11 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. Gilead was Jephthah’s father.
2 And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when his wife’s sons grew up, they thrust Jephthah out and said to him, You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.
3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men gathered around Jephthah and went on raids with him.
4 And after a time, the Ammonites made war against Israel.
5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah out of the land of Tob;
6 And they said to Jephthah, Come and be our leader, that we may fight with the Ammonites.
7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in trouble?
8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, This is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight the Ammonites and be our head over all the citizens of Gilead.
9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites and the Lord gives them over to me, [understand that] I will be your head.
10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, The Lord is witness between us, if we do not do as you have said.
11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah repeated all he had promised before the Lord at Mizpah.
12 And Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites, saying, What have you to do with me, that you have come against me to fight in my land?
13 The Ammonites’ king replied to the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land [which was not true] when they came up out of Egypt [300 years before], from the Arnon even to Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore, restore those lands peaceably.
14 And Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the Ammonites
15 And said to him, Thus says Jephthah, Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites.
16 But when [Israel] came up from Egypt, [they] walked through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh.
17 Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, Let us, we pray, pass through your land, but the king of Edom would not listen. Also they sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.
18 Then they went through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon; but they came not within the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab.
19 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, Let us pass, we pray you, through your land to our country.
20 But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.
21 And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them; so Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.
22 They possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon even to the Jabbok, and from the wilderness even to the Jordan.
23 So now the Lord God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel, and should you possess them?
24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all the Lord our God dispossessed before us, we will possess.
25 Now are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive against Israel or did he ever go to war with them?
26 While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities along the banks of the Arnon for 300 years, why did you not recover [your lost lands] during that time?
27 So I have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong to war against me. The Lord, the [righteous] Judge, judge this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.
28 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the message Jephthah sent him.
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.
30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, If You will indeed give the Ammonites into my hand,
31 Then whatever or whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it or him up as a burnt offering.
32 Then Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight with them, and the Lord gave them into his hand.
33 And from Aroer to Minnith he smote them, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-cheramim [the meadow of vineyards], with a very great slaughter. So the Ammonites were subdued before the Israelites.
34 Then Jephthah came to Mizpah to his home, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances! And she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
35 And when he saw her, he rent his clothes and said, Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are the cause of great trouble to me; for I have opened my mouth [in a vow] to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.
36 And she said to him, My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what you have vowed, since the Lord has taken vengeance for you on your enemies, the Ammonites.
37 And she said to her father, Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go and wander upon the mountains and bewail my virginity, I and my companions.
38 And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months, and she went with her companions and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
39 At the end of two months she returned to her father, who [a]did with her according to his vow which he had vowed. She never mated with a man. This became a custom in Israel—
40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to mourn the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
- Judges 11:39 Scholars fail to agree as to what Jephthah really did. For example, “This plain and restrained statement that ‘he did with her according to his vow’ is best taken as implying her actual sacrifice. Although human sacrifice was strictly forbidden to Israelites, we need not be surprised at a man of Jephthah’s half-Canaanite antecedents following Canaanite usage in this matter” (F. Davidson, ed., The New Bible Commentary). And, “Although the lapse of two months might be supposed to have afforded time for reflection and a better sense of his duty, there is but too much reason to conclude that he was impelled to the fulfillment by the dictates of a pious but unenlightened conscience” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset and David Brown, A Commentary). And, “The religious system of Israel had fallen into suspension. From the days of Phinehas (Judg. 20:28) to the time of Samuel, we hear nothing of the high priest, the ark or the tabernacle” (The Cambridge Bible). On the other hand, J.P. Lange (A Commentary) articulates the position of many scholars when he calls attention to stories in Greek mythology in which the virginity of a goddess was celebrated by Greek maidens with song and dance. Summing up, Lange says, “At all events, it does not ‘stand there in the text,’ as Luther wrote, that she was offered in sacrifice.” And the fact that the maidens mourned her virginity and not her death seems to prove that she did not die.