Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The people made him head and captain.—The people ratified the promise of the elders, and solemnly inaugurated him as both the civil and military leader of the Trans-jordanic tribes.
Uttered all his words.—It probably means that he took some oath as to the condition of his government.
Before the Lord in Mizpeh.—Some have supposed that this must mean that the oath was taken before the Tabernacle or Ark, or Urim and Thummim, because the phrase has this meaning elsewhere (Exodus 34:34; Joshua 18:8; and infra, Judges 20:26; Judges 21:2);—and consequently that the scene of this covenant must be the Western Mizpeh, in Benjamin (Joshua 18:26; 1 Maccabees 3:46, “for in Maspha was the place where they prayed aforetime in Israel”). There are, indeed, no limits to the possible irregularities of these disturbed times, during which the priests seem to have sunk into the completest insignificance. The Ark may therefore have been transferred for a time to Mizpeh, in Benjamin (Judges 20:1), as tradition says. But if that Mizpeh had been meant, it would certainly have been specified, since the Mizpeh of our present narrative (Judges 10:17) is in Gilead. Nor is it at all likely that the High Priest would have carried the sacred Urim into the disturbed and threatened Eastern districts. “Before Jehovah” probably means nothing more than by some solemn religious utterance or ceremony; and Mizpeh in Gilead had its own sacred associations (Genesis 31:48-49).Judges 20:26; Judges 21:2; Joshua 18:8; 1 Samuel 21:7. The high priest waited upon Jephthah with the ephod, and possibly the ark, at his own house (see Judges 20:18 here). A trace of Jephthah's claim to unite all Israel under his dominion is found in Judges 12:2, and breathes through his whole message to the king of the Ammonites. See Judges 11:12, Judges 11:15, Judges 11:23, Judges 11:27. Jephthah uttered all his words, objectively so called; i.e. all that was spoken, not only by him, but also by the elders of Gilead concerning him, and concerning this whole transaction, and the conditions of it; or, all his matters, the whole business.
Before the Lord, i.e. before the public congregation, wherewith God was usually and then especially present: see Exodus 20:24 Deu 6:25 Matthew 18:10. Or, before the altar, which possibly they did erect upon this special occasion, by God’s permission. Or, in God’s presence, calling him to be present, as a witness and judge between them.
and the people made him head and captain over them; ratified and confirmed what the elders had promised, and by a general unanimous vote appointed him both to be the captain of their forces, and to be the chief ruler and governor of them. And this they did, though he was the son of an harlot; and according to the law in Deuteronomy 23:2, such an one was not to be a civil magistrate; but this was a case of necessity, and in which, no doubt, they were directed by the Lord, who could dispense with his own law: besides, they had come to such an agreement before they had pitched on any particular person, that who should begin to fight with the children of Ammon should be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead so that they were obliged to it by their vote and decree, when they assembled at Mizpeh, where it is probable they consulted the Lord, and acted under his direction, Judges 10:17 and where this was confirmed, as seems from the following clause:
and Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh; where the congregation of Israel were assembled, and in which the Shechinah, or divine Majesty, dwelt, as is observed by Jarchi and Kimchi, and not Mizpeh in Joshua 11:3, as the latter says, but this was on the other side Jordan, in the land of Gilead; however, as it was a solemn meeting, the Lord was there, and, as in his presence, Jephthah rehearsed all that passed between him and the elders of Gilead; and, no doubt, in prayer to God, desired he would signify his approbation and ratification of their agreement, and would give him success in his undertakings against the children of Ammon.Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)11. The second half of the verse comes awkwardly after the announcement of Jephthah’s promotion; and as it stands his words must refer to Jdg 11:9. But would he repeat them to give additional solemnity to the agreement? He would be more likely to make the elders repeat their promise before Jehovah. On the other hand 11b would come in most suitably after Jdg 11:31. Accepting the terms offered by the sheikhs (11a), Jephthah makes his vow (Jdg 11:30-31) before Jehovah, i.e. before the altar or pillar in the sanctuary or high-place of Mizpah (Jdg 11:11 b), and then sets out to attack the Ammonites and defeats them (Jdg 11:32-33). We must suppose that the original form of the narrative has been disturbed by the insertion of Jdg 11:12-28. For Mizpah see on Jdg 10:17.
The section Jdg 11:12-28 purports to give an account of Jephthah’s negotiations with the king of Ammon. First comes a formal protest against the Ammonite invasion with a reply (Jdg 11:12-13): then the real subject of dispute follows—the occupation of the territory between the Arnon and the Jabbok. After Jdg 11:15 the Ammonites drop out to reappear in Jdg 11:27-28, and the Moabites, who were the people really concerned with this district, enter the discussion. An appeal is made to past history as recorded in JE’s narrative, Numbers 20:14-18; Numbers 21:21-24. At the period of the Israelite invasion the disputed territory was in the hands of the Amorites, from whom Israel won it by conquest (Jdg 11:22); and in it Israel settled down (Jdg 11:26). The argument, then, is aimed at the Moabites, not the Ammonites; the deity referred to in Jdg 11:24 is Moabite, and so are the cities in Jdg 11:26. In fact the whole passage has only a superficial connexion at the beginning and end with Jephthah’s campaign; it looks like an insertion made at some period when Israel wished to put forward a claim to the district, and to judge from the dependence of the passage upon JE’s narrative in Num., this period was later than the 8th century b.c. The territory in question changed masters frequently; Moabites and Amorites, Moabites and Israelites, held it in succession; see Numbers 21:26, 2 Samuel 8:2; Moabite Stone lines 5 ff., Isaiah 15:2 ff., Jeremiah 48:1 ff. The alternative course is to suppose that we have here a combination of two narratives of two campaigns, one against Ammon and the other against Moab; the above explanation, however, seems to involve fewer difficulties.Verse 11. - Head and captain. Both civil ruler or judge, and military chief. Uttered all his words before the Lord. The expression "before the Lord" is used in Exodus 34:34; Leviticus 1:3; Judges 21:2 (before God), and elsewhere, to signify the special presence of the Lord which was to be found in the tabernacle, or with the ark, or where there was the priest with an ephod. And this must be the meaning of the expression here. Jephthah was installed at the national place of gathering and consultation for Gilead, viz., at Mizpah in Gilead, into his office as bead of the State, and there, as in the capital, he performed all his duties under the sanctions of religion. Whether, however, the ark was brought there, or the altar, or a priest with an ephod, or whether some substitute was devised which the unsettled times might justify, it is impossible to say from want of information. There seems to be some reference in the words to Jephthah's vow, in ver. 31, as one of such utterances. Judges 10:18) went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob, to make this brave warrior their leader. In Judges 11:4 the account of the war between the Ammonites and Israel, which is mentioned in Judges 10:17, is resumed, and its progress under Jephthah is then more fully described. "In process of time" (מיּמים, a diebus, i.e., after the lapse of a long period, which cannot be more precisely defined), sc., after the expulsion of Jephthah from his home (see Judges 14:8; Judges 15:1; Joshua 23:1). קצין signifies a leader in war (Joshua 10:24), and is therefore distinguished in Judges 11:11 from ראשׁ, a chief in peace and war.
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