We have a new twist in our pattern of God’s rescue. We have an angelic visitation during the time the Israelites are being oppressed. Rather than raising up someone already alive, God is going to take a different approach this time. An angel appears to a woman who has been unable to have children and tells her she will have a child!
But there’s more! This child will not be just any child. The woman has been given strict instructions to keep herself pure from alcohol and forbidden foods even during her pregnancy. She was going to give birth to a son who will be dedicated as a Nazirite. “He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”
These short verses span the period of 18 years. We are also introduced to three new judges, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. We don’t know much about these men. From the description we do have, it is very likely these men were wealthy due to the reference to many children and donkeys.
It seems like we’re in a holding pattern, and I don’t want to rush past this. It’s time to catch our breath and just relax a bit. After what happened with Jephthah, I feel like a time-out is in order. The Israelites deserved a time of peace to get on with their lives.
Talk about a roller coaster ride of emotions over the past couple readings. Jephthah has been run out of town, then sought after, used by God for an enormous victory, and then had to put his daughter to death as a result of his vow to the LORD. Now, his cousins from the tribe of Ephraim are giving him a hard time for something he didn’t do.
The Jephthah we had seen previously was all about negotiating. It seems he has lost his patience. After all that has happened to him, we can perhaps understand why. Israel had won a great battle. Instead of joy and celebration, there was pettiness and quarreling.
When we think of vows in our day, our minds go immediately to a bride and groom standing before God and a room full of people. The wedding vow is meant to be the promise or pledge that seals the marriage with God looking on. Fun fact: In doing a little google search, I learned that not all cultures or religions use vows during a wedding ceremony.
Unfortunately, some people don’t take their vows as seriously as they should. If you aren’t able to keep your word, you shouldn’t give it in the first place. I held on for years as a battered wife because of the vow I had made to my first husband. I had made this vow in the presence of God. For me to break it and seek divorce would mean I was letting God down, didn’t it? I struggled with that for years.
What a negotiator! Despite the fact Jephthah was known as a brilliant warrior, he used his words first. He was not trying to avoid action but to begin the action. You might think of it as setting the stage. If you can avoid unnecessary bloodshed that is still a victory. We can tell early on in the negotiations that the Ammonites were set on getting their revenge on the Israelites.
Jephthah was not afraid to use other means when the verbal attempt failed. He had done his best to recount the history of the Israelites travels to put them in the best light possible. In fact, it was actually God who had orchestrated the events that had the Ammonites so upset.