12 Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, “What is between you and me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 The king of the sons of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel took away my land when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and the Jordan; therefore, return them peaceably now.” 14 But Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the sons of Ammon, 15 and they said to him, “Thus says Jephthah, ‘Israel did not take away the land of Moab nor the land of the sons of Ammon. 16 For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the [g]Red Sea and came to Kadesh, 17 then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Please let us pass through your land,” but the king of Edom would not listen. And they also sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. 18 Then they went through the wilderness and around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east side of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon; but they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. 19 And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, “Please let us pass through your land to our place.” 20 But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people and camped in Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 The Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they [h]defeated them; so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 So they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan. 23 Since now the Lord, the God of Israel, drove out the Amorites from before His people Israel, are you then to possess it? 24 Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God has driven out before us, we will possess it. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive with Israel, or did he ever fight against them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me; may the Lord, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.’” 28 But the king of the sons of Ammon [i]disregarded the message which Jephthah sent him.
It’s interesting that the history of two of Israel’s kindred come into the light here. The “sons of Ammon” and the Moabites were both descended from Lot and his daughters, Lot being the nephew of Abraham, the patriarch of all Israel.
When Israel first journeyed to the promised land from Egypt, they were careful not to attack the Edomites (also their relatives), the Moabites or the Ammonites. However, we know already that the Moabites were not content with that, and attacked Israel anyway, and now the Ammonites were doing the same thing.
Of course, they are now many generations removed, but their main problem is that they did not continue to follow God. They turned aside to idols and to their own ways. The Israelites, though they had turned away also, were now trying to serve God once more.
With all that said, the lesson is simple. Don’t fight against God. Jephthah knew that ultimately God had given them the land they now possessed. And if He wanted them to keep it, they would. If not, nothing they could do with stop God’s plan from being fulfilled. So even though he defends their position on historical grounds, he ultimately invokes the judgment of God to determine who should keep the land that was being disputed.
When we find ourselves harassed or under attack, trust in God. He will be faithful to those who follow Him, and loves even those who do not, so that He will take whatever means necessary to bring them back to Himself. No one can thwart God’s plan, so follow it, and you’ll find true life and peace.