1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. (Judges 11:1-3–ESV)
In approaching this passage one must not forget that this was written long after Jephthah had been alive. Verse 1 is but a summary setting a stage from which would be built the greater history. These were things known of him and things that shaped his own destiny and the destiny of that clan of people.
A warrior with a prostitutes pedigree
Gilead not limiting himself to his wife’s bed had this son named Jephthah with a prostitute who grew up and lived as one of his half brothers. Having a brother from another mother in the house was one thing, but there were features of that child that raised a greedy prospect. The children of the wife may have been being eclipsed by the child of the prostitute. The writing on the wall as Gilead aged was that Jephthah was headed for an inheritance among them all, and perhaps a very significant one.
Those natural born children wanted peace and prosperity but feared they might lose it to the powerful personality the family was being known by. Jephthah was driven out. Even though Jephthah had a standing in the household (and probably the community as will be seen) he did not have enough ground to stand on or enough of a grip to hold on. He fled it is said from the house he had known all his life. The sins in the house had effects in and around the house. They may be decades long in their effect.
Learning about life far from home
His new life began east of the Jordan in a place called Tob. Around Jephthah gathered a group people that lived it would seem with a pack mentality. They lived outside the standard structures of a national community. They were an independent group ruled probably by a pecking order and survived as groups of men may when scattered from their broken histories into new bands of brothers so to speak.
Similarities to other characters in the Bible:
- Ishmael and his mother Hagar were driven from the family by the jealous mother Sarah
- Jacob and his mother deceived Isaac and Jacob’s brother Esau was the source of Jacob’s running
- Joseph was a favorite, albeit legitimate son, who was cast away from the family by jealous brothers
- David was not loved by the brothers and ended up being driven away to lead a band of brothers
- Moses in his immaturity had done ill and been forced to run.
We know little of Ishmael’s life, but of the others we know much. Jacob would mature and learn of God while far from home. Joseph grew in faith and stature while in Egypt. David learned leadership and survival skills while on the run from Saul. Moses had lived in a desert after running from Egypt and grew up spiritually there.
Key points from this section:
- Sins are never safe; their consequences ripple on and on.
- God can weave bad outcomes to good, but the best outcomes are woven with strands of obedience.
- God helps and directs the lives of those cast out from all they have known.
- Homecomings do happen.
- A return to one’s household may require much hard work.
- Faith while fleeing still has an excellent effect.