1 Jephthah was a brave soldier from Gilead. He was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was his father.
2 They had other sons by his wife, and when they grew up, they forced Jephthah to leave home. They told him: »You will have no inheritance from our father for you are the son of another woman.«
3 Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. There a group of worthless men joined with him and they went around together.
4 After time passed the Ammonites went to war against Israel.
5 When this war occurred, the leaders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah back from the land of Tob.
6 They said: »Come and be our commander, so that we can fight the Ammonites.«
7 Jephthah answered: »You hated me so much that you forced me to leave my fathers house. Why have you come to me now that you are in trouble?«
8 They replied: »We turn to you now because we want you to go with us and fight the Ammonites and lead all the people of Gilead.«
9 Jephthah said: »If you take me back home to fight the Ammonites and Jehovah gives me victory, will I be your ruler?«
10 They replied: »We agree. Jehovah is our witness.«
11 Jephthah went with the leaders of Gilead. The people made him their ruler and leader. Jephthah stated his terms at Mizpah in Jehovahs presence.
12 Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon. He said: »What do you have against us that you want to fight us? Why have you invaded our country?«
13 The king of Ammon answered Jephthahs messengers: »Because Israel took away our land when they came out of Egypt. They took land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River and the Jordan River. Now you must give it back peacefully.«
14 Jephthah sent messengers back to the king of Ammon.
15 This was his answer: »It is not true that Israel took away the land of Moab or the land of Ammon.
16 »It happened this way: when the Israelites left Egypt, they went through the desert to the Gulf of Aqaba and came to Kadesh.
17 »They sent messengers to the king of Edom to ask permission to go through his land. But the king of Edom would not let them. They also asked the king of Moab, but he would not let them go through his land. So the people of Israel stayed at Kadesh.
18 »Then they went through the desert around the land of Edom and the land of Moab until they came to the east side of Moab, on the other side of the Arnon River. They camped there, but they did not cross the Arnon because it was the boundary of Moab.
19 »The people of Israel sent messengers to Sihon, the Amorite king of Heshbon. They asked him for permission to go through his country to their own land.
20 »But Sihon refused to let Israel do it. He brought his whole army together, camped at Jahaz, and attacked Israel.
21 »Jehovah, the God of Israel, gave the people of Israel victory over Sihon and his army. So the people of Israel took possession of all the territory of the Amorites who lived in that country.
22 »They occupied all the Amorite territory from the Arnon in the south to the Jabbok in the north and from the desert on the east to the Jordan on the west.
23 »Jehovah, the God of Israel, drove out the Amorites for his people, the people of Israel.
24 »Are you going to try to take it back? You can keep whatever your god Chemosh has given you. But we are going to keep everything Jehovah, our God, has taken for us.
25 »Do you think you are better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever challenge Israel or fight with them?
26 »Israel has occupied Heshbon and Aroer for three hundred years, and the towns around them, and all the cities on the banks of the Arnon River. Why did you not retake them during that time?
27 »I have not done you any wrong. You are doing wrong to me by making war on me. Jehovah is the judge. He will decide today between the Israelites and the Ammonites.«
28 The king of Ammon paid no attention to this message from Jephthah.
29 The Spirit of Jehovah came upon Jephthah. He went through Gilead and Manasseh and returned to Mizpah in Gilead and went on to Ammon.
30 Jephthah promised Jehovah: »If you give me victory over the Ammonites,
31 »I will sacrifice with a burnt offering the first person that comes out of my house to meet me, when I return from the victory. I will offer that person to you as a sacrifice.« (Jeremiah 19:5)
32 Jephthah crossed the river to fight the Ammonites, and Jehovah gave him victory.
33 He struck at them from Aroer to the area around Minnith, twenty cities in all, and as far as Abel Keramim. It was a great slaughter. The Ammonites were defeated by Israel.
34 Jephthah went back home to Mizpah. His daughter came out to meet him, dancing and playing the tambourine. She was his only child.
35 When he saw her, he ripped his clothes in sorrow and said: »Oh, my daughter! My heart is breaking! Why must it be you? I have made a solemn promise to Jehovah, and I cannot take it back!«
36 She said: »If you made a promise to Jehovah, do what you said you would do to me, since Jehovah has given you revenge on your enemies, the Ammonites.«
37 She asked her father: »Do this for me. Leave me alone for two months, so that I can go with my friends to wander in the mountains and grieve that I must die a virgin.«
38 He sent her away for two months. She and her friends went up into the mountains and grieved because she was going to die unmarried and childless.
39 She returned to her father after two months. He did what he had promised Jehovah, and she died still a virgin. This was the origin of the custom in Israel.
40 The Israelite women would go out for four days every year to grieve for the daughter of Jephthah of Gilead.