Judges 11 is one of weirdest stories in the Bible. Did Jephthah really offer his daughter as a burnt sacrifice to God? That trivia question can distract us from a lesson that makes a life and death difference in today’s world, a lesson as up-to-date as tomorrow’s headlines.
Here is a summary of the story.
1. Jephthah’s people come under attack.
2. Jephthah is asked to lead the army to defend his tribe.
3. Jephthah is “a mighty warrior” but first seeks peace.
4. He explains why they should not go to war appealing to history.
5. “The king of Ammon however paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.” (Judges 11:28)
Jephthah was not a coward. He knew war but he preferred peace. He tried to avoid bloodshed. He was much like the US Civil War General Sherman, infamous for his brutality and determination to win but who also hated war.
But the King of Ammon would have no talk of peace. He was determined to expand his kingdom, to eliminate all opposition regardless of the pain it brought to his people or the bloodshed and loss it might cause. He was self-focused on building a name for himself.
There always have been and always will be wicked, power hungry tyrants who do not value peace, who put their own self interest above that of those they are called to serve and are willing to spill the blood of innocent people without a twinge of guilt. You cannot negotiate with such people nor try to find common ground. They will have none of it. They want what they want and are not concerned with what price others must pay to get it.
If we ignorantly refuse to learn this lesson there will be Ammonite kings, Hitlers, Stalins, Maos, bin Ladens and others who will instruct us in it again and again.
“I am sick and tired of fighting — its glory is all “an illusion”; even success … is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers … it is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.
You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!”
– General William Sherman
Get each new devotional blog sent to your email box by registering in the box in the right column of this page.