After Abimelech died, this guy Tola from Issachar took over. Then Jair from Gilead. And he had 30 kids who rode on 30 donkeys, which I guess was a big thing.
And after they died, Israel and God decide to start fighting again. They want to see other gods, He wants punch them a few times, so the Philistines oppress them and the Ammonites oppress them
And the people cried out to God and God said, “Hmm… the entire region is destabilized. It’s almost as if invading a foreign land and trying to occupy it causes all sorts of problems for the occupiers. Nah, I’m just kidding. You keep going to Ba’al orgies. So why don’t you go ask Ba’al for deliverance, huh? Since you love him so much.”
So they threw out their Ba’al statues and stopped the orgies and said to God, “Pleeeeeeeeease?”
And God said, “Okay…”
They are totally that couple that everyone knows who fights constantly and treats each other like crap and nobody knows why they’re still together, and everyone has told them to just file for divorce and move on and be happy, but they keep staying together because they like the toxic drama.
There was a man named Jephthah whose mother was a prostitute. So his brothers kicked him out of the city because they didn’t want to share their inheritance. And he became a bandit king.
As the war with Ammon starts, the Israelites say, “Hey, remember that bandit king that used to live with us? He should lead the army.”
“Screw you guys,” Jephthah said.
“Pretty pleeeeeeease,” they said.
“Fine, but I get to be king over you.”
So they make Jephthah their clan leader and he sends messengers to the Ammonites asking, “What’s up? Why is your army in my lands?”
“It’s our lands that you stole from us!” they replied.
Imagine that, a land dispute in the Middle East. How bizarre!
“Look, we didn’t take your land. God gave it to us. We just had to kill every single Ammonite here and we now live in their cities, but we didn’t take the land.”
Somehow, the Ammonites don’t find that very convincing. So the war is on.
So the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Jephthah and he leads the army down to fight Ammon and makes a vow along the way. “Hey, God, if I win this war, the first thing that comes out of my house, I’ll kill and burn it for You, Big Guy.”
And the Lord said, “What?! Are you serious? No. Just no. Think about that for a moment. Best case scenario, your dog runs out of the house to lick your face and now you’ve got to kill it. Worst case, your wife or daughter run out of the house… what is wrong with you?”
“I’m… I’m not really that fond of my wife…” he said.
Ah, kidding… kidding… God says nothing. Jephthah wins the battle, comes home and his daughter runs out of the house. He rips his clothes in anguish and cries out, “Well, that sucks!” (paraphrase). His daughter though, knows her role as property and, after a few months to make peace with it, lets him lead her to an altar.
“Surely, God will send an angel to stop my hand and substitute a ram,” Jephthah thought.
He tied her to the altar.
“Any second now, God will stop this and we’ll all have a good laugh…”
He lifts the knife.
“God’s obviously just waiting for the big dramatic moment before he stops me…”
And he kills his daughter. God does not intervene. Nor is God particularly pissed off about it, it seems.
So, the lesson to take away from these two chapters: orgies are bad, but child killing is kind of okay to God.
Obviously, I’m being sarcastic. Don’t kill your children.
So the men of Ephraim come by again and say, “Why did you go out killing people without calling us? Now we’ve missed out on all the killing!”
Jephthah said, “I did call you, you jerks. You told me to sod off. Also, I just killed my daughter, so I’m not in the mood for your crap.”
Then Jephthah attacked the men of Ephraim and routed them and they used the Ephraimites’ dialect to identify them and they killed 42,000 men. Yeah, it kind of does seem like God is giving everyone a HUGE waiver on the whole “Thou shalt not commit murder” command.
Then he died six years later.
Then Ibzan became the chieftain and he had a lot of sons and daughters. And he died.
Then Elon became chieftain and he died.
Then Abdon became the chieftain and the author is really fixated on how many donkeys these guys rode. But he died. And we get Samson next. Oh, that will be a fun one.