down to the gods of
their heathen neighbors. The people round about them made war on
the Israelites and took their riches. The Ammonites came from the
east and the Philistines from the west to rule over the
Israelites. The Ammonites even threatened to take the homes of the
Israelites and drive them out of the country.
years of suffering under the rule of their enemies, the Israelites
remembered how God had given them this land long ago and made them
stronger than all the nations round about. In their trouble, they
cried to God. They expected God to send a deliverer, just as he
had done many times before.
Instead, God told
them, "You have forsaken me and served other gods. For that
reason I will not deliver you any more. Go and cry unto your new
gods. Let them help you out of your trouble."
And the people
prayed to the Lord, "We have sinned. Do to us what you think
is best, but deliver us." They knew their idols could never
help them. Only God could save them. They tore down their idols
and began to serve the Lord.
God saw the
people worshiping Him, and He felt sorry for them. He saw them
gather their soldiers at Mizpeh to fight the Ammonites, but they
did not have a leader.
remembered Jephthah who was famous for his brave deeds. And the
elders went to Jephthah in the land of Tob. They begged,
"Come, be our captain in a battle against the
"you sent me away from my father's house. Now why are you
coming to me with your troubles?"
elders promised Jephthah that he could be the leader of Israel if
he would command their forces against their enemies. And Jephtha
Jephtha knew he
could not defeat the Ammonites without God's help. Not only did he
ask God's help, but he promised to give God the first thing that
came out of his house when he returned from battle. How foolish
Jephtha was! He did not know what he would see when he came back.
God did not want Jephtha to make such a promise.
Before the battle
the Ammonites ordered the Israelites to give up the land east of
hte Jordan River. The Israelites said, "When we came out of
Egypt to this land, the Lord gave us the land east of he Jordan.
Why should you have it now? It was not yours in the first place,
but belonged to the Amorites whom we defeated."
till demanded the land, and Jephthah sent back the answer,
"You do wrong to fight against us, but today the Lord will
judge between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon."
The battle raged,
and the Israelites won. News of the victory reached Jephtha's home
before he returned. How glad his family were ! When Jephtha's
daughter saw her father coming, she ran out to meet him.
As soon as
Jephthah saw his daughter, he remembered his promise. He thought
he had to give her as an offering to God. How brokenhearted he
neighbors sometimes offered children to their gods, but the Law of
Moses forbade the Israelites to do this. Perhaps Jephthah did not
know that law. He knew his promise had been foolish, but both he
and his daughter thought he should keep it. And he did.
Israel for six years. When he died, the people buried him in his