The learning window – Jephthah

Jephthah came from an illustrious family that found it difficult to accept him because his mother was a ‘harlot’. He was driven away from his father’s household because his brothers did not want a ‘harlot’s son’ to share in their father’s inheritance. That stigma seemed to make little impression on the whole society though. The elders of the community did not find it difficult asking him to lead them, because he had the credentials to do it. Jephthah became a formidable force not through his illustrious family or social network, but his personal acumen. 

Jephthah was a strong outspoken character, who carried the ‘Gilead’ brand high. He excelled despite the earlier trauma of being reminded that his mother was a harlot. Whatever he did, he did well. 

His integrity level was so high that he refused to lessen his commitment to a pledge, no matter the cost. It is in the spirit of the same commitment to his leadership charge that he refused to allow his close kinship to Ephraimites to stand between him and protecting Israel. To the extent that they failed to support the protection of Israel, he fought a battle against them that led to the massacre of 42,000 Ephraimites. 

Jephthah was highly emotional and his heart sat loudly on his sleeve. Did it contribute to the shortness of his leadership stint? We are not told. But I believe that his emotional responses to the issues of life definitely fed into his greatest weaknesses and strengths. It fed his sense of commitment, passion for a cause, and fierce integrity that would not let him to go against his promises, no matter how much it hurt. It also fed into his getting deeply hurt as he sacrificed the joy of his heart in his leadership role.



Clearly Jephthah valued his family identity as the son of Gilead. Though he seemed to have been chosen to lead Israel on account of his proven leadership skills, that attachment to identity so burned that, he demanded recognition of his family identity in exchange for holding the banner of Israel’s leader. His identity was a treasure to him. Sometimes, the things that motivate us most are the things that hurt us most, or the things we love most. I suspect that Jephthah’s deep need for recognition as his father’s son, and not as a harlot’s son, provided the motivation that led to his stellar career.

He also understood the need for spirituality and a proper relationship with God. He invested in prayer and offering to God and clearly obtained the hand of God in his success. He seemed to be full of emotional intelligence. 


One could not help but admire the oratory, advocacy, and negotiation skills of Jephthah. This was a man well versed in the history of Israel and the exact points of transactions with her neighbours and enemies. He understood the nuanced connection between choices and responses by God, and used this knowledge to direct his leadership conversations. Jephthah was an effective communicator, and a great mobilizer of people. 


Effective leadership takes a potent mix of abilities and attitudes, and not just social position. Secondly, the perfect can be spoilt. With extravagance, negligence, recklessness and lack of mental control. Leadership requires that we carefully balance our emotional, spiritual and social lives. Seeking and handling of power always demands the personal subjugation of the powerful, or you can destroy a perfect situation.

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