Judges 11.29-40


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Making Vows before the Lord 

If you make a vow, you must be kept at all costs

Judges 11.29–40

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • February 9, In the year of our Lord, 2014



  1. Is it foolish to make vows? 
    1. No, vows can be very good.
    2. However, when we make a vow we must keep it at all costs.
      1. Joshua 9.18–20 shows Joshua and the leaders of Israel vowing to spare the Gibeonites.
        1. The leaders said that they knew
          1. wrath would come
          2. if they attacked the Gibeonites.
        2. Later, in Second Samuel 21.1–2 King Saul killed some Gibeonites.
          1. God sent a three-year famine in Israel because of it.
          2. King David remedied the situation.
      2. Psalm 15 asks a question that we all want to know,

        1 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
        Who may dwell in Your holy hill? …

        4 He who swears to his own hurt and does not change…
        (Psa 15.1, 4)

      3. Ecclesiastes 5 I read to all couples before weddings.

        2 Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed— 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. 6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse {Literally voice} and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God (Ecc 5.2–7).

      4. See also:
        1. Num 30.2
        2. Deu 23.21–23
        3. Pro 20.25
        4. Matt 5.33–37
  2. Let us now learn from a man 
    1. who did what these passages teach, and
    2. whom the Bible honors as a man of faith in Hebrews 11.


  1. Judges 11.29 – The Spirit came upon Jephthah

    29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead; and from Mizpah of Gilead he advanced toward the people of Ammon.

    1. Great things happened when the Spirit of the Lord came upon someone.
      1. Judges 3 reminds us that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel,

        10 The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim (Jdg 3.10).

      2. Judges 6 recalls the beginning of the defeat of the Midianites,

        34 But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him (Jdg 6.34).

      3. First Samuel 16 recalls the beginning of the legendary life of David,

        13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward (1Sa 16.13).

    2. I have prayed that the Spirit of the Lord would be upon us, and
      1. cause us to advance toward our spiritual enemies,
      2. as Jephthah advanced.
    3. Look at Jephthah advancing toward the enemy.
      1. An enemy nation sought war with Israel, and
      2. the government of Israel had to fight back.
        1. Did the enemy have any idea what was coming toward them?
        2. Did they realize they were about to be slaughtered?
      3. When the church awakens out of her sleep (Rom 13.11),
        1. no one shall be able to stand against the truth we preach.
        2. We will eliminate many of the enemy,
          1. as Jephthah did, but
          2. we will do it by converting them.
  2. Judges 11.30–31 – Jephthah’s vow

    30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

    1. If Jephthah had remembered his own words to Ammon (vv. 23–24),
      1. there would have been no need for this vow,

        23 “And now the LORD God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel; should you then possess it? 24 Will you not possess whatever Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the LORD our God takes possession of before us, we will possess” (Jdg 11.23–24).

      2. Why do you think Jephthah made a vow?
    2. In verse 27, Jephthah had already indicated that he put his trust in the Lord,

      27 “Therefore I have not sinned against you, but you wronged me by fighting against me. May the LORD, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon’” (Jdg 11.27).

        1. Jephthah was in the right.
        2. God was the Judge.
      1. Why make a vow?
  3. Judges 11.32–33 The Lord delivers Ammon into the hands of Jephthah

    32 So Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his hands. 33 And he defeated them from Aroer as far as Minnith—twenty cities—and to Abel Keramim, {Literally Plain of Vineyards} with a very great slaughter. Thus the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

    1. God delivered Ammon into Israel’s hands, because
      1. Ammon had no claim to the land,
      2. Ammon was wrong for attacking Israel, and
      3. God honored Jephthah’s vow.
    2. In the same way, when we commit our cause to the Judge of all the earth,
      1. our enemies will not be able to conquer us, but
      2. we shall conquer them.
    3. I use these passages in sermon and class preparation all the time,

      1 The preparations of the heart belong to man,
      But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
      (Pro 16.1)

      3 Commit your works to the LORD,
      And your thoughts will be established.
      (Pro 16.3)

      9 A man’s heart plans his way,
      But the LORD directs his steps.
      (Pro 16.9)

  4. Judges 11.34–35 – We cannot go back on vows

    34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot go back on it.”

    1. Remember the examples of Joshua, Saul, and David with the Gibeonites.
      1. Also remember what David wrote in Psalm 15.
      2. Remember what his son Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 5.
    2. Let us think before we speak, even in desperate situations.
  5. Judges 11.36 – A submissive daughter

    36 So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.”

    1. Like Isaac, who willingly submitted to his father as a sacrifice (Gen 22.7–10).
    2. I believe our children want us to be like Abraham and Jephthah, that is,
      1. parents of integrity and
      2. spirituality.
  6. Judges 11.37–40 – Jephthah keeps his vow

    37 Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.” 38 So he said, “Go.” And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains.

