Bible Readings for July 28th
In yesterday’s reading, Yahweh tested Israel by promising not to save them after the latest round of rebellion and idolatry. To their credit, Israel repents for seemingly the thousandth time, putting away the foreign gods and returning to serve Yahweh. In response, we read that Yahweh “became impatient over the misery of Israel” (Judg. 10:16)—that is, he was moved compassionately to save his people. To accomplish this salvation, Yahweh raised up a judge named Jephthah who not only saved Israel but also accomplished something far more significant by foreshadowing Yahweh’s own Son, Jesus, in three important ways.
First, notice that Yahweh raises up a savior for Israel from an outcast born to a woman of ill repute. Because Jephthah’s mother had been a prostitute, his half-brothers had rejected him—until now. This is an interesting wrinkle to the story, since later on Jesus also was born out of wedlock, so that even Joseph desired to break off his betrothal to Mary (Matt. 1:19). Then, Jesus was rejected by his family (John 7:5). Eventually, however, Jesus arose to become the savior of Israel.
Second, Jephthah reasons with the king of the Ammonites, asserting Israel’s legitimate claim to the land of Gilead peaceably rather than rashly going to war (Judg. 11:14–28).1 But when the king of the Ammonites nevertheless insists on marching into battle against Israel, the Spirit of Yahweh comes upon Jephthah to give him victory in battle (Judg. 11:29). In the same way, Jesus came first peaceably, but after being vindicated through his resurrection, he ascended into heaven with a warning that he would one day return as a conquering warrior.
Third, the tragedy of this story involves Jephthah’s foolish vow to offer up as a burnt offering the first living creature who approached him from his house upon his return if Yahweh would give him victory over the Ammonites—a vow that cost him his only, beloved daughter (Judg. 11:30–40). At a time when Israel habitually forsook Yahweh, Jephthah’s daughter insisted that her father keep his vows to Yahweh, even at the cost of her own life.
And it is here that we see the picture of Jesus shining most clearly. All the way back in Genesis 15, Yahweh had sworn to be torn in two if Abraham or Abraham’s offspring violated the terms of the covenant. Jesus did not dispute the vow of his Father but rather obediently took upon himself the full wrath of his Father’s covenant curses against Israel for their disobedience, fulfilling the vow that Yahweh had sworn to Abraham.
We are not meant to admire Jephthah’s foolishness as we read this story. Rather, we are meant to behold the costly, magnificent grace of God who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us at the cross to fulfill God’s covenant vows to his people.
1 This passage is a bit confusing because of the fact that Gilead is the name of Jephthah’s father (Judg. 11:1) and also the name of the region east of the Jordan River, which belonged to the tribes of Manasseh and Gad as their inheritance (Num. 32).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.