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11 Now Yiftach, a brave soldier from Gil‘ad, was the son of a prostitute. His father, Gil‘ad, had other sons by his wife; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Yiftach away and told him, “You will not inherit from our father, because you are another woman’s son.” Then Yiftach fled from his brothers and lived in the territory of Tov, where he enlisted a gang of rowdies who would go out raiding with him.

After a while the people of ‘Amon made war against Isra’el. When the army of ‘Amon attacked Isra’el, the leaders of Gil‘ad went to fetch Yiftach from the territory of Tov and said to him, “Come and be our chief, so that we can fight the army of ‘Amon.” Yiftach answered the leaders of Gil‘ad, “Didn’t you hate me so much that you forced me out of my father’s house? Why are you coming to me now, when you’re in trouble?” The leaders of Gil‘ad replied, “Here is why we’ve come back to you now: if you lead us in war with the people of ‘Amon, you will be head over everyone living in Gil‘ad.” Yiftach answered them, “If you bring me back home to fight the army of ‘Amon, and Adonai defeats them for me, I will be your head.” 10 The leaders of Gil‘ad said to Yiftach, “Adonai is witness that we promise to do what you have said.” 11 Then Yiftach went with the leaders of Gil‘ad, and the people made him head and chief over them. Yiftach repeated all these conditions at Mitzpah in the presence of Adonai.

12 Yiftach sent messengers to the king of the people of ‘Amon to say, “What’s your problem with us? Why are you invading our territory?” 13 The king of ‘Amon answered the messengers of Yiftach, “Because Isra’el took away my territory when they came up from Egypt. They took everything from the Arnon to the Yabok and the Yarden. Now, restore it peacefully.” 14 Yiftach sent messengers again to the king of the people of ‘Amon 15 with this response, “Here is what Yiftach has to say: ‘Isra’el captured neither the territory of Mo’av nor the territory of the people of ‘Amon. 16 But when Isra’el came up from Egypt, walked through the desert to the Red Sea and arrived at Kadesh, 17 then Isra’el sent messengers to the king of Edom, to say, “Please let us pass through your land.” But the king of Edom wouldn’t let them. He sent a similar message to the king of Mo’av, but neither would he, so Isra’el stayed at Kadesh. 18 Then they walked through the desert, around the territory of Edom and the territory of Mo’av, past the east border of the territory of Mo’av, and pitched camp on the other side of the Arnon; but they did not cross the border into Mo’av, for the Arnon was the border of Mo’av. 19 Isra’el sent messengers to Sichon king of the Emori and king of Heshbon with this message, “Please let us pass through your land to our own place.” 20 But Sichon did not trust that Isra’el would only pass through his land, so he gathered all his people together, pitched camp in Yahatz and fought against Isra’el. 21 Adonai the God of Isra’el handed Sichon and all his people over to Isra’el, and they killed them. Thus Isra’el possessed all the territory of the Emori who lived there. 22 They took possession of all the territory of the Emori from the Arnon to the Yabok and from the desert to the Yarden. 23 So now that Adonai the God of Isra’el has expelled the Emori before his people Isra’el, do you think that you will expel us? 24 You should just keep the territory your god K’mosh has given you; while we, for our part, will hold onto whatever Adonai our God has given us of the lands that belonged to others before us. 25 Really, are you better than Balak the son of Tzippor, king of Mo’av? Did he ever pick a quarrel with Isra’el or fight with us? 26 Isra’el lived in Heshbon and its villages, in ‘Aro‘er and its villages and in all the cities on the banks of the Arnon for three hundred years. Why didn’t you take them back during that time? 27 No, I have done you no wrong. But you are doing me wrong to war against me. May Adonai the Judge be judge today between the people of Isra’el and the people of ‘Amon.’” 28 But the king of the people of ‘Amon paid no attention to the message Yiftach sent him.

