Judges 11

Jephthah

1 Jephthah of Gilead was a brave soldier. His father was Gilead, but his mother was not Gilead's wife. 2 The sons of Gilead's wife became men and sent Jephthah away. They said, ‘You will not get any of Gilead's things, because you are the son of another woman’. 3 So Jephthah ran away from his brothers. He went to live in the land of Tob. Other men joined him there. They were a small group of fighting men. Jephthah was their leader.

4 The Ammonite soldiers came to fight Israel some time later. 5 Then the leaders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 ‘Come and lead our army’, they said. ‘Then we can fight the Ammonites’.

7 Jephthah answered, ‘You made me leave my father's house. You did not like me. Why do you come to me now that you are in trouble?’

8 The men of Gilead replied, ‘But we are asking you to come back to us. Please fight the Ammonites with us. Then we will make you leader over all who live in Gilead’.

9 Jephthah said, ‘What if you take me back to fight for you, against the Ammonites. The LORD may help me to win the fight. Then will you really make me your leader?’

10 The leaders of Gilead said, ‘The LORD is looking at us. We promise to do as we have said’. 11 So Jephthah went back with them to Gilead. The people made him their ruler and leader. He repeated all that he had said, at Mizpah, in front of the LORD.

12 Jephthah sent men to the Ammonite king. He asked, ‘Why have you come to fight our people? What have we done to hurt you?’

13 The King of the Ammonites answered Jephthah's people, ‘Israel came up out of Egypt. They took all my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok. They took all the land up to the Jordan. Now give it back to us, without fighting’.

14 Jephthah sent the men back to the King of the Ammonites. 15 They said, ‘This is what Jephthah says, “Israel did not take the land of Moab, or the land of the Ammonites. 16 When Israel came up out of Egypt, they went through the desert to the Red Sea and to Kadesh. They went through land where no people live. 17 Then Israel sent men to the King of Edom. They asked him to let Israel go through his kingdom. But the King of Edom would not listen. Israel also sent men to the King of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.

18 Next Israel went round the kingdoms of Edom and Moab. They walked to the east of Moab through desert lands (where no people live). They put their tents on the other side of the Arnon. This was outside the land of Moab.

19 Sihon, King of the Amorites, ruled in Heshbon. Israel sent men to him. They said, ‘Let us go through your country to our own place’. 20 But Sihon was afraid. He sent men to get his army. They met together at Jahaz. Then he fought with Israel.

21 The LORD, the God of Israel helped the Israelites to win the fight. Israel beat Sihon and his men. 22 They won all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country. This land was between the Arnon and the Jabbok, and to the Jordan from the desert.

23 The LORD, the God of Israel has made the Amorites run away from the people of Israel. He did not give the land to you. 24 You should take what your god, Chemosh gives to you. We will keep what the LORD, our God, has given to us. 25 You are not better than Balak son of Zippor, King of Moab. He has never argued or fought with Israel. 26 Israel has ruled Heshbon and Aroer and the villages round them for 300 years. Israel has lived in all the towns along the Arnon too. You did not take them back in all that time. 27 I have not done anything wrong to you. You will be doing a wrong thing if you fight me. Let the LORD, the judge, decide whether the Israelites or the Ammonites are doing what is right” ’.

28 The king of Ammon refused to listen to the message sent to him by Jephthah.

Jephthah's promise

29 Then the Spirit of the LORD took hold of Jephthah. He crossed the lands of Gilead and of Manasseh. He went through Mizpah in Gilead, and moved towards the Ammonites. 30 Jephthah made a promise to the LORD. He said, ‘If you let us win the battle with the Ammonites, I will give you a gift. 31 Whatever comes first out through the door of my house when I return, I will kill and give to you. I will burn it as an offering to you, after we have won the fight’.

32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites. The LORD gave him the power to win the battle. 33 He destroyed 20 towns from Aroer to Minnith, as far as Abel Karamim. This is how Israel came to rule Ammon.

34 Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah. His only daughter came out to meet him, dancing to music. He had no other son or daughter. 35 He cried out when he saw her, and tore his clothes. He said, ‘My daughter, you have made me very sad. I have made a promise to the LORD and I must keep it’.

36 ‘Father’, she said, ‘You have made your promise to the LORD. You must do to me what you have promised. The LORD has given you the power to punish your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But give me this one thing. Give me two months to walk in the hills and to cry with my friends. I am sad that I will never marry’.

38 ‘You may go’, he said. And he let her go away for two months. She and the girls went to the hills. They cried because she would never marry. 39 She returned after two months, and Jephthah kept his promise. The girl had never had sex with a man. This is why 40 the young women of Israel go out for 4 days every year. They are remembering the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite.

11:40This story shows that we must be very careful when we make promises. God would not have wanted Jephthah to kill his daughter. It was good that Jephthah kept his promise to the LORD. But it would have been better if he had asked God what he wanted. God won Jephthah's battles. Jephthah did not understand that God gave Israel his rules because he loved them. When they did not obey his rules, God sent enemies to punish them, Then Israel showed that they were sorry for the wrong things that they had done. They stopped giving gifts to other gods. Then God showed them his love and saved them. They won the battle against their enemies with his help. God did not need an offering from Jephthah to make him do this.