Jephtah and the Gileadites. (1-11) He attempts to make peace.
(12-28) Jephthah's vow. He vanquishes the Ammonites. (29-40)
Men ought not to be blamed for their parentage, so long as
they by their personal merits roll away any reproach. God had
forgiven Israel, therefore Jephthah will forgive. He speaks not
with confidence of his success, knowing how justly God might
suffer the Ammonites to prevail for the further punishment of
Israel. Nor does he speak with any confidence at all in himself.
If he succeed, it is the Lord delivers them into his hand; he
thereby reminds his countrymen to look up to God as the Giver of
victory. The same question as here, in fact, is put to those who
desire salvation by Christ. If he save you, will ye be willing
that he shall rule you? On no other terms will he save you. If
he make you happy, shall he make you holy? If he be your helper,
shall he be your Head? Jephthah, to obtain a little worldly
honour, was willing to expose his life: shall we be discouraged
in our Christian warfare by the difficulties we may meet with,
when Christ has promised a crown of life to him that overcometh?
One instance of the honour and respect we owe to God, as
our God, is, rightly to employ what he gives us to possess.
Receive it from him, use it for him, and part with it when he
calls for it. The whole of this message shows that Jephthah was
well acquainted with the books of Moses. His argument was clear,
and his demand reasonable. Those who possess the most courageous
faith, will be the most disposed for peace, and the readiest to
make advances to obtain; but rapacity and ambition often cloak
their designs under a plea of equity, and render peaceful
endeavours of no avail.
Several important lessons are to be learned from
Jephthah's vow. 1. There may be remainders of distrust and
doubting, even in the hearts of true and great believers. 2. Our
vows to God should not be as a purchase of the favour we desire,
but to express gratitude to him. 3. We need to be very
well-advised in making vows, lest we entangle ourselves. 4. What
we have solemnly vowed to God, we must perform, if it be
possible and lawful, though it be difficult and grievous to us.
5. It well becomes children, obediently and cheerfully to submit
to their parents in the Lord. It is hard to say what Jephthah
did in performance of his vow; but it is thought that he did not
offer his daughter as a burnt-offering. Such a sacrifice would
have been an abomination to the Lord; it is supposed she was
obliged to remain unmarried, and apart from her family.
Concerning this and some other such passages in the sacred
history, about which learned men are divided and in doubt, we
need not perplex ourselves; what is necessary to our salvation,
thanks be to God, is plain enough. If the reader recollects the
promise of Christ concerning the teaching of the Holy Spirit,
and places himself under this heavenly Teacher, the Holy Ghost
will guide to all truth in every passage, so far as it is
needful to be understood.