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Print Version Main Index : Commentaries : Wesley's Notes : Judges Index : Chapter 11

Judges, Chapter 11
Chapter 10 | Chapter 12
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Bible Version
Cross Reference
Matthew Henry
JFB Commentary
Wesley's Notes
Geneva Study Bible
View Judges 11 in the note window.

The birth of Jephthah, rejected by his brethren, ver. 1 - 3. The Gileadites chuse him for their general, ver. 4 - 11. His treating with the king of Ammon, ver. 12 - 28. His war with, and victory over the Ammonites, ver. 29 - 33. His vow and the performance of it, ver. 34 - 40.

1: Gileadite - So called, either from his father Gilead, or from the mountain, or city of Gilead, the place of his birth. Son of a harlot - That is, a bastard. And though such were not ordinarily to enter into the congregation of the Lord, (De 23:2). Yet God can dispense with his own laws, and hath sometimes done honour to base - born persons, so far, that some of them were admitted to be the progenitors of the Lord Jesus Christ. And Gilead - One of the children of that ancient Gilead, (Nu 32:1).

3: Of Tob - The name either of the land, or of the man who was the owner or ruler of it. This place was in, or near Gilead, as appears by the speedy intercourse which here was between Jephthah and the Israelites. Vain men - Idle persons, who desired rather to get their living by spoil and rapine, than by honest labour. These evil persons Jephthah managed well, employing them against the enemies of God, and of Israel, that bordered upon them; and particularly upon parties of the Ammonites, which made the Israelites more forward to chuse him for their chieftain in this war. Went out - When he made excursions and attempts upon the enemy.

4: Made war - The Ammonites had vexed and oppressed them eighteen years, and now the Israelites begin to make opposition, they commence a war against them.

5: Went - By direction from God, who both qualified him for, and called him to the office of a judge, otherwise they might not have chosen a bastard.

7: Expel me - And deprive me of all share in my father's goods, which, though a bastard, was due to me. This expulsion of him was the act of his brethren; but he here ascribes it to the elders of Gilead; either because some of them were among these elders, as is very probable from the dignity of this family; or because this act, though desired by his brethren, was executed by the decree of the elders, to whom the determination of all controversies about inheritance belonged; and therefore it was their faults they did not protect him from the injuries of his brethren.

8: Therefore - Being sensible that we have done thee injury, we come now to make thee full reparation.

9: If, &c. - If you recall me from this place where I am now settled, to the place whence I was expelled. Shall I, &c. - Will you really make good this promise? Jephthah was so solicitous in this case, either from his zeal for the public good, which required that he should be so; or from the law of self - preservation, that he might secure himself from his brethren; whose ill - will he had experienced, and whose injuries he could not prevent, if, after he had served their ends, he had been reduced to his private capacity.

10: The Lord be witness - The Lord be an hearer: so the Hebrew word is. Whatever we speak it concerns us to remember, that God is an hearer!

11: All his words - Or, all his matters, the whole business. Before the Lord - That is, before the public congregation, wherewith God was usually, and then especially present.

12: Messengers - That is, ambassadors, to prevent blood - shed, that so the Israelites might be acquitted before God and men, from all the sad consequences of this war; herein he shewed great prudence, and no less piety. What hast thou, &c. - What reasonable cause hast thou for this invasion? In my land - He speaks this in the name of all the people.

13: My land - That is, this land of Gilead, which was mine, but unjustly taken from me, by Sihon and Og, the kings of the Ammonites; and the injury perpetuated by Israel's detaining it from me. This land, before the conquests of Sihon and Og, belonged partly to the Ammonites, and partly to the Moabites. And indeed, Moab and Ammon did for the most part join their interests and their forces.

16: The Red - sea - Unto which they came three times; once,(Ex 13:18), again, a little after their passage over it, and a third time, long after, when they came to Ezion Geber, which was upon the shore of the Red - Sea, from whence they went to Kadesh; of this time he speaks here.

17: Abode - Peaceably, and did not revenge their unkindness as they could have done.

19: My place - That is, unto the land of Canaan, which God hath given me.

