Skip to main content

The International Sunday School Lesson

Lesson for June 18, 2017


Judges 11

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the June 11, 2017, issue of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at
By Mark Scott 
In the book of Judges, the judges get progressively worse as we go along. We’ve gone from Deborah and Barak (good) to Gideon (all right) to Jephthah (not stunning) and next week to Samson (terrible). The enemies of Israel in our lessons also get progressively worse, from the Canaanites to the Midianites to the Ammonites.
Gideon started out fairly good but ended up pretty arrogant (his son’s name means, “My father is king”). Jephthah started out in less than desirable circumstances (his mother was a prostitute) and ended up quite compromised. Jephthah became the ninth judge of Israel after the short reigns of Tola and Jair (Judges 10:1-5). What we associate with Jephthah is his famous vow, and it raises issues of vows and integrity in our speech.
Vow for Leadership | Judges 11:4-11
Desperate times called for desperate measures. The Ammonites were fighting against Israel. The people of God once again faced the reality of their sins (10:6-16). They repented to God, but they were faced with a leadership vacuum. The Ammonites were raiding to the south in the land of Gilead. So the elders of Gilead decided that they needed a strong leader.
Jephthah lived north in the land of Tob. He had been exiled by his brothers because his mother was a prostitute (11:1). But he assembled a strong fighting force of “scoundrels” (v. 3). As a result he became well-known. The elders were desperate enough to offer their invitation. They wanted to throw off the Ammonite oppression so they offered Jephthah the job as commander (leader, prince, captain).
Jephthah teased out their request. His basic response was, “How did I, all of the sudden, become so valuable to you?” He asked, Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble? (in a tight place). The elders swallowed their pride and indicated that things had changed. They not only offered him the opportunity to be commander, they offered him to be head (the root of this word means to shake, and came to mean the top of the order, upper part, or beginning).
Jephthah questioned whether they were serious. The elders essentially vowed that Jephthah would not only be their commander but also their head. They sealed their words with the oath, The Lord is our witness. That would be like us swearing on a stack of Bibles or swearing to tell the whole truth so help us God. They promised to do what he commanded and evidently kept their word. Jephthah was made head and commander by not just the elders but also the people. But then, to underline the whole situation, he repeated their vows to the Lord at a place called Mizpah. This might not be a magic formula, but it did put the elders and the people on notice that words matter to God.
Vow for Victory | Judges 11:29-31
To Jephthah’s credit he attempted to pursue peace at first. He sent messengers to try to find out what the Ammonites’ beef was with Israel. Some grudges are held for a long time. The king of the Ammonites dredged up old untrue stories about when Israel came out of Egypt. Even though Jephthah tried to set the record straight, the king would have none of it (Judges 11:12-28).
War was inevitable. Jephthah was empowered by the Holy Spirit and proceeded to take the battle to the enemy. The mention of the Holy Spirit could indicate that God was leading Jephthah into battle. Typical to other Old Testament references to the Holy Spirit, he comes and goes as needed. The Old Testament says very little about an ongoing indwelling presence.
Now it was time for Jephthah’s famous vow. To accomplish the Lord’s victory he vowed (pledged or promised to give a votive offering), Whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return . . . I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering. Was this rash, risky, or reckless? Scholars wonder what Jephthah was really promising. But the war was won. Tragically the first thing that came out of his house upon his return was his daughter (Judges 11:35). Later we read that he “did to her as he had vowed” (v. 39).
Many questions remain about this famous judge. But at its base (what Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart call the “first level” in examining Old Testament narratives—How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth), the story at least addresses the need for integrity in our speech (Matthew 12:36, 37).
*Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Morning and Evening

Morning, December 2Go To Evening Reading
“Thou art all fair, my love.” Song of Solomon 4:7
The Lord’s admiration of his Church is very wonderful, and his description of her beauty is very glowing. She is not merely fair, but “all fair.” He views her in himself, washed in his sin-atoning blood and clothed in his meritorious righteousness, and he considers her to be full of comeliness and beauty. No wonder that such is the case, since it is but his own perfect excellency that he admires; for the holiness, glory, and perfection of his Church are his own glorious garments on the back of his own well-beloved spouse. She is not simply pure, or well-proportioned; she is positively lovely and fair! She has actual merit! Her deformities of sin are removed; but more, she has through her Lord obtained a meritorious righteousness by which an actual beauty is conferred upon her. Believers have a positive righteousness given to them when they become “accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Nor is the Ch…

My Utmost for His Highest

July 1st The inevitable penalty Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the uttermost farthing.Matthew 5:26. “There is no heaven with a little of hell in it.” God is determined to make you pure and holy and right; he will not allow you to escape for one moment from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. He urged you to come to judgment right away when He convicted you, but you did not; the inevitable process began to work and now you are in prison, and you will only get out when you have paid the uttermost farthing. ‘Is this a God of mercy, and of love?’ you say. Seen from God’s side, it is a glorious ministry of love. God is going to bring you out pure and spotless and undefiled; but He wants you to recognize the disposition you were showing—the disposition of your right to yourself. The moment you are willing that God should alter your disposition, His re-creating forces will begin to work. The moment you realize God’s purpose, which is to get you …

Revised Common Lectionary

Sunday, July 9, 2017 | After Pentecost Proper 9 Year A

Old Testament & Psalm, Option I Old TestamentGenesis 24:34–38, 42–49, 58–67 Psalm Psalm 45:10–17 or Song of Solomon 2:8–13 or Old Testament & Psalm, Option II Old Testament Zechariah 9:9–12 Psalm Psalm 145:8–14 New Testament Romans 7:15–25a Gospel Matthew 11:16–19, 25–30

Revised Common Lectionary. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2009. Print.