The legitimate sons of Gilead wanted the inheritance for themselves. They did not want to share. What Jephthah would have taken a piece of the Ammonites came to take all of. The choices made by the greedy brothers left them ill-prepared and they had to go hat in hand to the brother they had chased away.
“4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” Judges 11:4-8–ESV)
Jephthah had skills
Jephthah had skills in leadership and war. He was a man used by now to being in the fields and among men of might and strong personality. His own character had led to the gathering around him of followers and they had gained a reputation.
The brothers had greed
The brothers back in Gilead had wanted peace and prosperity and to limit the spread of the inheritance and the dishonor of having a legitimized prostitute’s child among them they had driven out Jephthah. Well, these greedy peace lovers had not the feistiness needed in a warlike world.
The brothers come to their senses
When times got tough their pride was swallowed. Awkwardly they must have gone to that brother who had been awkward to have around. Probably he had not wanted to leave. He had to flee, it was said, and this time when they came to Jephthah he did not indicate that he was done with that phase of life. He had not washed his hands of his ancestry.
Jephthah came to his yearnings
The ill done to Jephthah was not forgotten and he immediately raised that to the surface. The irony of it all is thrown back at these old brothers of his. They do not deny it. “Nevertheless,” they say. They discard their misdeeds in light of the dire circumstances that their inheritance is now facing.
Jephthah, Joseph and God
Did not Israel choose other gods and other lifestyles rather than that which they had been given? When the tough times came who did they call upon? They called upon God, unfortunately he was the last resort for them. Jephthah is surely a last resort for the Gileadite elders.
One can also recall that Joseph had the dream of his mother and father and brothers bowing down to him. That raised a ruckus in that family and was part of the motivation for Joseph’s being sold into slavery. The dream was prophecy and while it was long in coming, come it did.
Here Jephthah is being invited back and the carrot held out is leadership. Maybe they are just shameless, maybe they are just humbled. It would have been better, though, to have been kind at the beginning. Then, maybe, the Ammonites would have been less inclined to attack. Then these brothers and their families would not have been swallowed up by fear. They would not have been forced to swallow their self-built pride sending this delegation to the black-sheep, the needed rabble-rouser east of the Jordan. Then they would not have had to fight a war where some of them will die and others of them will be maimed.
Some key points from these verses:
- Don’t make enemies if you do not have to.
- Be sure your greed will find you out.
- Do not be so proud that you would rather die than in humility seek the help of others.
- The thing that the brothers tried to avoid was the thing they got.
- We must read our Bibles and seek God. From there our decisions should be made. Therein is safety.