Day 92 – Jephthah’s Vow

Thoughts and Reflection

Today we read that after the death of Gideon, his son, Abimelech, sets himself up as the next king. Then we go into a cycle with the people of Israel where the Lord will bless them, they turn away to worship other gods, tradegy happens, they repent to God and turn back, he helps them and they are restored.

Jepthah, one of Gilead’s sons, is rejected by his family and becomes a mighty warrior. Jephthah knows that God prohibits human sacrifice but he still makes a rash vow to the Lord. He promises that if God gives him victory he will sacrifice to the Lord whoever comes out of the house when he comes back home. Heros of the Bible can be good and strong but can also be foolish. This vow is a great example of what to avoid. We should make wise promises to the Lord. God does not desire the death of the living but that all might have the fullness of life.

About This Project

For the year 2022, I decided that my New Year’s Resolution was to read the whole Bible following the Bible in the Year plan presented by Fr. Mike Schmitz. It is a big and bold undertaking. You can follow along by subscribing. Feel free to look at previous day’s post and comment. It’s something we can all learn from together!

Daily Readings

Judges 9

1 Abimelech son of Jerubbaal confronted his mother’s brothers at Shechem and, to them and to the whole clan of his maternal grandfather’s family, he said,

2 ‘Please put this question to the leading men of Shechem: Which is better for you: to be ruled by seventy people — all Jerubbaal’s sons — or to be ruled by one? Remember too that I am your own flesh and bone.’

3 His mother’s brothers said all this on his behalf to all the leading men of Shechem, and their feelings swayed them to follow Abimelech, since they argued, ‘He is our brother.’

4 So they gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and with this Abimelech paid violent adventurers to follow him.

5 He then went to his father’s house at Ophrah and put his brothers, Jerubbaal’s seventy sons, to death on one and the same stone. Jotham, however, Jerubbaal’s youngest son, escaped by going into hiding.

6 All the leading men of Shechem and all Beth-Millo then met and proclaimed Abimelech king at the oak of the cultic stone at Shechem.

7 News of this was brought to Jotham. He went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted at the top of his voice: Hear me, leaders of Shechem, so that God may also hear you!

8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king to rule them. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king!’

9 The olive tree replied, ‘Must I forgo my oil which gives honour to gods and men, to stand and sway over the trees?’

10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and be our king!’

11 The fig tree replied, ‘Must I forgo my sweetness, forgo my excellent fruit, to go and sway over the trees?’

12 Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and be our king!’

13 The vine replied, ‘Must I forgo my wine which cheers gods and men, to go and sway over the trees?’

14 Then the trees all said to the thorn bush, ‘You come and be our king!’

15 And the thorn bush replied to the trees, ‘If you are anointing me in good faith to be your king, come and shelter in my shade. But, if not, fire will come out of the thorn bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

16 ‘Now then, if you have acted in sincerity and good faith in making Abimelech king, if you have dealt honourably with Jerubbaal and his family, and have treated him as his actions deserved,

17 my father having fought for you, risked his life and rescued you from the power of Midian,

18 and you today having risen up against my father’s family, murdered his sons — seventy of them on one and the same stone — and appointed Abimelech, his slave-girl’s son, to rule the leading men of Shechem, because he is your brother!-

19 if, I say, you have acted in sincerity and good faith towards Jerubbaal and his family, then may Abimelech be your joy and may you be his!

20 If not, may fire come out of Abimelech and devour the leading men of Shechem and Beth-Millo, and fire come out of the leading men of Shechem and Beth-Millo to devour Abimelech!’

21 Jotham then took to his heels; he fled and made his way to Beer; and there he stayed, to be out of his brother Abimelech’s reach.

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for three years.

23 God then sent a spirit of discord between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem betrayed Abimelech.

24 And this was so that the crime committed against Jerubbaal’s seventy sons should be avenged, and their blood recoil on their brother Abimelech who had murdered them, and on those leaders of Shechem who had helped him to murder his brothers.

25 The leaders of Shechem put men to ambush him on the mountain tops, and these robbed anyone travelling their way. Abimelech was told of this.

26 Gaal son of Obed, with his brothers, happened to pass through Shechem and win the confidence of the leaders of Shechem.

27 These went out into the countryside to harvest their vineyards; they trod the grapes and made merry and went into the temple of their god. They ate and drank there and cursed Abimelech.

28 Gaal son of Obed said, ‘Who is Abimelech, and what is Shechem, for us to be his slaves? Should not Jerubbaal’s son and his lieutenant, Zebul, be serving the men of Hamor, father of Shechem? Why should we be his slaves?

