What is the Meaning of Judges 10-12

Pride Manipulates: Repent of Pride and Live

Judges 10:6-12:7

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Judges 10-12

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes this about a particular sin. See if you can figure out what it is. There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it in ourselves the more we dislike it in others.” Can you guess it?

The fact is, pride kills. It maybe what ruined Lucifer so that we now call him Satan. And countless billions have died b/c of his pride. Pride also kills in our passage this morning. We’ll be dealing with Jephthah.

If Jephthah actually sacrificed his daughter (11:35ff), then pride harms those we love. Jephthah’s vow, we’ll see, was an attempt to manipulate God. The sons of Ephraim were prideful against Jephthah, God’s chosen leader (12:1) and they met their demise (12:1-7). So I’ve titled the message this morning: Pride Manipulates: Repent of Pride and Live


First, we have a bit of background before we get into the topic of pride. I’ll be making unrelated points of application. My first point doesn’t actually begin until 11:30.


***Background of Israel before Jephthah (10:6-10:9)

TTS/EXP: Israel really did it this time. Notice the compounding of the faithlessness (10:6, “gods of the … gods of the …”). Their compounded faithlessness deserved double trouble (10:7 –Philistines and Ammon). They Philistines and the Ammonites did them triple trouble (10:8 “vexed and oppressed ” –graphic: “vexed” –only other time used in reference to what God to the Egyptians –Ex. 15:6; “oppressed” or “crushed”).


TTS of 10:10-18:

Israel cries (10:10, not necessarily repentance) but they actually confess sin (10:10).

EXP: They recognized their sin of forsaking God and serving Baal. But…


The LORD still Threatens to Abandon His People (10:11–14). He seems to be saying, “Yeah, right, I’ve heard you cry out to me before and you end up abandoning me after I deliver you. Sorry, not this time. Go cry out to your other gods to deliver you.


It seems that the LORD’s interpretation of their abandoning of Him is that they have been using Him. Yahweh, the genie, “Your wish is my command?” ?! No way! Israel can’t just go their own way their whole life and not serve God and then when they get in a jam, they turn to him. God is not a magic genie.


APP: So, the LORD threatens to abandon idolaters to their own devices. It is the same today. ELABORATE. Abandoned by the only one who has the power to make life work…silence….[be silent]…silence from heaven…..


The LORD Threatens to Abandon His People (10:11-14), but He Graciously Responds to His People’s Misery (10:16)

EXP: Read 16b: “his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” At first glance, it seems that God being grieved over Israel’s misery is due to Israel’s works, due to their putting away of their idols. 16: “And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” But notice v. 16b does not tie God’s compassion with Israel’s repentance. It ties it to her misery…”his soul was grieved for the misery.”  Israel could not repent perfectly enough to earn God’s compassion.


APP: Notice, then, that our security in Christ does not depend on the perfection of our repentance but on the intensity of God’s compassion.

After they put away their idols….


Israel’s Resolution (10:17–18): The people determine to make a leader of anyone who saves them from the Ammonite army that is preparing to attack.


EXP: While you hear the people of Israel cry with repentance, you can hear the cries of battle from the sons of Ammon. Israel naturally responds with a desire to fight. They want a leader who will start the fight. Whoever starts the fight, gets to be the leader.  


Enter Jephthah…


***Background to Jephthah before he delivers Israel (11:1-18)

Jephthah is scorned (11:1-3). But it seems no one started the fight. Jephthah comes on the scene in 11. He is a valiant warrior, but the son of a harlot. Gilead was Jephthah’s dad. Gilead also had legitimate sons with his wife and these sons drove out Jephthah from the house and told him he didn’t have an inheritance b/c he was illegitimate.


Then Jephthah flees and leads a group of rebels and worthless men (3).


Jephthah is sought after (11:4-11). The battle begins (11:4) and then the elders of Gilead come to Jephthah and ask him to be their commander and ruler, and he accepts, after arguing that it was they themselves who drove him out of his father’s house. Now, Jephthah is chief.


INJECT HERE for a literary highlight: Notice similar literary features of ch. 10-11. Jephthah seems to be a picture of the LORD. Do each theme (rejection, distress, etc.).


Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Rejection (of LORD/Jephthah)

v. 6 (“Israel did evil”)

1-3(Jephthah’s brother’s [son’s of Gilead] drive him out)


7-9(Israel is crushed by Philistines/Amonites)

4(Ammon fight Israel)

Repentance (by Israel/Gilead)

10(Israel to LORD, “We’ve sinned”)

5-6 (elders of Gilead to Jephthah “Be our chief”)

Objection (by LORD/Jephthah)

11-14(LORD to Israel, “I used to deliver you, but go ask the gods you served to do it this time”)

7(Jephthah to elders, “You used to hate me and drove me from my house. So why now come to me?”)

Appeal (by Israel/Gilead)

15-16a(Israel to LORD, “We sinned, but please deliver us; we turn from idols”)

8(Gilead to Jephthah, “So as to ask that you become our head and fight Ammon.”)

