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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bad boys, Bad boys.... or Commitments in the hour of desperation (7)

We’ll continue our discussion about what actually happened to Jephthah and his daughter.

Text: Judges 11:1-12:7

There are a group of commentators who feel that Jephthah, upon seeing his daughter consigned her to a life of service in the temple. This would have been like a nun, with no hope of children in her future, which was culturally important. The basis for this line of reasoning is that a human sacrifice, especially in the temple, on the altar, would have been unacceptable to God and to the people.

A second school of thought about these events attempts to portray Jephthah as a “half-pagan.” This point of view requires a mental leap and a non-scriptural assumption about Jephthah’s mother. You remember her, the lady of the evening. Verse one of chapter eleven says his mother was a harlot, but it does not say she was not an Israelite.

Follopwing this “half-pagan” line of reasoning, one would make the argument that he might have sacrificed her on an altar of his own making, thinking that he had no option left open to him but to carry out his vow. Again, this is a little difficult to swallow, because the scripture does not say that his mother was not an Israelite, and we have clear demonstration that he knew Israeli history, laws and customs. So, why would suddenly forget all of that to keep his vow? See why you need this stuff for yourself?

There are a couple of other things we must remember. The first is that he wants to be Judge and ruler when this is done.

We also need to keep in mind that this was a particularly bad time in Israel’s history when, “Every man did what seemed right in his own eyes”(Judges 17:6). And, even though God raised these Judges up to rescue His people from their oppressors, they “forgot” and turned away from God, started worshipping idols, and needed to be disciplined again, and again. This was a cyclic condition that was repeated throughout this period of their history.

So it would not be much of a stretch to say that during this time, a person could indeed be a man of faith, wish to do God’s will, yield himself to service and even be used by God, but still not really understand the true nature and character of God. and what would please Him and what would grieve Him.

Once again, we bring in evidence from the New Testament about this apparent disconnect between faith and understanding. Jesus warned His own disciples that after His departure some would seek to kill them thinking they were pleasing God!

As far as I can tell, the Bible says that Jephthah made a vow to offer in burnt offering the first thing he saw coming out of his house after his victory. And, in verse 39 when it says that after her mourning period he “did to her according to the vow which he had made”, that means he offered her as a burnt offering, probably on an altar on his own property, and not inside the temple.

Does that make this right? Of course not. It would have been an abomination to God. But what it does mean, I think, is that the Bible tells the whole truth, the whole story; even the nasty parts.

So how do we get something of value to apply to our lives from this? 

Well first, I think, by not letting ourselves be so focused on the difficulty of the vow question and the shocking thought of a man offering his only daughter as a burnt offering that we miss the whole point of scripture here.

Who is Jephthah? He is a man here who is no different than the rest of us. He is a man who believes in the one true God, yet is capable of the most heinous of acts.

How do you reconcile your faith with all of your actions?


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