (the Ammonites) who had oppressed them for 18 years.

The reason the Israelites had been oppressed by the Ammonites is because they had abandoned God and started to worship the gods of Sidon, Moab, the Ammonites, and the Philistines (See Judges 10). In response to this, God sold them into the hands of their enemies. After many years of oppression the Israelites repented of their sin, turned back to God, and put away the idols they had been worshipping. God saw this and determined to deliver them. The instrument of God's choosing-- Jephthah.

In reading the text, we are going to discover that their was a lot to like about Jephthah, but he also had a critical flaw that led to a terrible sin that will make you almost forget all of his good qualities.



1. He had faith in God. He was a follower of God. He was serious about his walk with God. He was willing to be used by God. Incredibly, he's named in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11:32

This is the most important thing about any person-- are they right with God.

Are you right with God on his terms? Through faith in Jesus Christ.

Note: Salvation is always by faith (in Old and New Testament-- this is how people came to be reckoned as righteous)

2. Despite being mistreated by his family and his community, he didn't hold any grudges, he forgave, he was willing to move forward

Yes, he remembered what his brothers did and yes, he wondered if the people would keep their word with him as their leader, but their is nothing at all that indicates that he pursued a vendetta against his family or sought to punish them for their despicable behavior of driving him away from home

We not to hold on to grudges. We, because of Jesus' forgiveness are to forgive our enemies.

3. He was strong. He was courageous. He was a leader who drew people to himself

In Judges 10:18 when it says "The leaders of Gilead, said one to another, "Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites?" There was one man that came to mind-
Jephthah.- He was a man among men

4. He made something of himself despite a rough upbringing and background

While his father was an influential man and leading member in society, his mother was a prostitute (which means his dad was morally bankrupt). Add to this that his brothers chased him out of the house and that the townspeople did nothing about it-- you have the perfect recipe for him to grow up, do drugs, hurt other people, be angry at the world, sleep around, etc. Yet, that's not how he turns out-- for he's a follower of God, he has a daughter he loves, he wasn't bitter, etc.

5. He was a keen student of history v.14-27

Some people think history is a boring subject-- and sometimes it is. Yet, if don't know our history we are going to make the same mistakes of those of yesteryear. For example: History teaches us that you can't negotiate with tyrants and dictators. ie. Hitler. This is also illustrated in our text-- for there was no reasoning that would work with the Ammonites.

As it regarded the Israelites and the Ammonites, at issue was a bogus land claim that the Ammonites were making. The Ammonites were demanding that the Israelites turn over a part of the Promised Land that they had taken 300 years prior. Jephthah, being something of Nan Israelite history buff schooled the Ammonite leaders as to how the Israelites came to possess the land in question and why the Ammonites had no claim over the land.


Issues of land claims and Israel never seem to go away! Everyone seems to want to take from Israel the land that God gave her-- yet God is faithful- though Israel is encroached upon from all sides (just like they were in the book of Judges because of their sin), God has preserved her

6. He seemed to be a 'family man"

He truly loved his daughter and had a good relationship with her


The reason I just spent time talking about Jephthah's good points is because with some people, the evil things they do all but obscures their good qualities. Such is almost the case with Jephthah

1. He killed his daughter

While there are some that think, because of the texts focus on her dying a virgin, that Jephthah devoted her to the service of the Tabernacle at Mizpah, the near unanimous view of all ancient commentators is that Jephthah actually sacrificed his daughter on an altar. On all levels this is disturbing

FYI-- human sacrifice is a no go when it comes to the worship of God.

How did Jephthah come to think, along with his daughter, that human sacrifice was ok? The nations around them practiced it. The Israelites started to copy their ways.

2. He tried to manipulate God v.29-31

Read v.29-31

The irony of our text is this: God had already determined to the give Jephthah the victory-- for the Spirit of the Lord had come upon him and he was on the move into Ammonite territory. v.29

3. He made a very foolish promise and then stubbornly kept it

Our mouths have a way of getting us into a lot of trouble- whether it be saying nasty things, lying, or making promises that we can't or shouldn't keep.

Jephthah is the poster child of the Bible for making a promise he had no business making.

