Judges through Poets- 3b: Deborah and Japhthah

The cycle found in Judges reaches its climax with Samson.

Deborah- Judges 4:1-5
Deborah is a woman with a specified role of leadership in the OC.

V4 tells us that Deborah is a Prophetess. The Hebrew word for Prophetess used here means ‘a woman female prophetess’. By using this word the writer is telling us that this is not a common situation.

Deborah is the wife of Lapidoth (v4). The Prophetess is under male authority.

Deborah was judging Israel. The word ‘judging’ is used over 200 times in the OT. Judges 4:4 is the only instance where the word is connected to a woman.
We can see that Deborah’s position is not normative but special.

What was the condition of Israel at this time?
Severe oppression (v3). The same word used here for ‘oppression’ is also used in Exodus 22:21 to describe the oppression of the Egyptians to the Israelites.

The oppressor was Jabin from Hazor (v2)

The Israelites had demolished Hazor in Joshua 11:10-13. The Canaanites re-settled in the land of Hazor with Jaben as King. The oppression under Jaben lasted 20 years.

Internally Israel is falling apart.
Judges 5:6, 8:
'In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, In the days of Jael, The highways were deserted, And the travelers walked along the byways.
8 They chose new gods; Then there was war in the gates; Not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.
Israel was not a safe place to be. Israel was without defence.'

The circumstances surrounding Deborah’s judgement were unique.

Jephthah’s Daughter- Judges 11:29-40
The story depicts the clash between the Gileadites and the Ammonites
Gilead = east of the Jordan (right next to the Ammonites), belongs to the half tribe f Manasseh.

Jephthah believes that in order to defeat the Ammonites he needs to sacrifice his daughter. The author of Judges does not condemn or praise Jephthah’s act.

V29 ‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah’.
3:10, 6:34, in 13-15 the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson four times.
This idiom is not a figure that reflects regeneration but rather a special dispensation of YHWH’s power. The Holy Spirit empowered these people at times to do great things.
In 1 Sam 11:6 the phrase is used. Saul is obviously not saved here. Saul experienced a special dispensation of the Holy Spirit’s power.

V29 Jephthah raises an army and leads them to Ammon.

V30-31 Jephthah makes a foolish vow based on the culture around him. He promises to sacrifice whatever comes through his doors first- Jephthah was likely to have an animal in mind.

V32-33 The Lord provides victory

V34-35 Jephthah’s daughter comes out. Jephthah feels that he can’t revoke the vow (Numbers 30:2)

V36-40 Jephthah does to his daughter ‘what came out of [his] mouth’ (v36). Meaning that Jephthah gave his daughter as a burnt sacrifice.

Why did Jephthah sacrifice his own daughter?
Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter shows that he did what he though to be right.

Jephthah was a valiant warrior and the son of a harlot. Jephthah is denied his inheritance and thrown out of the Israel community of Gilead.


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