29 Who will put this people under my command, so that I can expel Abimelech? I should say to him, “Reinforce your army and come out!” ‘

30 Zebul the governor of the town was told what Gaal son of Obed had said, and he was furious.

31 He sent messengers secretly to Abimelech to say, ‘Look! Gaal son of Obed has come to Shechem with his brothers, and they are stirring up the town against you.

32 So, move under cover of dark, you and the men you have with you, and take up concealed positions in the countryside;

33 then in the morning at sunrise, break cover and rush on the town. When Gaal and his supporters come out to meet you, treat them as occasion offers.’

34 So Abimelech set off under cover of dark with all his own supporters and took up concealed positions over against Shechem, in four groups.

35 As Gaal son of Obed was coming out and pausing at the entrance of the town gate, Abimelech and his supporters rose from their ambush.

36 Gaal saw these men and said to Zebul, ‘Look, there are men coming down from the tops of the mountains!’ Zebul answered, ‘You mistake the shadow of the mountains for men.’

37 But Gaal insisted, ‘Look, there are men coming down from the Navel of the Earth and another group is coming from the direction of the Diviners’ Oak.’

38 Zebul then said, ‘Where are your mouthings now about “Who is Abimelech, for us to be his slaves?” Are not these the men you made light of? Sally out, then, and fight him.’

39 Gaal sallied out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and engaged Abimelech.

40 Abimelech drove Gaal off, who turned tail, many of his men falling dead before they could reach the gate.

41 Abimelech then stayed at Aruma, and Zebul expelled Gaal and his brothers and prevented them from living in Shechem.

42 Next day, when the people went out into the countryside, Abimelech was told of this.

43 He took his men, divided them into three groups and lay in wait in the fields. When he saw the people leaving the town, he bore down on them and slaughtered them.

44 While Abimelech and his group rushed forward and took position at the entrance to the town gate, the two other groups fell on everyone in the fields and slaughtered them.

45 All that day Abimelech attacked the town. He stormed it and slaughtered the people inside, razed the town and sowed it with salt.

46 On hearing this, all the leading men inside Migdal-Shechem took refuge in the crypt of the temple of El-Berith.

47 As soon as Abimelech heard that the leading men inside Migdal-Shechem had all gathered there,

48 he went up Mount Zalmon with all his men. Then taking an axe in his hands, he cut off the branch of a tree, picked it up and put it on his shoulder, and said to the men with him, ‘Hurry and do what you have seen me do.’

49 Each of his men similarly cut off a branch; then, following Abimelech, they piled the branches over the crypt and set it on fire over those who were inside; so that all the people in Migdal-Shechem died too, about a thousand men and women.

50 Abimelech then marched on Thebez, besieged it and captured it.

51 In the middle of the town there was a fortified tower in which all the men and women and all the leading men of the town took refuge. They locked the door behind them and climbed up to the roof of the tower.

52 Abimelech reached the tower and attacked it. As he was approaching the door of the tower to set it on fire,

53 a woman threw down a millstone on his head and cracked his skull.

54 He instantly called his young armour-bearer and said, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so that it will not be said of me that “A womankilled him”.’ His armour-bearer ran him through, and he died.

55 When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they dispersed to their homes.

56 Thus God made to recoil on Abimelech the evil he had done his father by murdering his seventy brothers,

57 and all the evil that the men of Shechem had done God made recoil on their heads too. And so the curse of Jotham son of Jerubbaal came true for them.

Judges 10

1 After Abimelech, Tola son of Puah, son of Dodo, rose to deliver Israel. He belonged to Issachar and lived at Shamir in the mountain country of Ephraim.

2 He was judge in Israel for twenty-three years; he then died and was buried at Shamir.

3 After him rose Jair of Gilead, who judged Israel for twenty-two years.

4 He had thirty sons who rode on thirty young donkeys and who owned thirty towns, still known today as the Encampments of Jair, in the territory of Gilead.

5 Jair then died and was buried at Kamon.

6 The Israelites again began doing what is evil in Yahweh’s eyes. They served Baal and Astarte, and the gods of Aram and Sidon, the gods of Moab and those of the Ammonites and Philistines. They deserted Yahweh and served him no more.

7 Yahweh’s anger then grew hot against Israel and he gave them over into the power of the Philistines and the power of the Ammonites,

8 who from that year onwards crushed and oppressed the Israelites for eighteen years — all those Israelites living on the other side of the Jordan in Amorite territory, in Gilead.

9 Furthermore, the Ammonites would cross the Jordan and also make war on Judah, Benjamin and the House of Ephraim, so that Israel was in distress.