Acquiescence (agreement)

16b(“LORD not bear Israel’s misery. –He will deliver)

9-11(Jephthah to Gilead, Be your head if I defeat Ammon? “Yes.”)


APP: Thus, Jephthah, despised and rejected just like the LORD is, is not a likely character for God to use. Jephthah is pretty much a loser by most people’s standards. He’s the son of a harlot (11:1), rejected by his brothers (11:2) and is a leader of thugs (11:3).

But God chose that which is weak, again, to confound the things that are mighty.


After the rejection and acceptance, Jephthah enters into battle. First, it’s a battle with words

Jephthah acts as a statesman (11:4-28) through correspondence between himself and the king of Ammon.

(a) The problem (11:12–13): Jephthah learns that the Ammonites are angry because they believe Israel stole land from them.

(b) The peace attempts (11:14–28): To avoid a battle, Jephthah sets forth his arguments concerning how the Israelites got the land (The LORD gave it to them when the people of the land initiated the fight. Ammon never owned it then, it was the Ammorites‘ land.). The Ammonites, however, are not satisfied: they disregard the Jephthah’s message.

Jephthah, the soldier (11:29): The Lord’s Spirit comes upon Jephthah, and he leads an army against the Ammonites.

I.Jephthah’s Vow (11:30-40): Pride Seeks to Manipulate God


His vow (11:30–31): Jephthah vows that if the Lord gives him victory over the Ammonites, upon returning, he will sacrifice as a burnt offering the first thing that comes out of his house to greet him.

c. His victory over the Ammonites (11:32–33)

d. His vexation (11:34–40)

(1) The father’s anguish (11:34–35): Jephthah’s only daughter is the first one to come out of the house to greet him. Jephthah tears his clothes in anguish.

(2) The daughter’s agreement (11:36–38): Jephthah’s daughter tells him that he must keep his vow, but she asks for two months to lament the fact that she will never be married.

(3) Israel’s annual event (11:39–40): Jephthah keeps his vow. This tragedy becomes a yearly remembrance among the young women of Israel.


EXP: Perhaps a similarity here between Gideon’s fleece and Jephthah‘s vow:


Gideon: Known promise of event (deliverance from enemy), Gideon tests, God gives assurance of promise of deliverance, Gideon is still fearful (unbelieving?).


Jephthah: Unknown outcome of war, he vows, God gives victory in war, Jephthah fulfills (tragic?) vow (promise).


If these are meant to be literarily parallel (other stories that are), and our interpretation of Gideon’s fleece is correct, then Jephthah’s vow is, not only tragic, but sinful.


The big issue all the literature discusses is whether Jephthah sacrificed his daughter. You have 2 options: he either literarily sacrificed his own daughter or dedicated her to celibacy for temple service. We’ll get a bit technical, so bear with me. We’ll discuss only with arguments from the wording of the text (there are others). But also: why the text is ambiguous and what we are supposed to glean from it.



Arguments from the Wording in the Text


Jephthah Sacrificed His Daughter (1)

Jephthah Dedicated His Daughter to Celibacy for Temple Service (2)

Sacrifice to Temple Service

Temple service to Sacrifice (2)

“Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah” (11:29)


If the Spirit came upon Jephthah, how could he sacrifice his daughter?

Judges1:19: Even though LORD was with Judah, Judah decided not to drive out valley dwellers.


whatever comes out of the doors ” (11:31)

Technically a masculine: “whosoever” which can refer to persons and even female persons.



But this wording also used elsewhere of inanimate objects ([Num 21:13] or a word [Num 32:24]) or persons (Jer 5:6; 21:9; 38:2). In each case context must determine what talking about.

“[it] shall be the LORD’S (11:31)

Masculine SAME




“and” (11:31)

Conjoins the thoughts “it shall be the LORD’s” and “I will offer it up…” into one thought: the burnt offering is the LORD’s

Could be translated “or” technically. Distinguishes between a dedication of a human and the sacrifice of an animal.

it is far more likely that the Hebrew specifies how the thing will become the LORD’s: by being offered up as a sacrifice.

More likely, perhaps, but this may be the exception that proves the rule.

“I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (11:31)

“burnt offering” requires a literal sacrifice and can’t refer to a figurative dedicatory sacrifice.

“burnt offering” is always used as a non-human sacrifice and so Jephthah would not have been able to fulfill his vow literally.

Except for Ab. of his son (Ge. 22:2)


“he had no son or daughter” (11:34)

His line of descendants will end: human sacrifice

His line of descendants will end: perpetual virginity


It is tragic: he will sacrifice his daughter

It is tragic: she will remain a virgin



“weep b/c of my virginity” (11:37)

Weep for virginity in death b/c no children will be given to extend line, which is of vital importance.

Weep b/c she will remain a perpetual virgin

Why weep for virginity for 2 months if she were to remain living? She would have her whole life for it.

