Judges 11:30
And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(30) Jephthah vowed a vow.—This was a practice among all ancient nations, but specially among the Jews (Genesis 28:20-22; 1Samuel 1:11; 2Samuel 15:8; Psalm 66:13).

11:29-40 Several important lessons are to be learned from Jephthah's vow. 1. There may be remainders of distrust and doubting, even in the hearts of true and great believers. 2. Our vows to God should not be as a purchase of the favour we desire, but to express gratitude to him. 3. We need to be very well-advised in making vows, lest we entangle ourselves. 4. What we have solemnly vowed to God, we must perform, if it be possible and lawful, though it be difficult and grievous to us. 5. It well becomes children, obediently and cheerfully to submit to their parents in the Lord. It is hard to say what Jephthah did in performance of his vow; but it is thought that he did not offer his daughter as a burnt-offering. Such a sacrifice would have been an abomination to the Lord; it is supposed she was obliged to remain unmarried, and apart from her family. Concerning this and some other such passages in the sacred history, about which learned men are divided and in doubt, we need not perplex ourselves; what is necessary to our salvation, thanks be to God, is plain enough. If the reader recollects the promise of Christ concerning the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and places himself under this heavenly Teacher, the Holy Ghost will guide to all truth in every passage, so far as it is needful to be understood.Then the Spirit of the Lord ... - This was the sanctification of Jephthah for his office of Judge and savior of God's people Israel. Compare Judges 6:34; Judges 13:25. The declaration is one of the distinctive marks which stamp this history as a divine history.

The geography is rather obscure, but the sense seems to be that Jephthah first raised all the inhabitants of Mount Gilead; then he crossed the Jabbok into Manasseh, and raised them; then he returned at the head of his new forces to his own camp at Mizpeh to join the troops he had left there; and thence at the head of the whole army marched against the Ammonites, who occupied the southern parts of Gilead.

Jud 11:29-31. His Vow.

29, 30. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah—The calm wisdom, sagacious forethought, and indomitable energy which he was enabled to display, were a pledge to himself and a convincing evidence to his countrymen, that he was qualified by higher resources than his own for the momentous duties of his office.

he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh—the provinces most exposed and in danger, for the purpose of levying troops, and exciting by his presence a widespread interest in the national cause. Returning to the camp at Mizpeh, he then began his march against the enemy. There he made his celebrated vow, in accordance with an ancient custom for generals at the outbreak of a war, or on the eve of a battle, to promise the god of their worship a costly oblation, or dedication of some valuable booty, in the event of victory. Vows were in common practice also among the Israelites. They were encouraged by the divine approval as emanating from a spirit of piety and gratitude; and rules were laid down in the law for regulating the performance. But it is difficult to bring Jephthah's vow within the legitimate range (see on [222]Le 27:28).

Of this and the following verse, See Poole "Judges 11:39"

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord,.... Before he set out for the land of the children of Ammon, and to fight with them; hoping that such a religious disposition of mind would be regarded by the Lord, and be acceptable to him, and he should be blessed with success in his enterprise:

and said, if thou shall without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands; though he was assured of the justness of his cause, and of his call to engage in it, he seems to have some little diffidence in his mind about the success of it; at least, was not fully certain of it.

And Jephthah {m} vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,

(m) As the apostle commends Jephthah for his worthy enterprise in delivering the people, He 11:32 so by his rash vow and wicked performance of the same, his victory was defaced: and here we see that the sins of the godly do not utterly extinguish their faith.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
30. vowed a vow] The sequel of Jdg 11:11. It was a solemn vow made deliberately at a sanctuary (Jdg 11:35-36) under stress of circumstances, like Jacob’s at Bethel Genesis 28:20 f., Genesis 31:13 E, Hannah’s at Shiloh 1 Samuel 1:11, Absalom’s at Hebron 2 Samuel 15:7 f.

