1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot; and Gilead begot Jephthah.
2 Gilead's wife bore sons; and when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, "You shall have no 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 banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him.
4 It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel.
5 And so it was, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.
6 Then they said to Jephthah, "Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon."
7 So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father's house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?"
8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."
9 So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the LORD delivers them to me, shall I be your head?"
10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "The LORD will be a witness between us, if we do not do according to your words."
11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and
commander over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.
It's amazing how fickle people can be. They drove out Jephthah because he was the son of a harlot, but
now that they were in dire straits they were asking him to save them from their enemies?
Tob was actually pretty far east (about 40 miles) of the Jordan river, deep in Ammonite territory.
Chances are that Jephthah's mother was an Ammonite which would have made it easier for him to
dwell among the Ammonites.
12 Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the people of Ammon, saying, "What do you have against me, that you have come to fight against me in my land?"
13 And the king of the people of Ammon answered the messengers of Jephthah, "Because Israel took away my land when they came up out of Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and to the Jordan. Now therefore, restore those lands peaceably."
14 So Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the people of Ammon,
15 and said to him, "Thus says Jephthah: 'Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the people of Ammon;
16 'for when Israel came up from Egypt, they walked through the wilderness as far as the Red Sea and came to Kadesh.
17 'Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, "Please let me pass through your land." But the king of Edom would not heed. And in like manner they sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained in Kadesh.
18 'And they went along through the wilderness and bypassed the land of Edom and the land of Moab, came to the east side of the land of Moab, and encamped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the border of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab.
19 'Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon; and Israel said to him, "Please let us pass through your land into our place."
20 'But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. So Sihon gathered all his people together, encamped in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.
21 'And the LORD God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. Thus Israel gained possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country.
22 'They took possession of all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.
23 'And now the LORD God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel; should you then possess it?
24 'Will you not possess whatever Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the LORD our God takes possession of before us, we will possess.
25 'And now, are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive against Israel? Did he ever fight against them?
26 'While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and its villages, in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities along the banks of the Arnon, for three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time?
27 'Therefore I have not sinned against you, but you wronged me by fighting against me. May the LORD, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon.'"
28 However, the king of the people of Ammon did not heed the words which Jephthah sent
Jephthah pointedly reminds the Ammonite king that the lands which he claims Israel took from him
originally belonged to the Amorites, not the Ammonites. He reiterated how Israel didn't forcibly take
anyone's land but had sought safe passage through their lands.
Jephthah also states that just as Chemosh their god has given them the land that they dwell in, the Lord
had given Israel the land of Gilead and Bashan as a possession and that the Ammonites should be
happy with what they had.
29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead; and from Mizpah of Gilead he advanced toward the people of Ammon.
30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, "If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands,
31 "then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering."
32 So Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his hands.
33 And he defeated them from Aroer as far as Minnith twenty cities and to Abel Keramim,
with a very great slaughter. Thus the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of
This is a very puzzling (and unthinking) vow that Jephthah made. If he had thought of it, he would have realized that it could very well be a member of his household that would come out to greet him when he returned home.
Remember, the tribe of Manasseh had split in two when Israel came to possess Canaan, with half of the
people staying in Gilead and Bashan on the northeastern side of the Jordan river. Therefore Jephthah
and Israel traveled south along the eastern bank of the Jordan to engage the Ammonites.
34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter.
35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot go back on it."
36 So she said to him, "My father, if you have given your word to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon."
37 Then she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I."
38 So he said, "Go." And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains.
39 And it was so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man. And it became a custom in Israel
40 that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah
There is much controversy over whether or not he actually offered up his daughter as he had vowed to
do. The clue however is found in verse 39, in which it says that she "knew no man", in other words, she
remained a virgin, dedicated to the Lord for the rest of her life. It is reasonably speculated that she
served in the tabernacle for the rest of her life, but there is no further information to show this.
She was his only child and his only hope of grandchildren to continue his line, and because of his foolish
vow, his lineage would end with him. But he had made a vow to the Lord, and he could not go back on
But she couldn't have been made a burnt offering to God (called 'passing through the fire'), for this was an abomination to Him and He would never have accepted such an offering;Deuteronomy 18:9-12
9 "When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,
11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.