Fleeing to the “Good” Land

“And the wife of Gilead bore to him sons. And the sons of his wife became great and they drove Jephthah out and said to him, ‘You do not have an inheritance in our father’s house because you are the son of another woman.’ So, Jephthah fled from before his brothers and dwelt in the land to Tob. There, immoral men gathered to Jephthah and went out with him.”

(Judges 11:2-3)

So, very much being the opposite of what took place with the sons of Gideon, the legitimate sons of Gilead rally together and run off Jephthah. And, we are told that Jephthah is exiled in the land of “Tob.” There is a great deal of irony to be found in this because the Hebrew word טוֹב (Tob) means “good.” In other words, he was driven out of the land of his father, which is part of the land of Israel, and he is driven into the “good land.”

The promised land is supposed to be the “good land,” yet, due to the idolatry of the people, it has become a land overrun by the Ammonites and with the presence of these soldiers raiding and pillaging, the land is quite overrun and no longer “good” in any meaningful sense of the term. We should not miss this because it is a testimony of the judgment of God upon the people.

The other interesting, or at least ironic, thing is that while Jephthah is in the “Good Land,” he attracts people to himself that are most definitely not good. The term that is used to describe these men is that they are ריֵק (reyq), which most basically means that they are “empty” or “hollow” men. They are without moral character that would fill them. They are without virtue that would give them substance. They are without God and thus are immoral men, wicked, ruthless, and without life (at least spiritually). What is the irony? In the good land, bad men have been found.

In the account that follows, we will see the kind of man that the people of Israel raise up to deliver them from the Sons of Ammon. God will permit success, but a very pagan success it is. And, indeed, that ought not surprise us given where this man, Jephthah, and his immoral men, grew up. The thing to remember is that God is not pragmatic and he does not expect us to be. We are to be principled as God is principled. And while sometimes God does choose to work in spite of the fact that we followed worldly principles rather than Biblical ones, it always comes at a price, for God works in spite of our actions rather than through them.

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