Verses 30, 31. - And Jephthah vowed a vow. This verse and the following go back to relate something which preceded his passing over to the children of Ammon, viz., his rash and unhappy vow. This is related, as so many things in Scripture are, without note or comment, and the reader must pass his own sentence upon the deed. That sentence can only be one of unreserved con- detonation on the part of any one acquainted with the spirit and letter of the word of God. Many attempts have been made to show that Jephthah only contemplated the offering of an animal in sacrifice; but the natural and indeed necessary interpretation of the words shows that he had a human victim in mind. He could not expect any but a human being to come forth from the doors of his house, nor could any but a human being come forth "to meet him" - a common phrase always spoken of men (Genesis 14:17; Genesis 24:65; Exodus 4:14; Exodus 18:7; Numbers 20:20; 1 Samuel 25:34, etc., and below in ver. 34). Obviously, in the greatness of his danger and the extreme hazard of his undertaking (Judges 12:3), he thought to propitiate God's favour by a terrible and extraordinary vow. But if we ask how Jephthah came to have such erroneous notions of the character of God, the answer is not far to seek. Jephthah was "the son of a strange woman," probably, as we have seen, a Syrian (Judges 11:1-11, note), and had passed many years of his life as an exile in Syria. Now it is well known that human sacrifices were frequently practised in Syria, as they were also by the Ammonites, who made their children pass through the fire to Moloch, and it cannot surprise us that a man brought up as Jephthah was, and leading the life of a freebooter at the head of a band of Syrian outlaws, should have the common Syrian notion of the efficacy of human sacrifices in great emergencies. His language, indeed, about Jehovah and Chemosh in ver. 24 savoured of semi-heathenism. Nor is it any valid objection that we are told in ver. 29 that "the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah." The phrase does not mean that thenceforth he was altogether under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that all that he did was inspired by the Spirit of truth and wisdom, but that the Spirit of the Lord inspired him with extraordinary strength and power for the great task of leading Israel to battle against the Ammonites. And I will offer. The rendering suggested by some, or I will offer, meaning, if the first. comer is a human being he shall be the Lord's, or if it is an animal I will offer it as a burnt offering, is wholly inadmissible. Judges 11:30Before commencing the war, however, he vowed a vow to the Lord: "If Thou givest the Ammonites into my hand, he who cometh to meet me out of the doors of my house, when I return safely (in peace, shalom) from the Ammonites, shall belong to the Lord, and I will offer him for a burnt-offering." By the words אשׁר היּוצא, "he that goeth out," even if Jephthah did not think "only of a man, or even more definitely still of some one of his household," he certainly could not think in any case of a head of cattle, or one of his flock. "Going out of the doors of his house to meet him" is an expression that does not apply to a herd or flock driven out of the stall just at the moment of his return, or to any animal that might possibly run out to meet him. For the phrase לקראת יצא is only applied to men in the other passages in which it occurs.

(Note: Augustine observes in his Quaest. xlix. in l. Jud.: "He did not vow in these words that he would offer some sheep, which he might present as a holocaust, according to the law. For it is not, and was not, a customary thing for sheep to come out to meet a victorious general returning from the war. Nor did he say, I will offer as a holocaust whatever shall come out of the doors of my house to meet me; but he says, 'Whoever comes out, I will offer him;' so that there can be no doubt whatever that he had then a human being in his mind.")

Moreover, Jephthah no doubt intended to impose a very difficult vow upon himself. And that would not have been the case if he had merely been thinking of a sacrificial animal. Even without any vow, he would have offered, not one, but many sacrifices after obtaining a victory.

(Note: "What kind of vow would it be if some great prince or general should say, 'O God, if Thou wilt give me this victory, the first calf that meets me shall be Thine!' Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus!" - Pfeiffer, dubia vex. p. 356.)

If therefore he had an animal sacrifice in his mind, he would certainly have vowed the best of his flocks. From all this there can be no doubt that Jephthah must have been thinking of some human being as at all events included in his vow; so that when he declared that he would dedicate that which came out of his house to meet him, the meaning of the vow cannot have been any other than that he would leave the choice of the sacrifice to God himself. "In his eagerness to smite the foe, and to thank God for it, Jephthah could not think of any particular object to name, which he could regard as great enough to dedicate to God; he therefore left it to accident, i.e., to the guidance of God, to determine the sacrifice. He shrank from measuring what was dearest to God, and left this to God himself" (P. Cassel in Herzog's Real-encycl.). Whomsoever God should bring to meet him, he would dedicate to Jehovah, and indeed, as is added afterwards by way of defining it more precisely, he would offer him to the Lord as a burnt-offering. The ו before העליתיהוּ is to be taken as explanatory, and not as disjunctive in the sense of "or," which ו never has. But whether Jephthah really thought of his daughter at the time, cannot be determined either in the affirmative or negative. If he did, he no doubt hoped that the Lord would not demand this hardest of all sacrifices.

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