20: Sihon fought - So Sihon was the aggressor, and the Israelites were forced to fight in their own defence.

22: The coasts - Or, borders; together with all the land included within those borders. Wilderness - Namely, the desert of Arabia.

23: So the Lord - God, the sovereign Lord of all lands, hath given us this land; this he adds, as a farther and convincing reason; because otherwise it might have been alledged against the former argument, that they could gain no more right to that land from Sihon, than Sihon himself had.

24: Wilt not thou - He speaks according to their absurd opinion: the Ammonites and Moabites got their land by conquest of the old inhabitants, whom they cast out; and this success, though given them by the true God, for Lot's sake, (De 2:9,19), they impiously ascribe to their god Chemosh, whose gift they owned to be a sufficient title.

25: Than Balak - Art thou wiser than he? Or hast thou more right than he had? Balak, though he plotted against Israel, in defence of his own land, which he feared they would invade and conquer, yet never contended with them about the restitution of those lands which Sihon took from him or his predecessors.

26: Three hundred years - Not precisely, but about that time, either from their coming out of Egypt; or, from their first conquest of those lands. He urges prescription, which is by all men reckoned a just title, and it is fit it should be so for the good of the world, because otherwise the door would be opened both to kings, and to private persons, for infinite contentions and confusions.

27: I have not - I have done thee no wrong. Be judge - Let him determine this controversy by the success of this day and war.

29: Spirit came - Indued him with a more than ordinary courage and resolution. Manasseh - That is, Bashan, which the half tribe of Manasseh beyond Jordan inhabited. Mizpeh of Gilead - So called to distinguish it from other cities of the same name, having gathered what forces he suddenly could, he came hither to the borders of the Ammonites.

33: Minnith - A place not far from Rabbah, the chief city of the Ammonites. Subdued before Israel - It does not appear, that he offered to take possession of the country. Tho' the attempt of others to wrong us, will justify us in the defence of our own right, yet it will not authorize us to do them wrong.

34: His daughter - In concert with other virgins, as the manner was.

35: Trouble me - Before this, I was troubled by my brethren; and since, by the Ammonites; and now most of all, tho' but occasionally, by thee. Opened my mouth - That is, I have vowed. Cannot go back - That is, not retract my vow; I am indispensably obliged to perform it.

36: Do to me - Do not for my sake make thyself a transgressor; I freely give my consent to thy vow.

37: Mountains - Which she chose as a solitary place, and therefore fittest for lamentation. Bewail - That I shall die childless, which was esteemed both a curse and a disgrace for the Israelites, because such were excluded from that great privilege of increasing the holy seed, and contributing to the birth of the Messiah.

39: Did with her - Jephthah's daughter was not sacrificed, but only devoted to perpetual virginity. This appears,

  1. From ver.(Jdg 11:37,38), where we read, that she bewailed not her death, which had been the chief cause of lamentation, if that had been vowed, but her virginity:
  2. From this ver.(39), where, after he had said, that he did with her according to his vow; he adds, by way of declaration of the matter of that vow, and she knew no man.
It is probably conceived, that the Greeks, who used to steal sacred histories, and turn them into fables, had from this history their relation of Iphigenia (which may be put for Jephtigenia) sacrificed by her father Agamemnon, which is described by many of the same circumstances wherewith this is accompanied.

40: The daughter of Jephthah - It is really astonishing, that the general stream of commentators, should take it for granted, that Jephthah murdered his daughter! But, says Mr. Henry, "We do not find any law, usage or custom, in all the Old Testament, which doth in the least intimate, that a single life was any branch or article of religion." And do we find any law, usage or custom there, which doth in the least intimate, that cutting the throat of an only child, was any branch or article of religion? If only a dog had met Jephthah, would he have offered up that for a burnt - offering? No: because God had expressly forbidden this. And had he not expressly forbidden murder? But Mr. Poole thinks the story of Agamemnon's offering up Iphigenia took its rise from this. Probably it did. But then let it be observed, Iphigenia was not murdered. Tradition said, that Diana sent an hind in her stead, and took the maid to live in the woods with her.

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