“Now, Yiphthah was a Gileadite and a mighty warrior. He was the son of a woman who was a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah.”
Now we are introduced to the “great warrior” that will soon lead the people into battle. Yet, unlike the previous Judges, there is not the phrase, “God raised up.” Instead, the people are choosing their leader. Further, isn’t it interesting the contrast as to what it is for which the people are looking. In the past, God raises up Judges who are men (and a woman) of character and integrity — not who are primarily known for their military prowess. Think of Gideon, the “Mighty Man of Valor” hiding in the winepress to thresh his grain. Indeed, Man judges by what is exterior, but God judges the heart.
So, the people make the prime mistake of seeking a man of their own choosing, whose character is questionable, which we will soon discover. What we know thus far is that this Jephthah was the illegitimate son of Gilead and a prostitute. The region of Gilead, which takes its name from Jephthah’s father and Grandfather — making Jephthah the great-grandson of Manasseh (Numbers 26:29). Thus, Gilead lay on the east side of the Jordan River and acted as buffer and first protection against invasion. It should be noted that Jair was also a Gileadite and he judged with integrity, so the whole area was not compromised to idolatry…yet.
And so, the people are looking to the son of a prostitute for deliverance. Enough years have gone by that clearly no one remembers just how disastrous that was when Abimelech was raised up in a similar way. And, in many ways, that is our constant problem not just in the church, but in the culture as well. People often say that they don’t care about the past, but such a mindset will always lead the people down a road like this. We must not forget. True, we cannot live in the past, but if the decisions that we make today are not informed by the past, we will fall repeatedly into their errors.