Jephthah lived during the time of Israel’s judges. He was an outcast from bis own family… because he was the son of a prostitute. Still, he had the opportunity to make a name for himself when the leaders of Israel needed help fighting the Ammonites, who were oppressing them at that time.
Jephthah agreed to lead them… under the condition that he be the ruler of the people if – and when – he was victorious over the Ammonites.
Jephthah’s first approach to the conflict was to talk it out. He tried to negotiate with the Ammonites. He clarified the issues so everyone knew what the issues were that were being debated – and fought over. He used firm, but conciliatory, language to state Israel’s position. But, the king of Ammon ignored his message and prepared his troops for battle anyway.
How do you handle conflict? Do you lean toward reconciliation or retaliation? Even if you are inclined to talk it out first, choose your words carefully.
Remember Jephthah’s approach the next time you face conflict. Make it your first aim to peaceably talk through the problem if possible.
As he was preparing to battle the enemy – no doubt calculating the high stakes of the outcome – Jephthah made a rash promise to the Lord. He promised to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house to greet him after his victory.
We’re not told why Jephthah felt compelled to make such a promise… but it was unnecessary.
It makes one wonder what/who he expected to meet him at his front door: a pet chicken? a pet goat? a pet bull?
Jephthah was indeed victorious over the Ammonites, but when he returned home, he was shocked to see what… WHO… greeted him. His daughter came out to greet him first! So, Jephthah offered his daughter as a sacrifice (Judges 11).
It is unclear whether Jephthah dedicated his daughter to God and to His service (possibly indicated by the fact she took some girlfriends off on a weekend retreat to help her mourn the fact she would never marry), or actually sacrificed her to God (which God neither asked for, nor would have been pleased with).
In a crisis situation, one sometimes feels desperate. And, when one feels desperate, one sometimes acts desperate. Jephthah acted desperate when he made such a foolish promise to God.
How many times have you started a prayer like this: “God, if You’ll get me out of this one, I promise I’ll…”?
* God does not want promises for the future, but obedience for today!
You can read Jephthah’s story in Judges 11:1—12:7.