It’s hard not to admire people whose word can be depended on completely and whose actions are consistent with their words. For such people, talking is not avoiding action; it is the beginning of action. People like this can make excellent negotiators. They approach a conflict with the full intention of settling issues verbally, but they do not hesitate to use other means if verbal attempts fail. Jephthah was this kind of person.
In most of his conflicts, Jephthah’s first move was to talk. In the war with the Ammonites, his strategy was negotiation. He clarified the issues so that everyone knew the cause of the conflict. His opponent’s response determined his next action.
The fate of Jephthah’s daughter is difficult to understand. We are not sure what Jephthah meant by his vow recorded in Judges 11:31. In any case, his vow was unnecessary. We do not know what actually happened to his daughter – whether she was burned as an offering or set apart as a virgin, thus denying Jephthah any hope of descendants since she was his only child. What we do know is that Jephthah was a person of his word, even when it was a word spoken in haste, and even when keeping his word cost him great pain.
How do you approach conflicts? There is a big difference between trying to settle a conflict through words and simply counterattacking someone verbally. How dependable are the statements you make? Do your children, friends, and fellow workers know you to be a person of your word? The measure of your trustworthiness is your willingness to take responsibility, even if you must pay a painful price because of something you said.
Strengths and accomplishments:
- Listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11
- Controlled by God’s Spirit
- Brilliant military strategist who negotiated before fighting
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Was bitter over the treatment he received from his half brothers
- Made a rash and foolish vow that was costly
Lessons from his life:
- A person’s background does not prevent God from working powerfully in his or her life
- Where: Gilead
- Occupations: Warrior, judge
- Relative: Father: Gilead
Key verse: “Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands” (Judges 11:32).
His story is told in Judges 11:1-12:7. He is also mentioned in 1 Samuel 12:11 and Hebrews 11:32.