Prophet Pearls #39 – Chukat (Judges 11:1-33)

In this episode of Prophet Pearls, Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson discuss the Prophets portion for Chukat covering Judges 11:1-33. Gordon and Johnson draw parallels between events in this portion and current diplomatic strategies over the land of Israel. For a clearer understanding of Jephthah, the exiled son of a prostitute who brings deliverance to Israel, Gordon provides a summary of the history, religions, and geography of the Ammonites and Moabites. This portion provides an example of properly translating “malach”—where only context determines if it’s “angel” or “messenger.” Gordon and Johnson point out the striking word play found with the word-of-the-week yihyeh “he will be” (yud-hei-yud-hei). Gordon reads from Deuteronomy concerning the seriousness of vowing to Yehovah and provides rabbinical interpretations of Jephthah’s tragic vow.

Gordon closes by offering Jephthah as a good example of how to talk to pagans—by finding common ground and speaking with empathy. He also notes the power and peace that can be found during conflicts by praying Jephthah’s closing words to the king of the Ammonites, “The Lord, the Judge, decide this day between [us].”

"...we will hold on to everything that Yehovah our God has given us to possess." Judges 11:24

I look forward to reading your comments!

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17 thoughts on “Prophet Pearls #39 – Chukat (Judges 11:1-33)

  1. In the rich Norwegian fairytails there are a lot of influence from the Bible. The trolls against the “least” person who is friendly and by that gets friends to help him, or more, he is much smarter than his outer appearance shows. Three and seven are numbers used, the good conquers the bad and so forth. Even the Norwegian mythology has many elements, even from the book of Revelation (Ragnarok and the new world f.ex.)

  2. The problem with Jephthah’s mother being a prostitute is, they can’t be sure who the father of her children is. And if they can’t be sure his father is Gilead, then Jephthah has no rightful share in Gilead’s inheritance. That’s why Jephthah’s mother being a prostitute is mentioned and is relevant. If you can’t prove patrimony, then you can’t inherit from the father’s estate. If she was actively engaging in prostitution, there is a valid question as to who the father of her child(ren) is (are). Hence his half-brothers drove him out. They weren’t convinced Jephthah’s father was Gilead.

  3. David’s oath (1 Samuel 25:22) to shed innocent blood, was not carried out (1 Samuel 25:32-34); I don’t know why Jephthah’s oath to shed innocent blood couldn’t have been nullified. Something doesn’t make sense here.

  4. Jephthah spoke to the Moabites (Edomites?) about their god, I think in a derisive way. “Having a problem with your god giving you land?” he said, in effect. “We aren’t.” Like that.

  5. In USA law, a contract is void if it proposes something illegal. And in Jewish law a father can void his unmarried daughter’s contracts. But beyond that I don’t know of any voiding that can be done. Nehemia probably would have mentioned it.

  6. Also, in regard to making a vow, as a young Christian I read the passage on vowing to Yehovah with its admonition to NOT break the vow for it would be a sin in His sight.
    I was a smoker at the time and on New Year’s eve I wound up in the hospital with the diagnosis of pneumonia. On Jan 1st 1981, I prayed to God to heal my lungs with the vow that I’d never smoke again. I was too afraid to even think of picking up a cigarette, so when the urges started I chewed gum, or hard candy, and prayed until I got through the 3 months of withdrawals.
    I encourage any reader of this note to take His Word seriously for He is worthy of our obedience!

  7. I think that I’m confused. First, blessings to all who brought us this prophet reading. Thank you Nehemia and Keith!!! I am glad this reading was told because it is a great reminder about vowing foolishly. However, my thinking is that a vow would be rendered null and void if it goes against God’s Laws such as sacrificing people, therefore, God would never accept such a vow and/ or sacrifice. Am I right or wrong about this?

  8. What is so enlightening is what Keith said of the “harlot” being of difficult background, ties in with what Mark Call said in his program that “Wisdom arrives through suffering”! Keith, that is such wonderful insight!
    Toda for both you and Nehemia’s Prophet Pearls, which are amazing, very rich.

