Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.
The book of Judges takes a moment to highlight the cyclical nature of the Israelites’ rebellion (Judges 10:6-16) and how that rebellion results in hardness of heart — the Israelites cry out in verse 10 but do not repent until verse 16 and we are not told how much time lapsed between recognition of the problem and repentance.
After the Israelites repent of their idolatry, the Gileadites have a little thing that they need to repent of, as well. There was a man named Jephthah whom the Gileadites had run out of town because his mother was a prostitute. Jephthah is described as a mighty man of valor and the Gileadites had plenty of reason to wish they had not run him out of town. The Gileadites make Jephthah their leader and Jephthah proceeds to send a message to the king of the Ammonites and speaks truth to power. The king of the Ammonites demanded that the Israelites “give back” land that they had “stolen” from the Ammonites. The land in question had previously belonged to the Amorites and Jephthah points this out. The Ammonite king refuses to listen and is soundly trounced (Judges 11:12-33).
Jephthah has some parallels with plenty of other people in The Bible. The fact that worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah is a parallel to King David, who also had the dregs of society gather around him (1 Samuel 22:2) and those people who gathered together with David were the ones who would go on to become David’s Mighty Men and accomplish amazing victories. Jesus’ disciples were not the cream of the crop either. Among the people who followed Jesus around were insurrectionists and tax collectors, prostitutes and people who had been demonized, thieves and fishermen. As Jesus Himself put it, I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32).
Like Jesus, Jephthah was rejected by those he would eventually deliver. Jephthah was hated and scorned because of his parentage (Judges 11:2). Jesus was also scorned for His apparent parentage — people thinking that Mary and Joseph just could not keep their hands off of one another until after the vows (Mark 6:1-6) — and hated for His actual parentage — the Son of God (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-18).
Any parallels beyond these feel like I am trying to force things and I do not want to try to shape The Bible to fit my ideas, but the other way around.
The application for me is that I need together together with Jesus. I am one of those worthless fellows who should be gathering to Christ. Society sees no value in some people, but Jesus saw enough value in each and every one to hang on the cross to save us. I may be worth nothing in some peoples’ eyes, but in God’s eyes I am worth any price — and He proved that at the cross.
Father, thank You that You see a worth to every person that is not always perceived by society. Thank You for caring enough to demonstrate that worth by purchasing us back from our bondage to sin by dying on the cross. Please keep me gathered to You; following You closely.