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Neat and Tidy?


Judges 11:1–11

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot; and Gilead begot Jephthah. Gilead’s wife bore sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, “You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him.

It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel. And so it was, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. Then they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.”

So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?”

And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the LORD delivers them to me, shall I be your head?”

And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The LORD will be a witness between us, if we do not do according to your words.” Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.

The Hebrew word translated as “worthless” (רֵיקִ֔ים, ray-qeem) is interesting. It’s primary meaning, used for vessels, is “empty.” Of other things, it means a thing too empty to be of value. It’s a bit like the slur in English, “nobody’s home.”

Not surprisingly, Jephthah was able to band empty men like this together under his command. They formed the ancient version of a gang.

Like modern gangs, they got their sense of self-worth from being in the gang “family.” Their organization under Jephthah and their devotion to their “family” gave them power, which they used for evil.

So, it’s not surprising that the elders of Gilead thought Jephthah had great skills as a commander.

He certainly had a lot of experience.

I can’t spare this man—he fights.” — Abraham Lincoln (of Ulysses S. Grant)

Many people saw Grant’s drinking and smoking and wanted him fired. But imperfect people can still be indispensable. Peter, especially after he denied Christ three times, was another one. And then there’s Paul.

God doesn’t follow the neat and tidy plot lines we would prefer.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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