lady climbing to the top of the ladder April 6 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Judges 10, 11, 12, 13

Right Connections and Right Choices

The saying, “It is not what you know but who you know” means that if you establish the right connections you can ascend the ladder of success. It is true that this philosophy may bring you success, but what kind of success and at what price? If integrity and righteousness are compromised, our success may be shallow, tainted, and even bring about our destruction. If our connections are with people who have integrity and operate with righteousness, however, we may indeed prosper.

In our last Bible study, we learned our past connections are of no significance to God; he often uses the most unlikely people—like Gideon, a man who began with small faith. The next major military ruler in the book of Judges is Jephthah. He is also an unlikely choice for a leader.

Once again, the Israelites sin, serve foreign gods, and are occupied by their enemies, the Ammonites (for a chronology of the judges, go to more page). Finding no one to lead them into battle against Ammon, Jephthah is requested to be an army commander over those in Gilead (the eastern side of the Jordan). Jephthah is a mighty warrior but had been scorned, sent away and disinherited because his mother was a prostitute (Judges 11:1-8).

The Apostle Paul said God “chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-- and the things that are not-- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1Corinthians 1:28-29, NIV). This is certainly true of this man. Although Jephthah's background is unfortunate, when Israel needs a leader, they turn to the one they expelled. Jephthah is promised he will be the leader over Gilead (the eastern side of Israel) if he leads her army to victory over the Ammonites. He agrees and calls on God to witness their agreement at Mizpah (Mizpah is somewhere in Gilead in the tribal area of eastern Manasseh). A right connection with God is necessary if we want his help.

Jephthah first tries diplomacy with the king of Ammon, but this fails. Then the Spirit of the LORD comes upon Jephthah to lead Israel to victory. However, before the attack on the Ammonites, he makes a foolish, rash vow to God.

Jephthah foolishly vows that whatever comes out of his household to meet him when he triumphs over the Ammonites, he will offer up as a burnt offering (Judges 11:31). What is Jephthah thinking? Is he thinking it might be a pet? Who might meet him first but his own family? Why does Jephthah make this foolish vow? Perhaps he is afraid of losing the battle and is bargaining with God. Desperation causes us to make foolish commitments.

Did Jephthah offer his daughter up as a burnt offering? At first glance it appears so, given his expression of grief, his daughter's response (Judges 11:35-36), the statement that he did to her as he had vowed (v.39), and the yearly four day remembrance of her by the Israelite young women of the land (vs.39-40). If Jephthah did execute this horrible vow, he was probably influenced by his pagan culture in the times of the Judges. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21: 25, NIV). Perhaps he misinterpreted a regulation in the Jewish law: If a person was devoted to destruction, not even a ransom of money could be given in exchange for him (Leviticus 27:29). However, this was meant to apply to criminals of war, not to his own family.

Another view suggests there are reasons why it is improbable Jephthah would offer his daughter as a literal burnt offering. First, consider his daughter's lament. Why would she lament about never marrying and remaining a virgin if she was going to be offered as a literal burnt offering?

Second, to offer her as a burnt offering was a detestable practice for which God's wrath would come upon Israel (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:9-13). No record of judgment followed this incident. A burnt offering is a dedication offering. Perhaps an unblemished animal was offered in her place, and she was dedicated totally to God like a Nazirite as part of the fulfillment of a vow (Leviticus 7:16; Numbers 6:1-21). This would mean she was not be eligible to marry or bear children for as long as she lived. This may explain her two months' long lament. For an Israelite woman not to marry or have children would be like death. However, a person might counter, does the unfortunate circumstance of never marrying and being a perpetual virgin warrant a yearly four day remembrance of her by the young women of that day?

Whether Jephthah's daughter was or wasn't offered as a literal burnt offering is something of which we are not sure. For more insight consult The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.402 or Got Jephthah's foolish vow teaches us to trust God, to not be rash in our decisions, and think before we commit ourselves. Our decisions will often affect others.

Samson is the next major judge. Because of Israel's idolatry and wickedness, they are now oppressed by the Philistines (powerful maritime warriors located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, which invade Israel).

As a baby, Samson is an unexpected blessing, a miracle; his parents were unable to have children because his mother was sterile. The Angel of the LORD (probably a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus) predicts the birth and gives instructions to Samson's mother and father for the way they are to raise him (Judges 13:17-21). Samson is to be raised a Nazirite, a person specially dedicated to the LORD. This means that his mother must observe certain dietary restrictions in her pregnancy. She is to drink no wine or other fermented drink and eat no unacceptable food (Judges 13:4-5). After Samson is born, he is never to receive a haircut. This is not a new fashion craze; this is a sign that he is dedicated to the Almighty. Through Samson the deliverance from the Philistines will begin.

Notice the stark contrast between the way Samson is raised and the way Jephthah is raised. Samson is a beloved son and is raised by godly parents, but Jephthah is a scorned son, the son of a prostitute. As we shall soon see, Samson is spoiled and does what he wants, but Jephthah clings to the LORD.

Here is a lesson we might learn: an advantageous upbringing does not necessarily guarantee a godly child. Each person must own a relationship with God for himself. Are you rightly connected to him regardless of your background? He can give you forgiveness, peace and spiritual life. Through Jesus Christ you can have a right relationship with God (more...).

If you have a right connection with the LORD through Jesus Christ, do you make right choices? Right connections must be joined with right choices to gain success with God.

Lessons to Live By

•  A right connection with God is necessary if we want his help (more...).

•  Trust God. Do not be rash in your decisions and think before you commit yourself. Your decisions will often affect others.

•  Right connections joined with right choices usually bring success.

Focus Verses

1Corinthians 1:28-30 (NIV)

He [God] chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-- and the things that are not-- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

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A Look Ahead: In the dark days of the Judges, there is A Light of Hope. Find out what this is in our Next Lesson.

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