  9. As to Keith’s whining about where the portions begin or end, go back to the Torah Portion and the lesson that it is to enhance. Jephthah recounts the events in the Torah Portion and receives victory in battle, by way of Yehovah. Jephthah’s vow would be a distraction to the Torah Portion, as it is here.

    Jephthah made a rash vow that could only be validated if a clean animal were to come out of his house. An unclean animal (dog, cat, pig) would not be acceptable as an offering to Yehovah and certainly not a human soul. If Jephthah had sacrificed his daughter, he would be guilty of murder — and idolatry, if his god would accept human sacrifice or if his god placed such significance upon honoring a vow, as to taking an innocent life for fulfillment.

    Had he sought the council of Yehovah’s Priests in the 60 days of his daughter’s reprieve, he would have learned of his folly. Jephthah was not in a Torah state of mind to even rebuke his daughter’s vow of celibacy.

    Yehovah never acknowledges this vow, yea or nay (from my reading). Had it come to murdering his daughter, I imagine Yehovah would have stepped in. I doubt Yehovah would have given him victory in subsequent battles, had he literally, sacrificed his daughter.

    • So funny guys, my family is watching “A Few Good Men” while I’m listening to this.

      This story is always so hard for me. I always don’t understand it. Why would Jephthah make such an oath. It’s like you are forcing yourself over a cliff and when you get to the edge there’s no avoiding it.

      And I’m so glad that Keith pointed out sometimes we get caught up in a moment and in that moment what we are exposed to influences (our exposure exposes us) us even if in our heart of hearts we know better.

      This says to me, watch your exposure.

      Thanks, guys, another great session.

      Hey do you have a candle in that cave? LOLz

  10. What wondrous things in this study! I found the,discussion on making a vow to YHVH so enlightening from what I was always taught about taking YHVH’s name in vain. What richness there is in the Hebrew language and how much we have missed from not knowing the true interpretation of YAH’s Words! What amazed me was how much more understanding that brings to Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 5:33-37. He is quoting Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:3;Deuteronomy 23:22-24. Since you studied Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew, can you shed further light on this passage in Matthew? Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of the Tanakh with us. This journey into YAH’s Word is Amazing!

  11. I tent to believe that Jephthah only offered his daughter to be single single the rest of her life, otherwise why the Word says that she went to bewailed her virginity on the mountains ” and “she knew no man.”. On the other hand it could be that although Israel worshiped YHWH they also at times served other gods, as Nehemiah has spoken of in the past, and that her father has actually burned her alive. I want to believe that he did not do that.

  12. Two questions: I am no Hebrew scholar, however from the studies I have made the word ‘and’ I will offer it up as an olah. The vav can also mean ‘or’? “…or I will offer it as an olah”.

    The second question: Lev. 27:1-5 Would this apply to the vow of Yiptah?
    Leviticus 27:2-5 2 Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When anyone explicitly vows to YHVH the equivalent for a human being, 3 the following scale shall apply: If it is a male from twenty to sixty years of age, the equivalent is fifty shekels of silver by the sanctuary weight; 4 if it is a female, the equivalent is thirty shekels. 5 If the age is from five years to twenty years, the equivalent is twenty shekels for a male and ten shekels for a female.

    His daughter was Yiptah’s only child. If she was dedicated to YHVH so no marriage, no descendants. She bewailed her maidenhood…she knew no man”. This seems strange information if the girl was to be killed and burned.

    Thanks for all you do.

  13. Where verse 27 says “Jehovah, the Judge, be judge “, reenforces what we saw last week in 1 Sam. 12:12,” ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king.” God was (and is) the leader the whole time whether He was recognized as such or not.

  14. Question: When a person makes a “vow” that Yehovah doesn’t require or is contrary to what would seem right, or is in haste, then they “see the error” of that vow, like here: Could that person somehow renounce that vow.??? Repent of making that kind of vow?? Man, he sacrificed his daughter??? Wouldn’t Yehovah have “stepped in” and said “whoa wait a minute, you want to step back and rethink that one”, or “lets think about the consequences and rescind that vow”: I totally understand the but wow, this one is just over the top….

    • Some of my statement is missing:

      totally understand :be careful with your words, vows etc, but wow this one is just over the top. (okay, now its complete ) (sorry havent figured out how to edit comments)

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