1 At that time, there was a Gileadite, Jephthah, a very strong man and a fighter, the son of a kept woman, and he was born of Gilead.
2 Now Gilead had a wife, from whom he received sons. And they, after growing up, cast out Jephthah, saying, “You cannot inherit in the house of our father, because you were born of another mother.”
3 And so, fleeing and avoiding them, he lived in the land of Tob. And men who were indigent and robbers joined with him, and they followed him as their leader.
4 In those days, the sons of Ammon fought against Israel.
5 And being steadfastly attacked, the elders of Gilead traveled so that they might obtain for their assistance Jephthah, from the land of Tob.
6 And they said to him, “Come and be our leader, and fight against the sons of Ammon.”
7 But he answered them: “Are you not the ones who hated me, and who cast me out of my father’s house? And yet now you come to me, compelled by necessity?”
8 And the leaders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “But it is due to this necessity that we have approached you now, so that you may set out with us, and fight against the sons of Ammon, and be commander over all who live in Gilead.”
9 Jephthah also said to them: “If you have come to me so that I may fight for you against the sons of Ammon, and if the Lord will deliver them into my hands, will I truly be your leader?”
10 They answered him, “The Lord who hears these things is himself the Mediator and the Witness that we shall do what we have promised.”
11 And so Jephthah went with the leaders of Gilead, and all the people made him their leader. And Jephthah spoke all his words, in the sight of the Lord, at Mizpah.
12 And he sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, who said on his behalf, “What is there between you and me, that you would approach against me, so that you might lay waste to my land?”
13 And he responded to them, “It is because Israel took my land, when he ascended from Egypt, from the parts of Arnon, as far as the Jabbok and the Jordan. Now therefore, restore these to me with peace.”
14 And Jephthah again commissioned them, and he ordered them to say to the king of Ammon:
15 “Jephthah says this: Israel did not take the land of Moab, nor the land of the sons of Ammon.
16 But when they ascended together from Egypt, he walked through the desert as far as the Red Sea, and he went into Kadesh.
17 And he sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Permit me to pass through your land.’ But he was not willing to agree to his petition. Likewise, he sent to the king of Moab, who also refused to offer him passage. And so he delayed in Kadesh,
18 and he circled around the side of the land of Edom and the land of Moab. And he arrived opposite the eastern region of the land of Moab. And he made camp across the Arnon. But he was not willing to enter the borders of Moab. (Of course, Arnon is the border of the land of Moab.)
19 And so Israel sent messengers to Sihon, the king of the Amorites, who was living at Heshbon. And they said to him, “Permit me to cross through your land as far as the river.”
20 But he, too, despising the words of Israel, would not permit him to cross through his borders. Instead, gathering an innumerable multitude, he went out against him at Jahaz, and he resisted strongly.
21 But the Lord delivered him, with his entire army, into the hands of Israel. And he struck him down, and he possessed all the land of the Amorite, the inhabitant of that region,
22 with all its parts, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness even to the Jordan.
23 Therefore, it was the Lord, the God of Israel, who overthrew the Amorites, by means of his people Israel fighting against them. And now you wish to possess his land?
24 Are not the things that your god Chemosh possesses owed to you by right? And so, what the Lord our God has obtained by victory falls to us as a possession.
25 Or are you, perhaps, better than Balak, the son of Zippor, the king of Moab? Or are you able to explain what his argument was against Israel, and why he fought against him?
26 And though he has lived in Heshbon, and its villages, and in Aroer, and its villages, and in all the cities near the Jordan for three hundred years, why have you, for such long a time, put forward nothing about this claim?
27 Therefore, I am not sinning against you, but you are doing evil against me, by declaring an unjust war against me. May the Lord be the Judge and the Arbiter this day, between Israel and the sons of Ammon.”
28 But the king of the sons of Ammon was not willing to agree to the words of Jephthah that he commissioned by the messengers.
29 Therefore, the Spirit of the Lord rested upon Jephthah, and circling around Gilead, and Manasseh, and also Mizpah of Gilead, and crossing from there to the sons of Ammon,
30 he made a vow to the Lord, saying, “If you will deliver the sons of Ammon into my hands,
31 whoever will be the first to depart from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, the same will I offer as a holocaust to the Lord.”
32 And Jephthah crossed to the sons of Ammon, so that he might fight against them. And the Lord delivered them into his hands.
33 And he struck them down from Aroer, as far as the entrance to Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel, which is covered with vineyards, in an exceedingly great slaughter. And the sons of Ammon were humbled by the sons of Israel.
34 But when Jephthah returned to Mizpah, to his own house, his only daughter met him with timbrels and dances. For he had no other children.
35 And upon seeing her, he tore his garments, and he said: “Alas, my daughter! You have cheated me, and you yourself have been cheated. For I opened my mouth to the Lord, and I can do nothing else.”
Jephtha and Daughter
36 And she answered him, “My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me whatever you have promised, since victory has been granted to you, as well as vengeance against your enemies.”
37 And she said to her father: “Grant to me this one thing, which I request. Permit me, that I may wander the hillsides for two months, and that I may mourn my virginity with my companions.”
38 And he answered her, “Go.” And he released her for two months. And when she had departed with her friends and companions, she wept over her virginity in the hillsides.
39 And when the two months expired, she returned to her father, and he did to her just as he had vowed, though she knew no man. From this, the custom grew up in Israel, and the practice has been preserved,
40 such that, after each year passes, the daughters of Israel convene as one, and they lament the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite, for four days.