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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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6-5.  Jephthah and Ammon (Jud. 11)

The latter-day typology of Gideon and Midian outlines how the Southern area of Israel will be invaded in the last days, and the people of that area brought to an acceptable level of commitment to Messiah so that they can be used by God to defeat their enemies.   The record of Jephthah refers to the land of Gilead on Israel's Eastern flank, and the threat posed by Ammon, the Arab nation directly to the East of Israel.  It may be possible to interpret Ammon with reference to Syria in the last days.

At the time of the particular invasion recorded, Israel had repented:  " The children of Israel said unto the Lord, We have sinned:  do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee;  deliver us only...and his (God's) soul was grieved for the misery of Israel" (Jud. 10:15,16).   Straight after this, " the children of Ammon were gathered together" to attack.  The people were " sore distressed" after an extended period of devastation at the hands of these people (Jud. 10:8,9), as they will be in the last days before they come to repent.   It would appear from this type that after their repentance they will be faced with a final Arab onslaught, and then tested as to whether they will really put their faith in Jephthah - Jesus.

Type of Christ

Jephthah had been " despised and rejected of men" during the time of Israel's suffering.  In this and many other ways he is a clear type of Christ:-

-  Jephthah reminded the " elders of Gilead" who were now seeking his help, " Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house?" (Jud. 11:7).  The Hebrew for " expel" is also translated 'thrust out';  Jesus was 'thrust out' from his native town (Luke 4:29) as Jephthah was from Gilead.   It was " the elders" who were also responsible for Christ's rejection.

-  He was despised as " the son of a strange woman" (Jud. 11:2) as Jesus was accused of being born out of wedlock (John 8:41).

-  He was a " man of valour" (Jud. 11:1), a word also translated " virtue" , and coming from a root meaning 'to whirl around'.  This may possibly suggest a connection with the cherubim, as if through their righteousness (" virtue" ), Jephthah and Jesus were a manifestation of God.

-  Jephthah's fair point to Israel, " Why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?" (Jud. 11:7) could have been the words of God, showing how Jephthah closely manifested God - as Jesus did.

-  Having been rejected by his brethren, Jephthah " dwelt in the land of Tob" (Jud. 11:3), a word which can mean 'heaven'.   Our Lord's return from heaven in response to Israel's plea for help clearly echoes this.

-  During his time there, " there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him" (Jud. 11:3) to effect Israel's deliverance.   " Vain" translates a word which can mean 'emptied, poured out, drawn out' - a fair description of those who have been gathered to Christ by the Gospel's call.

The end result of Israel's suffering at the hand of Ammon was that they realized their desperate need for a firm leader.   Both the ordinary people, and what remains of their leadership in the last days, will be unanimous in this same conclusion:  " The people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead" (Jud. 10:18).   The fact that they then asked Jephthah to be this " head" (Jud. 11:8) would suggest that secretly they knew all along who they should follow.   The Jewish conscience regarding Jesus will be similar.   The collapse of infrastructure in Israel which we have outlined previously, indicates a complete collapse of Israel's leadership - Isa. 3:2-5 implies that no one in Israel will even want to be their leader, such will be the desperate personal plight of every Jew left in the land.

Hos. 1:10,11 alludes back to Israel's choosing of Jephthah as their head, implying that their choosing of Christ will be at the time of their national acceptance by God:  " It shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.   Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together (cp " the children of Israel assembled themselves together" to choose a leader to fight Ammon, Jud. 10:17), and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land (Exodus language - as if their suffering in their own land will match what they experienced in Egypt):  for great shall be the day of Jezreel" - where Gideon won his great victory over the Arabs, which prefigured that of the last days (Jud. 6:33). This confirms our view that the final Ammonite attack prefigures the very last threat to Israel, which will come immediately after their repentance.

Sequence of events

A careful analysis of the sequence of events hints that Israel will still be reluctant to accept Christ, even after their 'repentance', in the sense of accepting that they need to make a serious return to God:-

-  Israel 'repent' (Jud. 10:15,16) after prolonged suffering at the hand of Ammon.

-  They agree that they must choose a leader (Jud. 10:18).

-  " The children of Ammon made war" is emphasized twice (Jud. 11:4,5), using a word which really means 'to eat down', as a cow does to a field.   This tremendous physical carnage in the land (a result of biological weapons?) prompts them to " fetch Jephthah (Jesus) out of the land of Tob" (heaven).

As their acceptance of Jephthah was more than a last resort, so Israel's recalling of Christ from Heaven will only be after a final tribulation, which comes after their reaching the point of 'repentance' from idol worship.   This two-fold repentance, firstly of straying from God and secondly of rejecting Christ, is something to watch for in other study.   It may be typically significant that Elijah was from Gilead (1 Kings 17:1), as was Jephthah, showing that Israel's coming to repentance, in the typology of Judges 11, will be due to the work of the Elijah prophet.

There is a theme in the book of Judges of a prophet or Angel appearing in Israel to remind them of their sins, followed by the revealing of a judge/saviour.   This points forward to the future work of Elijah before the return of Christ.

Links with Goliath

There are at least two links between this record and that of Goliath's destruction, which is also typical of the final victory over the Arabs by reason of Christ's return from Heaven.   Jephthah was met with dances of rejoicing after the victory, as was David (Jud. 11:34), and Israel seeking a man to lead them against Ammon has similarities with their search for a champion to fight Goliath (Jud. 10:18).

The following verse-by-verse comments complete the picture:-

Jud. 11:5   Tob being in Ammon, Israel's reluctance to recall Jephthah from there may have been due to a wrong perception that he was on the Arab side.   If Islam and Christianity continue to move together, this may be another temptation for Israel to be nervous at accepting Jesus.

11:12,13  As Jephthah briefly appealed to the Arabs to see  Biblical sense before destroying them, will Christ do likewise?   He will " plead with them" in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2).   A remnant of repentant Philistines will be rulers in the Millennium (Zech. 9:5-7);  other hints that some Arabs will repent are found in Isa. 19:23-25 (" Assyria the work of my hands" implies they will be the subjects of a new spiritual creation);  Isa. 14:1,2 (those who took Israel captive will willingly be their slaves in the Millennium).

11:13   Ammon justified their invasion by a quasi-Biblical argument, based on their claim that " Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt" .   Jephthah replied by saying that because God had dispossessed Ammon then, they should not keep raising this old land question (Jud. 11:23).   Yet this issue of who really owns the land of Israel is as live now as it was then, and indicates once again how the final Arab invasion will use this sort of argument to justify it.

11:27  " The Lord the Judge be judge this day between the  children of Israel and the children of Ammon."   The Jew/Arab question will be finally settled in this last conflict which is prefigured here.

11:33  Jephthah " smote them...unto the plain of the vineyards" - connecting with descriptions of Christ ministering judgment on Israel's enemies in terms of the treading of a winepress (Isa. 63:3; Rev. 14:19;  19:15).

Joshua’s Conquest

Joshua’s conquest of the Canaanite tribes inevitably looks forward to the work of his greater namesake at the second coming. Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem, is replete with reference to the latter day anti-Christ figure who will rule there in the last days. He leads a confederacy of Arab nations against Joshua-Jesus, and is destroyed with hailstones (Josh. 10:11)- an event which is the basis for the latter day prophecy of Rev. 16:21. Joshua’s men placing their feet upon the necks of their enemies (Josh. 10:24) is the prototype of all enemies being subdued under the Lord in the last day; and the way “the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel at this time (Josh. 10:42) is the basis of many latter day statements to the same effect.