Questions for Week 4 – Jephthah
1. Read Judges 10:6-18. Can you find the four steps (rebellion, retribution, repentance, & renewal) that are typical of the pattern of failure and rebound in Judges? Unlike earlier episodes, here there is an extended dialogue between God and the people. What do you make of this exchange?
2. Read Judges 11:1-11. In the first three verses what is the portrait which emerges of the young Jephthah? What are the disadvantages of his upbringing? Any advantages?
3. Verses 4—11 describe the interaction between Jephthah and the elders. Why would either of the sides in this negotiation have concerns? Which side do you find yourself favoring? Why?
4. What do you make of Jephthah’s attempts to make peace both with countries he might pass through and also with the enemy Ammonites (vss. 12-28)? Should he have been more aggressive or was his care in trying to negotiate a good thing? Why? Does his example have anything to say to us as a world military power in the 21st century?
5. In verses 29—33 we have a very brief description of the victory and a longer note about a vow Jephthah makes. What do you make of the vow? Was it needed? What case can you make for Jephthah making a vow before the battle?
6. The remainder of the chapter deals with the result of the vow. Over the centuries, Jewish and Christian commentators generally believe that Jephthah indeed sacrificed the life of his daughter. But a second school of opinion favors the idea that her life wasn’t in danger but her status as a potential mate to carry on the family line (vs. 39). What do you think the writer of Judges is trying to tell us about the vow? Does it make a difference to the meaning of the story if she died or was consigned to perpetual virginity?
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