    1. What did she bewail?
      1. Her life or
      2. her virginity?
        1. Does that give you a clue as to what happened?
        2. He did not sacrifice her, as most think, but gave her in complete service to the Lord.
          1. Compare First Corinthians 7.
          2. Compare Hannah giving Samuel to the Lord, although he later married.
      3. If she was about to die, lamenting her virginity does not make sense.
      4. If she was about to die, she would have spent time with her father!
      5. Verse 39 emphasizes that she knew no man.
        1. Again pointing to remaining a virgin, and
        2. not emphasizing her death.
    2. She would never know the double blessing of marriage and children.
    3. Jephthah would never know the double blessing of a son-in-law and grandchildren.
    4. Jephthah kept his vow,

      39 And it was so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man.

      1. Before you criticize Jephthah, keep these things in mind:
        1. The Bible never speaks negatively of Jephthah.
        2. Hebrews 11 commends him as an example of faith.
        3. Look at what we have seen of him in the Book of Judges already.
          1. 11.9–11, he was a man of God, who
            1. knew the Lord would deliver the enemy in his hands;
            2. knew the Lord saw everything;
            3. knew of the Lord’s presence.
          2. 11.12–27,
            1. He knew his Bible;
            2. He knew God’s hand in history;
            3. He knew God’s promises;
            4. He knew that God is the Judge.
          3. 11.29–39,
            1. He gives the Lord all the credit;
            2. He worships the Lord;
            3. He keeps his word, regardless of the costs.
        4. Moreover, put your self in his shoes in the face of war.
      2. [The following is paraphrased from Adam Clarke]
        1. The text could be translated:
          1. I will consecrate it to the Lord,
          2. OR I will offer it for a burnt-offering; that is,
            1. If it is an animal, it shall be a burnt-offering.
            2. If it is a person, it shall be in service to God forever.
          3. Consider:
            1. Dogs could not be offered as burnt-offerings.
            2. He did not have a right over people not in his household.
            3. Human sacrifices were sinful, which was one of the reasons why the Canaanites were driven out of the land.
        2. The text could be read:
          1. I will offer IT a burnt-offering, and
          2. I will offer HIM (i.e., the Lord) a burnt-offering.
        3. Leviticus 27 addresses this situation,

          1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD, according to your valuation, 3 if your valuation is of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old, then your valuation shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 4 If it is a female, then your valuation shall be thirty shekels; 5 and if from five years old up to twenty years old, then your valuation for a male shall be twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels; 6 and if from a month old up to five years old, then your valuation for a male shall be five shekels of silver, and for a female your valuation shall be three shekels of silver; 7 and if from sixty years old and above, if it is a male, then your valuation shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels. 8 But if he is too poor to pay your valuation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall set a value for him; according to the ability of him who vowed, the priest shall value him’” (Lev 27.1–8).

      3. Why did verse 39 end with these words, “She knew no man.”
      4. She would live at the tabernacle and never marry.
      5. Aside from the difficulty of the text,
        1. Hebrews 11.32ff uses Jephthah as an example of faith.
        2. He lived by faith in God.
    5. A custom becomes established,

      39b And it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

      1. “Lament” could be
      2. “commemorate,” or “celebrate,”
        1. hardly what people would have done,
        2. if it was her death.


  1. If you made a vow, keep at all costs.

    “…commitment rewards eternally. Whatever you commit to Jesus Christ will be kept for you and given back to you in eternity (II Timothy 1:12). Mark it well: When we get to heaven, no one will say, ‘Wow, I wish I would have slept in more on earth. I really wish I wouldn’t have given so much to the Church. I wish I would have spent more on toys for myself.’ No, every one of us will fall before the Lord and say, ‘Thank you, Lord, for allowing us the opportunity to commit unto You,’—for even the smallest commitment of energy, money, time, talents, abilities, or gifts will impact our capacity to enjoy eternity” (Courson).
  2. Commit yourself to Jesus today. 
    1. Is it foolish to make vows?
    2. Jephthah has shown that they can be good, because
      1. God gave the man what he wanted, but
      2. he had to give up something precious.
    3. When you become a Christian,
      1. you are making a commitment
      2. from which you cannot go back.
        1. You will have to give up some things, but
        2. you will gain so much more.