The son is an evil, evil echo of the father. Gideon’s idol-worshiping son, Abimelek, seeks power, hires a riff-raff army and murders all but one of his brothers. Jotham, the sole surviving son of Gideon, pronounces a powerful curse on his brother and the citizens of Shechem. Shechem’s leaders set up Abimelek as king, but it is indeed a cursed reign. Three years later Abimelek is killed in battle as a woman drops a millstone on his head.
Tola leads as judge for 23 years; Jair leads next for 22. After the time of these two leaders, God’s people return to worshiping dark gods. When Ammonite armies come to war against them, they cry out to God, but he tells them to ask their idols for help—he is not coming to their aid. They get rid of the idols, and then the Lord listens.
God raises up Jephthah, an illegitimate son who has been thrown out of his childhood home by his half brothers. But Jephthah is a valiant warrior, so the elders of Gilead seek him out to lead the fight against the Ammonites. Jephthah vows that if God gives him victory, he’ll sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever comes out of the door of his house to meet him. Jephthah wins, and his daughter greets him at his return. She is killed to fulfill his foolish vow.
The King’s Heart
Because of his people’s betrayal, God had removed his hand of protection. Enemies invaded and took their shots—knocking his people to nothing. They were bloodied, bullied and used. During a brief reprieve, God’s people shook off their dark idol worship and cried out to him. “And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer” (Judges 10:16).
While his people had been taking the blows, the Heart of Heaven felt the pain. The great King of all had been bearing Israel’s misery. Every attack, every abuse, every assault.
The God of love, joy, peace and goodness longed for his people to live in the goodness that he was offering. Only he fully saw every devastation, every abuse. And only he knew how well they could be living, how far they had fallen. His love for his people, his desire for their good, hurt him. Deeply.
Love is costly. And often the cost falls on the One who loves the most.
Tragically, Jephthah could have redeemed his daughter and spared her life from his foolish vow. Apparently Jephthah wasn’t aware that God had provided a way for people to redeem their vows monetarily (see Leviticus 27:1-8). It would have been a much better solution since God hates human sacrifice (see Leviticus 18:21; 20:1–5; Jeremiah 32:35).