10 The Israelites then cried to Yahweh and said, ‘We have sinned against you, because we have turned from Yahweh our God to serve Baals.’

11 And Yahweh said to the Israelites, ‘When Egyptians and Amorites, Ammonites and Philistines,

12 when the Sidonians, Amalek and Midian oppressed you and you cried to me, did I not rescue you from their power?

13 But it is you who have forsaken me and served other gods; and so I shall rescue you no more.

14 Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen. Let them rescue you in your time of trouble.’

15 The Israelites replied to Yahweh, ‘We have sinned. Treat us as you see fit, but please rescue us today.’

16 They got rid of their foreign gods and served Yahweh, who could bear Israel’s suffering no longer.

17 The Ammonites gathered and pitched camp in Gilead. The Israelites rallied and pitched camp at Mizpah.

18 The people, the chieftains of Gilead, then said to one another, ‘Who will volunteer to attack the Ammonites? He shall be chief of all who live in Gilead!’

Judges 11

1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior. He was a prostitute’s son. Gilead was Jephthah’s father,

2 but Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and the sons of this wife, when they grew up, drove Jephthah away, saying, ‘No share of the paternal heritage for you, since you are a son of another woman.’

3 Jephthah fled far from his brothers and settled in the territory of Tob. Jephthah enlisted a group of adventurers who used to go raiding with him.

4 It was some time after this that the Ammonites made war on Israel.

5 And when the Ammonites had attacked Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah from the territory of Tob.

6 ‘Come’, they said, ‘and be our commander, so that we can fight the Ammonites.’

7 Jephthah replied to the elders of Gilead, ‘Didn’t you hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why come to me now, when you are in trouble?’

8 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘That is why we are turning to you now. Come with us; fight the Ammonites and be our chief, chief of all the people living in Gilead.’

9 Jephthah then said to the elders of Gilead, ‘If you bring me home to fight the Ammonites and Yahweh defeats them for me, I am to be your chief?’

10 And the elders of Gilead then said to Jephthah, ‘Yahweh be witness between us, if we do not do as you have said!’

11 So Jephthah set off with the elders of Gilead. The people put him at their head as chief and commander; and Jephthah repeated all his conditions at Mizpah in Yahweh’s presence.

12 Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites to say to him, ‘What do you have against us, for you to come and make waron my country?’

13 The king of the Ammonites replied to Jephthah’s messengers, ‘The reason is that when Israel came up from Egypt, they seized my country from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; so now restore it to me peacefully.’

14 Jephthah sent messengers back to the king of the Ammonites

15 with this answer, ‘Jephthah says this, “Israel seized neither the country of Moab nor the country of the Ammonites.

16 When Israel came out of Egypt, they marched through the desert as far as the Sea of Reeds and, having reached Kadesh,

17 Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom to say: Please let me pass through your country, but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent similarly to the king of Moab, but he refused, and Israel remained at Kadesh;

18 later, moving on through the desert and skirting the countries of Edom and Moab until arriving to the east of Moabite territory, the people camped on the other side of the Arnon but did not enter Moabite territory, the Arnon being the Moabite frontier.

19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, ruling in Heshbon. Israel’s message was: Please let me pass through your country to my destination.

20 But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory; he mustered his whole army; they encamped at Jahaz, and he then joined battle with Israel.

21 Yahweh, God of Israel, delivered Sihon and his whole army into the power of Israel, who defeated them; as the result of which, Israel took possession of the entire territory of the Amorites living in that region.

22 Israel took possession of all the Amorite territory from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.

23 And now that Yahweh, God of Israel, has dispossessed the Amorites before his people Israel, do you think you can dispossess us?

24 Will you not keep as your possession whatever Chemosh, your god, has given you? And, just the same, we shall keep as ours whatever Yahweh our God has given us, to inherit from those who were before us!

25 Are you a better man than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he pick a quarrel with Israel? Did he make war on them?

26 When Israel settled in Heshbon and its dependencies, and in Aroer and its dependencies, or in any of the towns on the banks of the Arnon (three hundred years ago), why did you not recover them then?

27 I for my part have done you no harm, but you are wronging me by making war on me. Let Yahweh the Judge give judgement today between the Israelites and the king of the Ammonites.” ‘

28 But the king of the Ammonites took no notice of the message that Jephthah sent him.

29 The spirit of Yahweh was on Jephthah, who crossed Gilead and Manasseh, crossed by way of Mizpah in Gilead, and from Mizpah in Gilead crossed into Ammonite territory.

