The Book of Judges

Chapter 11

The covenant between Jephthah and the Gileadites, that he should be their head, 1-11. The treaty of peace between him and the Ammonites is in vain, 12-28. Jephthah's vow, 29-31. His conquest of the Ammonites, 32, 33. He performs his vow on his daughter, 34-40.

1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead begot Jephthah. 2 And Gilead's wife bore him sons. And his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah and said to him, "You shall not inherit in our father's house, for you are the son of a strange woman." 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob. And vain men were gathered to Jephthah, and they went out with him.

4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. 5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah out of the land of Tob, 6 And they said to Jephthah, "Come, and be our captain so that we may fight with the children of Ammon." 7 And 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, "Therefore, we turn back to you now so that you may go with us and fight against the children of Ammon and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead." 9 And Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "If you bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivers them before me, shall I be your head?" 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "The LORD shall be a witness between us, if we do not do so according to your words." 11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them. And Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.

12 And Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the children of Ammon, saying, "What have you to do with me that you have come against me to fight in my land?" 13 And the king of the children of Ammon answered to the messengers of Jephthah, "Because Israel took away my land when they came out of Egypt, from Arnon even to Jabbok, and to the Jordan. Now therefore, restore those lands again peaceably." 14 And Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the children of Ammon, 15 And said to him, "Thus says Jephthah: 'Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon, 16 But when Israel came up from Egypt and walked through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh, 17 Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, "Let me, I pray you, pass through your land." But the king of Edom would not listen to it. And in like manner they sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. And Israel stayed in Kadesh. 18 Then they went along through the wilderness and compassed the land of Edom and the land of Moab, came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but did not come within the border of Moab, for Arnon was the border of Moab. 19 And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, "Let us pass, we pray you, through your land to my place." 20 But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his border, but Sihon collected all his people, 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 smote them. So Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 And they possessed all the borders of the Amorites, from Arnon even to Jabbok, and from the wilderness even to the Jordan. 23 So now the LORD God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and should you possess it? 24 Will you not possess that which Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whomever the LORD our God drives out from before us, we will possess them. 25 And now are you anything better than Balak the son of Zippor king of Moab? Did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them, 26 While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that are along by the borders of Arnon, three hundred years? Why therefore did you not recover them within that time? 27 Therefore, I have not sinned against you, but you do me wrong to war against me. May the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.'" 28 But the king of the children of Ammon did not listen to the words of Jephthah which he sent him.

29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over to the children of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah vowed a vow to the LORD, and said, "If you without fail deliver the children of Ammon into my hands, 31 Then it shall be, that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the children of Ammon shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it for a burnt-offering." 32 So Jephthah passed over to the children of Ammon to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his hands. 33 And he smote them from Aroer even as far as Minnith, even twenty cities, and to the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh to his house, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. 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 rent his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low and you are one of those who trouble me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD and I cannot go back." 36 And she said to him, "My father, if you have opened your mouth to the LORD, do to me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth, because the LORD has taken vengeance for you of your enemies, even of the children of Ammon." 37 And she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months so that I may go up and down upon the mountains and bewail my virginity—I and my fellows." 38 And he said, "Go." And he sent her away for two months. And she went with her companions and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. 39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed. And she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, 40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.


Matthew Henry Commentary - Judges, Chapter 11[➚]


[v.17] - "Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom" - Reference, Numbers 20:14-22.

[v.18] - Reference, Numbers 21:13.

[v.19-22] - Reference, Numbers 21:21-26.

[v.25] - Reference, Numbers, ch. 22.

[v.35] - "I have opened my mouth to the LORD" - Reference, verses 30-31. See also, Deuteronomy 23:21-23, which is on the importance of keeping vows made to the Lord. It says, "When you vow a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not defer to pay it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin in you. But if you forbear to vow, it shall not be sin in you. That which is uttered by your lips you shall keep and perform, even a voluntary-offering, according as you have vowed to the LORD your God, which you have promised with your mouth." God thinks it a serious matter to make a vow to Him, and here in Judges, Jephthah is bound to honor the law. His vow, of course, had unfortunate consequences, which would have been worse had he not fulfilled the vow.