Jephthah Delivers Israel
1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor; he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father. 2 And Gilead’s wife bore him sons who grew up, drove Jephthah out, and said to him, “You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, because you are the son of another woman.”
3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where worthless men gathered around him and traveled with him.
4 Some time later, when the Ammonites fought against Israel 5 and made war with them, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 “Come,” they said, “be our commander, so that we can fight against the Ammonites.”
7 Jephthah replied to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and expel me from my father’s house? Why then have you come to me now, when you are in distress?”
8 They answered Jephthah, “This is why we now turn to you, that you may go with us, fight the Ammonites, and become leader over all of us who live in Gilead.”
9 But Jephthah asked them, “If you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me, will I really be your leader?”
10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The LORD is our witness if we do not do as you say.”
11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their leader and commander. And Jephthah repeated all his terms in the presence of the LORD at Mizpah.
12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites, saying, “What do you have against me that you have come to fight against my land?”
13 The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah’s messengers, “When Israel came up out of Egypt, they seized my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and all the way to the Jordan. Now, therefore, restore it peaceably.”
14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 to tell him, “This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or of the Ammonites. 16 But when Israel came up out of Egypt, they traveled through the wilderness to the Red Sea a 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. They also sent messengers to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel stayed in Kadesh.
18 Then Israel traveled through the wilderness and bypassed the lands of Edom and Moab. They came to the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, since the Arnon was its border.
19 And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land into our own place.’ 20 But Sihon would not trust Israel to pass through his territory. So he gathered all his people, encamped in Jahaz, and fought with Israel.
21 Then the LORD, the God of Israel, delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, who defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites who inhabited that country, 22 seizing all the land from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.
23 Now since the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven out the Amorites from before His people Israel, should you now possess it? 24 Do you not possess whatever your god Chemosh grants you? So also, we possess whatever the LORD our God has granted us. 25 Are you now so much better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend with Israel or fight against them?
26 For three hundred years Israel has lived in Heshbon, Aroer, and their villages, as well as all the cities along the banks of the Arnon. Why did you not take them back during that time? 27 I have not sinned against you, but you have done me wrong by waging war against me. May the LORD, the Judge, decide today between the Israelites and the Ammonites.”
28 But the king of the Ammonites paid no heed to the message Jephthah sent him.
Jephthah’s Tragic Vow
29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, then through Mizpah of Gilead. And from there he advanced against the Ammonites.
30 Jephthah made this vow to the LORD: “If indeed You will deliver the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out the door of my house to greet me on my triumphant return from the Ammonites will belong to the LORD, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”
32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his hand. 33 With a great blow he devastated twenty cities from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel-keramim. So the Ammonites were subdued before the Israelites.
34 And when Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, there was his daughter coming out to meet him with tambourines and dancing! She was his only child; he had no son or daughter besides her.
35 As soon as Jephthah saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “No! Not my daughter! You have brought me to my knees! You have brought great misery upon me, for I have given my word to the LORD and cannot take it back.”
36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me as you have said, for the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites.” 37 She also said to her father, “Let me do this one thing: Let me wander for two months through the mountains with my friends and mourn my virginity.”
38 “Go,” he said. And he sent her away for two months.
So she left with her friends and mourned her virginity upon the mountains. 39 After two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she had never had relations with a man.
So it has become a custom in Israel 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.
16 a Or the Sea of Reeds