Jephthah: Overcoming Adversity

From Issue: Discovery 12/1/2004

Do you have troubles that you feel are too big to overcome? Have you ever made a promise, then regretted it? Meet Jephthah. Jephthah’s brothers did not like him because they had different moms and Jephthah’s mom was a prostitute. In fact, they chased Jephthah away from his home. Jephthah then went to live with a group of men whom the Bible describes as “worthless”—not a very good start for a man who became a leader for God.

Before and during the time that all this happened to Jephthah, Israel turned away from God and began worshipping idols. As a result, God allowed the Philistines and the Ammonites to oppress the Israelites. When the Ammonites were about to attack, Israel cried out to God for help.

God reminded the people how He had delivered them many times in the past, and how they still had rejected Him. He told them “to cry to the gods you have chosen,” knowing that those false gods could do nothing to help Israel. Israel begged God to help them, and He eventually came to their aid.

Now they needed a leader. Jephthah had obviously proven himself to be “a mighty man of valor,” because when it was time for the elders of Gilead to choose a leader, they put Jephthah’s past out of their minds and went to him. They wanted Jephthah to lead them.

Jephthah tried to reason with the Ammonites, but that didn’t work, so the Israelites had to fight them. Before the battle, Jephthah made a vow to God. He said that if God would deliver the Ammonites into his hands when he returned home, whatever came out of his door first would be sacrificed to God. The battle was fought and Jephthah and Israel won. Judges 11:33 says they defeated the Ammonites with “a very great slaughter” and that “the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.”

Jephthah returned home, rejoicing in the victory God had given him. His rejoicing turned quickly into sorrow, however, because his only child, a daughter, was first out of his door to greet him. Sadly, Jephthah was forced to fulfill his vow.

Jephthah went on to judge Israel for six years. He proved himself to be a man who could overcome adversities and be a strong leader for God. We can learn from Jephthah that with God’s help, we can overcome our struggles. What battles do you need God to help you overcome?


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