Saturday, June 30, 2018

Jephthah: A Hero of Faith!

     I hear a lot about Jephthah's foolish vow, but not so much about his faith. This should not be. In fact, the Bible never mentions Jephthah's supposed "foolish vow" as such - but it does mention his faith!
     I was reading about Jephthah in the Old Testament the other day (see Judges 11:1-40), and there was a cross-reference in the margin to Hebrews 11:32. So I turned there in my Bible and read these words:
"And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies." (Hebrews 11:32-34, NIV) 
     Let's not forget that Jephthah is in the Bible's "Hall of Fame of Faith". Let's start talking about Jephthah's faith! Did you know that Jephthah is a picture of Christ in the Old Testament? Rejected by his half-brothers, he returns to save them![1]
     Yes, it can be argued that Jephthah made a foolish vow, and R. A. Torrey in his book Difficulties in the Bible, has written some good thoughts about that issue.[2] But even if it were true that Jephthah made a foolish vow, let's face it: the Bible is full of men and women who despite their flaws, exhibited great faith in God. For example:
  • Abraham was a liar.
  • Jacob was a deceiver.
  • Moses was a murderer.
  • David was an adulterer.
  • Samson was a womanizer.
  • And the list goes on![3]

Hebrews 11:39 says: "These were all commended for their faith" (NIV). There's something to think about! 


[1] Another similarity between Jephthah and Jesus is that in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (called the Septuagint or LXX), the Greek word archēgos (meaning chief/captain/leader) is used to describe Jephthah. The same Greek word is used to describe Jesus in Acts 3:15, 5:31; Hebrews 2:10, 12:2. For more information see the excellent discussion by J. Julius Scott, Jr. in Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), p. 148.

[2] See R. A. Torrey, Difficulties In The Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1907), p. 58. A more in-depth discussion is presented by evangelist Don McClain in his slideshow: "Lesson's from Jephthah's Vow". The commentary on Judges 11 in the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is also very helpful and instructive. It's available for free on the website.

[3] For more examples, see the article on the website titled "God Can Use us All".

1 comment:

Jonathan Perreault said...

In his book Difficulties In The Bible (p. 58), R. A. Torrey writes the following in regards to "THE SACRIFICE OF JEPHTHAH'S DAUGHTER":

"THE story of Jephthah's daughter as recorded in the Bible has presented a great difficulty to many superficial students of the Bible, as well as to many critics of it. How can we possibly justify Jephthah's burning of his daughter as a sacrifice to Jehovah? we are often asked.

In reply we would say, in the first place, that we are nowhere told that Jephthah did burn his daughter. We are told that Jephthah vowed:

'Whatsoever cometh forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering' (Judges 11:31).

The word translated 'burnt offering' does not necessarily involve the idea of burning. There is no record that Jephthah's daughter was actually slain and burned. The passage that relates what actually was done with her is somewhat obscure, and many think that she was devoted by her father as an offering to God by her living a life of perpetual virginity (Judges 11:37-39).

But even supposing that she was actually slain and burned, as many candid Bible students believe that she was, (though the Bible does not actually say so), even in this case we are under no necessity of defending Jephthah's action any more than we are of defending any other wrong action of all the imperfect instruments that God, in His wondrous grace and condescension, has seen fit to use to defend or help His people. The Bible itself nowhere defends Jephthah's action. If Jephthah really did slay his daughter, he simply made a rash vow without any command or other warrant from god for so doing, and having made this rash vow he went further in his wrong doing and carried that rash vow into execution.

So the whole story instead of being a warrant for human sacrifice is intended to be a lesson upon the exceeding folly of hasty vows made in the energy of the flesh."