May 7, 2023
“Jephthah the Gileadite was a great warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father. Gilead’s wife bore him sons, and when they grew up, they drove Jephthah out...”
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“Jephthah the Gileadite was a great warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father. Gilead’s wife bore him sons, and when they grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, ‘You will have no inheritance in our father’s house, because you are the son of another woman.’ So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Then some lawless men joined Jephthah and traveled with him. Some time later, the Ammonites made war with Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. They said to him, ‘Come be our commander, and let’s fight against the Ammonites.’ Judges 11:1-6 (HCSB)
The sin of “Prostitution” in the Bible is seen in two lights. First, there is the literal act of prostitution, obviously a sin. Then, there is spiritual prostitution, also known as “spiritual adultery.” In both cases, two parties are involved: The party selling themselves and the party that elicits the prostitute’s services. Judges 11 is the story of the sour fruits of both literal and spiritual prostitution. Gilead strayed from God’s path, and the generations that followed paid the biggest price.
Even in today’s secular culture, it is shameful (but by no means unforgivable) to have been born as the result of an act of prostitution. It doesn’t surprise me that Gilead’s “legitimate” sons would loathe the existence of Jephthah. In seeking to cover the family’s shame (and attempting to recover its reputation), they distanced themselves from the evidence of their father’s sin.
It is quite possible that Jephthah was his father’s firstborn simply because the story begins with his birth. That would mean the son of a prostitute would eventually lead the legitimate children. Interestingly is how even today, most non-Messianic Jews consider Jesus’ birth as “illegitimate.” That’s pretty much where the Jephthah/Jesus similarities end.
Perhaps it was the circumstances surrounding Jephthah’s illegitimate birth which denied him solid spiritual teaching. Maybe, the rebels he hung around with had a negative influence on his spiritual discernment. Whatever it was, Jephthah made an impetuous oath to the Lord, and it cost him his firstborn child.
The overall lesson of Judges 11 is that one compromise leads to another. Compromise builds upon compromise. Unless we commit ourselves to know the Lord, follow Him through a saving relationship with Jesus, and study His Word (the Bible), spiritual “true north” will always elude us. Even our best intentions, without the Lord, can lead us down destructive paths.
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©Steve Wiggins 2021