Notes for Judges 11, verses 28-33

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Judges 11:28, KJV: Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.

Although not directly stated here, the king of Ammon hardened his heart against Jephthah’s efforts to maintain peace. Jephthah had made appeals to history and Israel’s notable non-interference during the journey in the wilderness but that seems to have had no effect on the situation.

29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over (unto) the children of Ammon.

The Spirit of the LORD (the Holy Spirit) came upon and left various people in the Old Testament era. It is not clear what the writer is describing in this verse, about how Jephthah “passed over” Gilead and (east?) Manasseh, to Mizpeh of Gilead (according to verse 11, this was where Jephthah “uttered” his words before the LORD). After this he “passed over” to Ammonite territory, but the exact location is unknown.

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

Vows are seldom mentioned outside of Leviticus through Deuteronomy. The only mention of a vow before the Law was given is that of Jacob and his vow at Bethel (Gen. 28:20 and restated, by God, in Gen. 31:13). Here, Jephthah makes a vow unto the LORD, but the LORD certainly did not ask or command him to do this.

31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of 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.

Jephthah specifies what he will offer as a burnt offering to the LORD if he and Israel were victorious over the Ammonites. Note that here he uses the word “whatsoever” in his vow, not “whosoever”, for his intended offering. What usually did come out of his house? Was he used to seeing animals, not people?

32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.

This is spoken as the leader representing as the whole army. Jephthah could not possibly have defeated the whole army of Ammon by himself but he is spoken of as the leader. The ultimate victory came from the LORD, Who delivered Ammon into Jephthah’s hands.

33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, (even) twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

Apparently there were two cities named “’Aroer” on the east side of Jordan: one was near the Arnon River (this may be the location mentioned here) and another near the Jabbok River (2 Sam. 24:5), also called there the “river of Gad”. The location of Minnith is not known but oddly enough, it was known for its “market wheat (Ezek. 27:17)".

Also not stated is the location of “the plain of the vineyards”. This could have been anywhere in Ammonite territory. What is stated definitely is that Ammon was subdued before Israel, for the time being. Sadly, Israel and Ammon would be involved in other wars, in the future (1 Sam. 11, 2 Sam. 10 and 11, e.g. ).

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

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