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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 11

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1 JEPHTHAH the Gileadite was an intrepid warrior; he was the son of Gilead by a prostitute. 2Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they grew up they drove Jephthah away, saying to him, ‘You have no inheritance in our father's house; you are another woman's son.’ 3To escape his brothers, Jephthah fled and settled in the land of Tob, and a number of good-for-nothing fellows rallied to him and became his followers.

4The time came when the Ammonites launched an offensive against Israel 5and, when the fighting began, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6‘Come and be our commander so that we can fight the Ammonites,’ they said to him. 7But Jephthah answered, ‘You drove me from my father's house in hatred. Why come to me now when you are in trouble?’ 8‘It is because of that’, they replied, ‘that we have turned to you now. Come with us, fight the Ammonites, and become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’ 9Jephthah said to them, ‘If you ask me back to fight the Ammonites and if the LORD delivers them into my hands, then I must become your head.’ 10The Gilead elders said to him, ‘We swear by the LORD, who will be witness between us, that we will do what you say.’ 11Jephthah then went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their head and commander. And at Mizpah, in the presence of the LORD, Jephthah repeated the terms he had laid down.

12Jephthah sent a mission to the king of Ammon to ask what quarrel he had with them that made him invade their country. 13The king replied to the messengers: ‘When the Israelites came up from Egypt, they seized our land all the way from the Arnon to the Jabbok and the Jordan. Now return these lands peaceably.’ 14Jephthah sent a second mission to the king of Ammon 15to say, ‘This is Jephthah's answer: Israel took neither Moabite nor Ammonite territory. 16When they came up from Egypt, the Israelites passed through the wilderness to the Red Sea a 11:16 Red Sea: or sea of Reeds. , and on to Kadesh. 17They then sent envoys to the king of Edom asking him to grant them passage through his country, but the king of Edom would not consent. They sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not agree; so Israel remained at Kadesh.

18‘They then journeyed through the wilderness, skirting Edom and Moab, and kept to the east of Moab. They encamped beside the Arnon, but they did not enter Moabite territory, because the Arnon is the frontier of Moab. 19Israel then sent envoys to the king of the Amorites, King Sihon of Heshbon, asking him to give them free passage through his country to their destination. 20But Sihon refused to grant Israel passage through his territory; he mustered all his people, and from his camp in Jahaz he launched an attack on Israel. 21But the LORD the God of Israel delivered Sihon and his whole army into the hands of Israel, who defeated the Amorites and occupied all their territory in that region. 22They took possession of the entire Amorite country from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23The LORD the God of Israel drove out the Amorites for the benefit of his people Israel. And do you now propose to take their place? 24It is for you to possess whatever Kemosh your god gives you; and all that the LORD our God gave us as we advanced is ours.

25‘For that matter, are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever pick a quarrel with Israel or attack them? 26For three hundred years Israelites have lived in Heshbon and its dependent villages, in Aroer and its villages, and in all the towns by the Arnon. Why did you not retake them during all that time? 27We have done you no wrong; it is you who are doing us wrong by attacking us. The LORD who is judge will decide this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.’ 28But the king of the Ammonites would not listen to the message Jephthah sent him.

29Then the spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, who passed through Gilead and Manasseh, by Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh over to the Ammonites. 30Jephthah made this vow to the LORD: ‘If you will deliver the Ammonites into my hands, 31then the first creature that comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return from them safely shall be the LORD'S; I shall offer that as a whole-offering.’

32So Jephthah crossed over to attack the Ammonites, and the LORD delivered them into his hands. 33He routed them with very great slaughter all the way from Aroer to near Minnith, taking twenty towns, and as far as Abel-keramim. Thus Ammon was subdued by Israel.

34When Jephthah arrived home in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came out to meet him with tambourines and dancing. She was his only child; apart from her he had neither son nor daughter. 35At the sight of her, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Oh, my daughter, you have broken my heart! Such calamity you have brought on me! I have made a vow to the LORD and I cannot go back on it.’

36She replied, ‘Father, since you have made a vow to the LORD, do to me as your vow demands, now that the LORD has avenged you on the Ammonites, your enemies. 37But, father, grant me this one favour: spare me for two months, that I may roam b 11:37 that…roam: or that I may go down country to. the hills with my companions and mourn that I must die a virgin.’ 38‘Go,’ he said, and he let her depart for two months. She went with her companions and mourned her virginity on the hills. 39At the end of two months she came back to her father, and he fulfilled the vow he had made; she died a virgin. It became a tradition 40that the daughters of Israel should go year by year and commemorate for four days the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Notes:

a 11:16 Red Sea: or sea of Reeds.

b 11:37 that…roam: or that I may go down country to.

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