This selection kicks off with a couple of minor heroes. Tola and Jair who rule for 23 and 22 years respectively. Okay. Then we return to the primary vehicle of the book. The people turn from God and are taken captive or are oppressed. Then, importantly, they cry out to God. Emphasized here because God denies them at first. He’s had enough of their nonsense and won’t help them any more.
They unilaterally straighten up, getting rid of the false gods, and so God “no pudo soportar mas el sufriemiento de Israel/could bear Israel’s misery no longer.”
That’s pretty interesting few of God. Not just changing his mind, but doing so from a place of absolute pity and affection.
At this point, things are serious. The enemy has crossed the Jordan and is pushing into Judah. Jephtah is the next hero. He is born of a prostitute and thrown out by his fathers sons from his wives. Reminds me of Ishmael. He lives in the wilderness and leads a band of scoundrels.
So, the bastard scoundrel becomes king and starts off sending a message to politely ask the foreigners to leave his country. Then, Henry V style, he responds to their declining to do so with an epic list of his powerful god, YHWH. My favorite line, “Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you?” Judegs 11:24. Jephtah must not have been clued into the radical monotheism yet.
He also makes the never to go wrong pledge to sacrifice the first thing he sees upon return to his home if God delivers the enemy into his hands. Dude, he’s going to do that any way. Of course, his only child, his daughter meets him.
Unlike Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, Jephtah’s daughter is willing to be sacrificed to allow Jephtah to keep his vow. She asks only to have two months with her female friends in the mountains–since she has never married. Thus, to this day, Israelite girls spend four days in the wilderness to commemorate this unnamed character.
I found this interesting collection of other such stories in the Bible and in other contexts. Frankly, although rarely as deliberate, is it that rare for parents to make commitments that lead to the untimely death of their children?
The story of Jephthah actually ends in a civil war with Ephraim. The Gileadites kill 42,000 Ephraimites trying to sneak across the Jordan, who were discovered because they could not pronounce the word “Shibboleth” properly. (Interestingly enough, the ‘th’ diphthong at the end of the word is one of the translational differences between English & Spanish, so the NVI has “Shibolet”)
The selection closes with a list of three short lived leaders, who “led Israel,” for ten years or less each.