STUDY Hebrews 11:32-34 D (click here for notes)

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength, and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (NIV)



The haunting story of Jephthah, his ignominious beginning, his accomplishments, and his tragic oath is recorded in Judges 11 and 12. The Israelites again "did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines." (Judges 10:6)

God "sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead" (Judges 10:7-8)

Israel begged God to rescue them.


Meet Jephthah

1. Who was Jephthah, and how did his identity affect his position in his clan? (see Judges 11:1-3)


2. Why did the Gileadites go find Jephthah and ask him to come back when they were threatened by the Ammonites, and what were the implications of asking him to leave Tob to fight the Ammonites? (see Judges 11:3-5; 2 Samuel 10:6-8)


3. What inducement lured Jephthah back to Gilead? (see Judges 10:17-18; 11:8-11)


The Negotiations

After Jephthah assumed command of Gilead's military strategy, he commenced negotiations with the king of the Ammonites. He followed the protocol common in international politics of his day.


4. What was the Ammonite king's complaint, and how was his complaint historically inaccurate? (see Judges 11:12-13; Numbers 21:21-26)


5. What three-fold defense did Jephthah use? (see Judges 11:15-22; 23-25; 26-27)


6. What common belief did the nations hold regarding the establishment of their political and property boundaries? (see Judges 11:23)


Battle Preparations

"Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites." (Judges 11:29)


7. What promise did Jephthah make prior to the battle, hoping to gain the Lord's blessing in battle? (Judges 11:30-31)


8. Such vows were common among the pagan nations. What other instances are there of Israelites' making vows to the Lord? (see Genesis 28:18-22; Judges 21:1; 1 Samuel 1:10-11; 2 Samuel 15:7-8)


9. What happened when Jephthah went to battle? (Judges 11:32,33)


10. What did Jephthah not foresee? (Judges 11:34-35)


11. Many of us were taught that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter but set her apart to remain a virgin the rest of her life. What does the Bible indicate about how Jephthah carried out his vow? (see Judges 11:31, 35-39)


12. Why did Jephthah feel he had to carry out his vow? (see Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)


13. How might Jephthah's personal history and the recent apostasy of Israel contributed to his making such a vow?


14. How do you reconcile Gilead's chosen judge and leader being a person willing to offer a human sacrifice in spite of God's command not to kill?


15. Judges 20-21 tells the story of the Benjamites' treachery against a woman and of Israel's reaction to it. Compare and contrast Israel's vow and its consequences with Jephthah's vow and its consequences.


Jephthah's Trap

After Jephthah's battle against the Ammonites, the men from Ephraim accused Jephthah of not calling on them when he mustered the troops, and they threatened to retaliate by burning his house down.

16. What was Jephthah's response to them? (Judges 12:2-7)


17. How long did Jephthah lead Israel? (Judges 12:7)


18. What do you think qualifies Jephthah to be listed in Hebrews 11?


The Bigger Picture

19. The central story of the book of Judges is the story of Gideon and his wicked son Abimelech. His story is bracketed on either side by the stories of Deborah/Barak and of Jephthah. Those stories are bracketed by the stories of Ehud and Samson, both heroes who acted alone. What disadvantages might Deborah and Jephthah have had in the eyes of Israel that caused the author to pair them in this way?


20. What great Old Testament figure did Gideon reflect, perhaps causing the author of Judges to place him in the center of this book?


21. What did Jesus say about taking oaths? (see Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12)


22. If were oaths acceptable in the Old Covenant (vows that are uttered were as binding as oaths­see Deut. 23:21-23 and New Bible Dictionary published by Inter Varsity Press) what changed, causing Jesus to prohibit them under the New Covenant? (see Deuteronomy 10:20-22; John 14:6-7, 12-13; 1 John 5:20)


23. How do you explain God's establishing a cunning, conniving person like Jephthah as Israel's judge?


24. Compare and contrast Jephthah with Gideon, Barak, and Samson.



25. What circumstances in you life have you tried to manipulate by making promises to God? What were the outcomes?


26. What circumstances have you manipulated by overpowering or blackmailing someone?


27. What circumstance is in your life now that you need to release completely to God, allowing Him to determine the outcome?


28. What do you fear most about risking giving God the control of your dilemma?


29. Ask God to show you what truth he wants to teach you about the dilemma(s) in your life. Ask him to help you open your heart to him and to shine his light of reality and truth into your fear and confusion and loss. Let him show you where and how you need to face the truth, and give him your fear and shame. Allow Jesus to give you his peace and courage and truth so you can release your control to him. Let Jesus show you his will for your uncertainties.


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