29 Then the spirit of Adonai came upon Yiftach; and he passed through Gil‘ad and M’nasheh, on through Mitzpeh of Gil‘ad, and from there over to the people of ‘Amon. 30 Yiftach made a vow to Adonai: “If you will hand the people of ‘Amon over to me, 31 then whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the people of ‘Amon will belong to Adonai; I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” 32 So Yiftach crossed over to fight the people of ‘Amon, and Adonai handed them over to him. 33 He killed them from ‘Aro‘er until you reach Minnit, twenty cities, all the way to Avel-K’ramim; it was a massacre. So the people of ‘Amon were defeated before the people of Isra’el.

34 As Yiftach was returning to his house in Mitzpah, his daughter came dancing out to meet him with tambourines. She was his only child; he had no other son or daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Oh, no, my daughter! You’re breaking my heart! Why must you be the cause of such pain to me? I made a vow to Adonai, and I can’t go back on my word.” 36 She said to him, “Father, you made a vow to Adonai; so do whatever you said you would do to me; because Adonai did take vengeance on your enemies the people of ‘Amon.” 37 Then she said to her father, “Just do this one thing for me — let me be alone for two months. I’ll go away into the mountains with my friends and mourn, because I will die without getting married.” 38 “You may go,” he answered, and he sent her away for two months. She left, she and her friends, and mourned in the mountains that she would die unmarried. 39 After two months she returned to her father, and he did with her what he had vowed; she had remained a virgin. So it became a law in Isra’el 40 that the women of Isra’el would go every year for four days to lament the daughter of Yiftach from Gil‘ad.

11 Jephthah(A) the Gileadite was a mighty warrior.(B) His father was Gilead;(C) his mother was a prostitute.(D) Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob,(E) where a gang of scoundrels(F) gathered around him and followed him.

Some time later, when the Ammonites(G) were fighting against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. “Come,” they said, “be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.”

Jephthah said to them, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house?(H) Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?”

The elders of Gilead said to him, “Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be head(I) over all of us who live in Gilead.”

Jephthah answered, “Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me—will I really be your head?”

10 The elders of Gilead replied, “The Lord is our witness;(J) we will certainly do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders(K) of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated(L) all his words before the Lord in Mizpah.(M)

12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: “What do you have against me that you have attacked my country?”

13 The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah’s messengers, “When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon(N) to the Jabbok,(O) all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably.”

14 Jephthah sent back messengers to the Ammonite king, 15 saying:

“This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of Moab(P) or the land of the Ammonites.(Q) 16 But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea[a](R) and on to Kadesh.(S) 17 Then Israel sent messengers(T) to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Give us permission to go through your country,’(U) but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab,(V) and he refused.(W) So Israel stayed at Kadesh.

18 “Next they traveled through the wilderness, skirted the lands of Edom(X) and Moab, passed along the eastern side(Y) of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon.(Z) They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.

19 “Then Israel sent messengers(AA) to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon,(AB) and said to him, ‘Let us pass through your country to our own place.’(AC) 20 Sihon, however, did not trust Israel[b] to pass through his territory. He mustered all his troops and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.(AD)

21 “Then the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and his whole army into Israel’s hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, 22 capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.(AE)

23 “Now since the Lord, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? 24 Will you not take what your god Chemosh(AF) gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us,(AG) we will possess. 25 Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor,(AH) king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them?(AI) 26 For three hundred years Israel occupied(AJ) Heshbon, Aroer,(AK) the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn’t you retake them during that time? 27 I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the Lord, the Judge,(AL) decide(AM) the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.(AN)

28 The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.

29 Then the Spirit(AO) of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah(AP) of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites.(AQ) 30 And Jephthah made a vow(AR) to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph(AS) from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.(AT)

32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith,(AU) as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing(AV) to the sound of timbrels!(AW) She was an only child.(AX) Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes(AY) and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.(AZ)

36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised,(BA) now that the Lord has avenged you(BB) of your enemies,(BC) the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

38 “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.

From this comes the Israelite tradition 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Footnotes

  1. Judges 11:16 Or the Sea of Reeds
  2. Judges 11:20 Or however, would not make an agreement for Israel

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