Judges 9:5 [Abimelek] went to his father’s home . . . and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers.
After Gideon died, his son Abimelek wanted to be king. But Gideon had seventy other sons who might be willing to challenge him. So Abimelek killed most of them, and began his terrible reign. When the town of Shechem turned against Abimelek, he slaughtered many of them as well. Those who survived fled to a tower, which Abimelek set on fire, burning a thousand people to death (Judges 9:49).
Then he attacked another town that also had a tower. But when he tried to burn it down, a woman on the roof dropped a stone on his head, fatally wounding him (Judges 9:53). As Abimelek was dying, he commanded his servant to kill him with a sword, so it could not be said that he died at the hands of a woman. This is how Abimelek perished—just three years into his reign.
Some people love power so much that they will do anything to get it and keep it. Abimelek was powerless to keep himself alive, however, and he died a young man. This is different from Jesus Christ who refused to be made king (John 6:15), and laid down his life for us. Many kings have killed their own people, but Jesus died for his people. He is the kind of king we need most.
Judges 11:1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute.
Jephthah’s father had other sons by his legal wife, but they rejected Jephthah. He could have become bitter, or filled with self-pity, but he chose to go on with his life. Over time, in fact, Jephthah became such an effective warrior that his people asked him to be their commander. The outcast was suddenly the leader.
This also reminds us of Jesus Christ, who was conceived outside of marriage (Luke 1:26-38), and was rejected by his people (John 1:11). But now he is our leader, and will return to rule the world (Revelation 19:14-16). The one who was rejected will be ruler over all (Revelation 19:16).
Judges 11:29 [Jephthah] advanced against the Ammonites.
This battle was so important that Jephthah made a vow to God. If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering (Judges 11:30-31), he said.
Animals were often kept in houses, so Jephthah may have had a goat in mind. But when he returned victorious, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter (Judges 11:34).
Now Jephthah had a problem. When a man makes a vow to the Lord . . . he must not break his word but must do everything he said (Numbers 30:2), wrote Moses. And, If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you (Deuteronomy 23:21), wrote Moses again. Likewise, It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it (Ecclesiastes 5:5), wrote Solomon. As far as Jephthah knew, there was no way out of his vow.
Judges 11:35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.
Jephthah’s daughter could hardly believe her ears. Would she really have to die because of her father’s vow? Tragically, yes. Young as she was, she graciously accepted the sentence of death. After two months of grieving, she became a human sacrifice. Worst of all, it did not have to be that way.
Jephthah knew enough of the Bible to take his vow seriously, but not enough to know that child sacrifice was forbidden. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter (Deuteronomy 18:10), wrote Moses.
God had also made provision for foolish vows. [I]f anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil . . . they must confess in what way they have sinned. As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering (Leviticus 5:4-6), wrote Moses.
Jephthah had good intentions when he made his vow, but should not have killed his daughter. Breaking his vow would have been a sin, but it was not as bad as child sacrifice. Whenever we have to choose between two sins, we should choose the lesser. Then we should pray for God’s forgiveness, and trust that Jesus’ death was sufficient payment for whatever we have done. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), wrote John. This is not an empty promise, but the word of God to repentant sinners.
Judges 13:1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.
Once again the nation found itself in trouble due to their sin. And once again, God raised up a deliverer in the person of Samson. He became an epic warrior capable of killing a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15).
Judges 13:2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth.
Like Isaac, Jacob, Samuel and John the Baptist, Samson’s parents were childless. They probably prayed for years that God would give them a baby. Then one day, the angel of the Lord appeared, and told them they would have a son. He was to be raised as a Nazarite (Judges 13:3-5), which meant he should never drink wine, never cut his hair, and never go near a corpse (Numbers 6:1-21). He was to be uniquely devoted to God in this way.
Judges 13:15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.
Unaware of the angel’s true identity, Manoah and his wife wanted to entertain him by providing a meal. But the angel requested a burnt offering instead. As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame (Judges 13:16). Then Manoah and his wife realized the angel of the Lord was God himself (Judges 13:22).
This is probably an appearance of Jesus Christ before his incarnation, which is technically called a Christophany. Since Jesus taught that the Old Testament is about him (John 5:39, Luke 24:27, 44), whenever God appears in physical form it is probably Jesus Christ.
Other examples include God walking in the Garden with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8), the commander of the army of the Lord, who appeared to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15), and the man who appeared in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who looked like a son of the gods (Daniel 3:25).
This idea can also be argued from the fact that there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5), wrote Paul. As the angel ascended in the flame (Judges 13:16), not to be seen again, Jesus concluded his earthly ministry by ascending into heaven (Acts 1:9). The Old and New Testaments make up a single book of which Jesus Christ is the central figure.
Reflection and Review
Does power make people corrupt?
What should Christians do when they have to choose between two sins?
What is a Christophany?