30 And Jephthah made a vow to Yahweh, ‘If you deliver the Ammonites into my grasp,

31 the first thing to come out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from fighting the Ammonites shall belong to Yahweh, and I shall sacrifice it as a burnt offering.’

32 Jephthah crossed into Ammonite territory to attack them, and Yahweh delivered them into his grasp.

33 He beat them from Aroer to the border of Minnith (twenty towns) and to Abel-Keramim. It was a very severe defeat, and the Ammonites were humbled by the Israelites.

34 As Jephthah returned to his house at Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, dancing to the sound of tambourines. She was his only child; apart from her, he had neither son nor daughter.

35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and exclaimed, ‘Oh my daughter, what misery you have brought upon me! You have joined those who bring misery into my life! I have made a promise before Yahweh which I cannot retract.’

36 She replied, ‘Father, you have made a promise to Yahweh; treat me as the promise that you have made requires, since Yahweh has granted you vengeance on your enemies the Ammonites.’

37 She then said to her father, ‘Grant me this! Let me be free for two months. I shall go and wander in the mountains, and with my companions bewail my virginity.’

38 He replied, ‘Go,’ and let her go away for two months. So she went away with her companions and bewailed her virginity in the mountains.

39 When the two months were over she went back to her father, and he treated her as the vow that he had uttered bound him. She had remained a virgin. And hence, the custom in Israel

40 for the daughters of Israel to leave home year by year and lament over the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days every year.

Ruth 4

1 Boaz, meanwhile, had gone up to the gate and sat down, and the relative of whom he had spoken then came by. Boaz said to him, ‘Here, my friend, come and sit down’; the man came and sat down.

2 Boaz then picked out ten of the town’s elders and said, ‘Sit down here’; they sat down.

3 Boaz then said to the man who had the right of redemption, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the Plains of Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother, Elimelech.

4 I thought I should tell you about this and say, “Acquire it in the presence of the men who are sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you want to use your right of redemption, redeem it; if you do not, tell me so that I know, for I am the only person to redeem it besides yourself, and I myself come after you.”‘ 

5 Boaz then said, ‘The day you acquire the field from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the man who has died, to perpetuate the dead man’s name in his inheritance.’

6 The man with the right of redemption then said, ‘I cannot use my right of redemption without jeopardising my own inheritance. Since I cannot use my right of redemption, exercise the right yourself.’

7 Now, in former times, it was the custom in Israel to confirm a transaction in matters of redemption or inheritance by one of the parties taking off his sandal and giving it to the other. This was how agreements were ratified in Israel.

8 So, when the man with the right of redemption said to Boaz, ‘Acquire it for yourself,’ he took off his sandal.

9 Boaz then said to the elders and all the people there, ‘Today you are witnesses that from Naomi I acquire everything that used to belong to Elimelech, and everything that used to belong to Mahlon and Chilion

10 and that I am also acquiring Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, to be my wife, to perpetuate the dead man’s name in his inheritance, so that the dead man’s name will not be lost among his brothers and at the gate of his town. Today you are witnesses to this.’

11 All the people at the gate said, ‘We are witnesses’; and the elders said, ‘May Yahweh make the woman about to enter your family like Rachel and Leah who together built up the House of Israel. Grow mighty in Ephrathah, be renowned in Bethlehem!

12 And through the children Yahweh will give you by this young woman, may your family be like the family of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. And when they came together, Yahweh made her conceive and she bore a son.

14 And the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be Yahweh who has not left you today without anyone to redeem you. May his name be praised in Israel!

15 The child will be a comfort to you and the prop of your old age, for he has been born to the daughter-in-law who loves you and is more to you than seven sons.’

16 And Naomi, taking the child, held him to her breast; and she it was who looked after him.

17 And the women of the neighbourhood gave him a name. ‘A son’, they said, ‘has been born to Naomi,’ and they called him Obed. This was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

18 These are the descendants of Perez. Perez fathered Hezron,

19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab,

20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon,

21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed,

22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.

Psalm 137

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept at the memory of Zion.

2 On the poplars there we had hung up our harps.

3 For there our gaolers had asked us to sing them a song, our captors to make merry, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’

4 How could we sing a song of Yahweh on alien soil?

5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand wither!

6 May my tongue remain stuck to my palate if I do not keep you in mind, if I do not count Jerusalem the greatest of my joys.

7 Remember, Yahweh, to the Edomites’ cost, the day of Jerusalem, how they said, ‘Down with it! Rase it to the ground!’

8 Daughter of Babel, doomed to destruction, a blessing on anyone who treats you as you treated us,

9 a blessing on anyone who seizes your babies and shatters them against a rock!

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