His promise was stupid as well--"Whatever comes out my door". He was thinking that an animal would come out the door-- for animals were often sheltered in the house. What if dog came out, or a donkey? None of those were acceptable sacrifices to God-- let alone his daughter.

4. While having faith in God, Jephthah had a very poor grasp of how God wanted him to live- such is illustrated by the summary verse of the Book of Judges "everyone did what was right in their own eyes" Judges 21:25

Jephthah had zeal without knowledge (this is always a recipe for disaster).


1. Salvation is and always has been by faith

The faith that saved Jephthah is the faith that saves us. In the OT Abraham (the father of faith) was reckoned as righteous by God because of his faith. Genesis 15:6. The call of the Scriptures is to put your faith in Christ as your only Savior and Lord. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Trust in God. Rest in the person and work of Christ.

2. Forgiving our enemies and those who wrong us is vital in our walk with the Lord and Christlike

In view of Christ forgiving us our sins and saving us from the judgment to come, we ought to forgive.

Recent example of forgiving ones enemies. Nelson Mandella, because of his faith in Christ, forgave those who wrongfully imprisoned him for 27 years.

3. While our upbringing does shape us, it's not an excuse for bad behavior or not taking initiative in our lives

Jesus changes peoples lives. Don't use your past as an excuse for evil behavior today. Don't let your past kill your dreams (if you need counseling help, get it)
While our environment has an effect on us, the Bible never allows environment to serve as an excuse for evil behavior.

Adam and Eve lived in a perfect environment-- yet they willingly rebelled against God and ruined everything for us

Joseph had one bad experience after another-- yet he stayed faithful to God through it all.

4. Knowing our history as the children of God will help us face the challenges of today and inspire us to faithfulness

5. Trying to manipulate God. This is a no-no

To often we try to manipulate God. Such is sinful on our parts. It's also wrong headed-- for our Heavenly Father longs to give good gifts to us.

When we pray we need to take care not to say things such as "God, if you do ___ for me, then I will......"

6. Think before you speak. Let your "Yes" be yes and your "NO" be no. Don't make promises that you can't and shouldn't keep

When it comes to promises James 5:12 says; "Above all, my brothers, do not swear- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No", be no, or you will be condemned. See also Matthew 5:33-37

If you make a promise and you can't keep it-follow the counsel of Proverbs 6:1-6

If you have made a commitment and you can't keep it- it is not acceptable to just drop the matter. You must seek the person out who you made the promise to and talk to them

If you make a promise that is unbiblical and against you-- you have ZERO responsibility to keep it. You sinned/did wrong in making a foolish promise. Look it up in the Bible, Confess it, repent of it, move on.

7. Get into the Word. A knowledge of and commitment to God's Word will spare us from a lot of grief

In Hosea 4:6 it says; "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge."

By making time for God's Word and coming to a greater knowledge of it, we can save ourselves a lot of grief and pain.

Foolish/rash/ill thought decisions have serious consequences.

When making a decision we always need to ask this question: What does the Bible say? What does the Bible teach on this matter? What are the principles of God's Word that apply? What is God's will?

The solution to not knowing how to live is to get into God's Word. Watch your life and doctrine closely 1 Tim. 4:16

8. Deal with your "Achilles heel" before it brings you down.

Address, confess, repent of the sin in your life

Jephthah's "Achilles heel" was his pride, stubborness, his lack of knowing what pleased God, and ultimately the killing of his only child.

I've noticed that a lot of the heroes of the Bible have an Achilles heel/a major weakness of some sort.

Moses- anger issues
Gideon- made a gold ephod that people started to worship, took 30 wives
Barak- a bit of a chicken
Samson and Solomon- huge problems with sexual immorality
David- murderer and adulterer, let his children run wild

9. Praise God for His amazing grace-- exemplified in the person and work of Jesus Christ

It amazes and encourages me when I consider who God uses. Jephthah was a man of faith in God. God used him to save his people. Jephthah also ended up doing a horrible horrible thing- and yet he's in Heaven- listed in Hebrews 11. God's constant use of broken vessels encourages us, that He can use us. We need to be willing. We need to have a heart that says "Here I am Lord, send me"