Why weep for virginity in light of death? More sense if she were to weep over her impending death!

“did to her according to his vow”

He sacrificed her as a burnt offering (11:31)

He dedicated her to temple service as a perpetual virgin (11:31 –and she had no relations with a man)

Text doesn’t say a sacrifice, but it seems to indicate celibacy.

Narrator states that his vow was fulfilled.

EXP: Issue more is why the ambiguity and how does it function in the narrative? Perhaps a sensitive issue and it’s distasteful? I’d like to submit that the focus of the passage, b/c it does seem to be ambiguous, is not the ambiguity. The focus of the passage is not the tragedy of the vow itself, but the attitude that Jephthah has. The tragedy is found in Jephthah’s pride and in his attempt to manipulate God.


ARG: And instead of thinking of this as a rash vow, think of it more as a totally pagan vow. If it was a sacrifice of a child, it was deadly serious. But this was another attempt by Jephthah to manipulate circumstances to his own advantage. He was trying to manipulate God within the vow. But then notice his response (35) when he learns he has to keep it.  Tragic! He is not acting very “pious” “Oh, great I have to fulfill my vow”


ARG: Sound familiar? Sounds like Gideon and the fleece. A testing of God.

APP: Thus, don’t try to manipulate God to get what you want. God is not the magic gumball machine in the sky, ready to dispense his yummy goodness when you have a bad taste in your mouth. Pride is what brings a person to this extent. “God is here for me, he needs to meet my demands, I am somebody to whom God should listen!” Jump down off your high horse and get off your pedestal and realize you are foolish! Nevertheless, God uses this man.


TRANS: Pride not only seeks to manipulate God, it seeks to manipulate others.


II.The Pride of Ephraim (12:1-7): Pride Seeks to Manipulate Others


TTS: The rebuke against Jephthah (12:1–4): The people of Ephraim threaten Jephthah for not allowing them to share in his victory against the Ammonites. Though Jephthah explains that he did indeed invite them (and they abandoned him and the LORD did what Ephraim couldn’t do), they begin to insult the people of Gilead.


EXP: Ephraim thinks he is “a somebody.” Does this sound familiar (8:1)? Same with Gideon. Ephraim may have been expecting Gideon’s response (smooth psychology). Jephthah, a former loser (1:1-3) and “nobody” is likely not impressed with “somebodies.” Instead of smoothing them over, his words incite and inflame them. They retort: “You are nothing more than “renegades” (v4; confusing, but probably a racial slur of sorts).



(2) The retaliation by Jephthah (12:4–7): Jephthah is angered by the insults of the people of Ephraim, so he attacks them (remember he tried to avoid battle with foreigners but goes after his own people –Israel not very unified).

(a) His triumph (12:4): Jephthah defeats the people of Ephraim. But that’s not enough, he continues to go for the fugitives of Ephraim…

(b) His testing (12:5–7): To identify the fugitives from Ephraim, Jephthah places a checkpoint at the Jordan River and forces all passersby to say, “Shibboleth (flowing stream). If the person would say “Sibboleth” (prob. Ear of wheat), Jephthah’s men would know that he is an Ephraimite, and they kill him. 42,000 die then.


EXP: This is a kind of “bible password” game, but with deadly results. When in Canada, made this point: Some people from America can’t pronounce things correctly, right? (Garage, about, sorry)


APP: Obviously, the pride of Ephraim isn’t only limited to them. Again, they wanted to be called to fight. “Hey were somebodies you have to use, we are awesome, the best at doing God’s work!” Same today.


What super-spiritually minded Christians haven’t desired to be on Jesus’ varsity worship team? “I want to worship Jesus better than anyone else!” I want to grow up and build the largest independent fundamental Baptist church in the world! Etc.


“I won’t be content until I am a Christian celebrity, in fact I will count my worship as dung until I am!”  Others will think, “Why didn’t I get asked to serve the church in such and such way” or “Why didn’t I get asked to lead this ministry, etc.” This type of person will likely seek to manipulate others like the sons of Ephraim said “We will burn your house down on you.”

To what extent are you willing to go to get your way in your life? Stepping on people’s toes? Murder? Pride also will manifest itself by your unwillingness to give your status in life up. Or maybe you don’t have a place of prominence but you covet it earnestly and you’re willing to go to great lengths to get it. Humble yourself and let God lift you up.


CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Judges 10-12

Pride is a horrible thing that is so subtle. It’s a companion of many sins: One commentator said, “Pride is the ground in which all other sins grow.” You could argue that it was what made Satan fall (puffing himself up with all his beauty) and what made man fall.


Are you willing to put all your pride, all your ambitions at the foot of the cross? For Jephthah, his pride caused him to manipulate others. For the sons of Ephraim, they were contentious with the man of God who was placed over them. Both were tragic: Jephthah “lost” his daughter and Ephraimites lost their lives. At the very hint of pride, repent and pour contempt on all your pride.


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