Jephthah was a soldier from the region of Gilead. Jephthah's father was named Gilead. His mother was a prostitute.
Gilead's wife also gave birth to sons. When his wife's sons grew up, they threw Jephthah out. They told him, "You'll get no inheritance from our father. You're the son of that other woman."
Jephthah fled from his brothers. He went to live in the land of Tob. Worthless men gathered around Jephthah and went out [on raids] with him.
Later, Ammon waged war with Israel.
When the Ammonites attacked Israel, Gilead's leaders went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.
They said to Jephthah, "Come and be our commander so that we can wage war against Ammon."
But Jephthah replied to Gilead's leaders, "Don't you hate me? Didn't you throw me out of my father's house? So why are you coming to me now when you're in trouble?"
Gilead's leaders answered Jephthah, "The reason we've turned to you now is that we want you to go with us and wage war against Ammon. You will be the ruler of everyone who lives in Gilead."
Jephthah told them, "If you take me back to fight against Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me, I will be your leader."
Gilead's leaders said to Jephthah, "The LORD is a witness between us. We will certainly do what you say."
Jephthah went with them, and the people made him their leader and commander. So Jephthah went to Mizpah and repeated all these things in the presence of the LORD.
Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon. They asked the king, "Why did you invade my land and wage war against me?"
The king of Ammon answered Jephthah's messengers, "When the people of Israel left Egypt, they took my land. It stretched from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River and the Jordan River. Now give it back peacefully."
Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of Ammon.
They said, "This is what Jephthah says: The people of Israel didn't take away the land belonging to Moab or Ammon.
When the people of Israel left Egypt, they went through the desert to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh.
The people of Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom. They said, 'Please let us go through your country.' But the king of Edom wouldn't listen to them. They also sent messengers to the king of Moab. But he wouldn't allow it, either. So the people of Israel remained at Kadesh.
"Then they went through the desert, by-passing Edom and Moab. They camped east of Moab--east of the Arnon River. They did not cross the Arnon River because it was Moab's border.
"Then the people of Israel sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites. Sihon ruled from Heshbon. The people of Israel said to him, 'Please let us go through your land to our own.'
But Sihon did not trust the Israelites enough to let them go through his territory. Sihon assembled all his troops. He camped at Jahaz and attacked Israel.
But the LORD God of Israel handed Sihon and all his people over to Israel. Israel defeated them and took possession of all the land of the Amorites who lived there.
Israel took all the Amorite territory from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River and from the desert to the Jordan River.
"The LORD God of Israel forced the Amorites out of the way of his people Israel. So what right do you have to take it back?
Shouldn't you take possession of what your god Chemosh took for you? Shouldn't we take everything the LORD our God took for us?
You're not any better than Balak, son of King Zippor of Moab, are you? Did he ever have a case against Israel? Or did he ever fight against Israel?
Israel has now lived in Heshbon, Aroer, all their villages, and in all the cities along the Arnon River for 300 years. Why didn't you recapture these cities during that time?
I haven't sinned against you. But you have done wrong by waging war against me. The LORD is the judge who will decide today whether Israel or Ammon is right."
But the king of Ammon didn't listen to the message Jephthah sent him.
Then the LORD's Spirit came over Jephthah. Jephthah went through Gilead, Manasseh, and Mizpah in Gilead [to gather an army]. From Mizpah in Gilead Jephthah went to attack Ammon.
Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, "If you will really hand Ammon over to me,
then whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return safely from Ammon will belong to the LORD. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."
So Jephthah went to fight against Ammon. The LORD handed the people of Ammon over to him.
He defeated them from Aroer to Minnith and on to Abel Keramim, 20 cities in all. It was a decisive defeat. So the Ammonites were crushed by the people of Israel.
When Jephthah went to his home in Mizpah, he saw his daughter coming out to meet him. She was dancing with tambourines in her hands. She was his only child. Jephthah had no other sons or daughters.
When he saw her, he tore his clothes in grief and said, "Oh no, Daughter! You've brought me to my knees! What disaster you've brought me! I made a foolish promise to the LORD. Now I can't break it."
She said to him, "Father, you made a promise to the LORD. Do to me whatever you promised since the LORD has punished your enemy Ammon."
Then she said to her father, "Do me a favor. Give me two months for my friends and me to walk in the mountains and mourn that I will never have an opportunity to get married."
"Go!" he said, and he sent her off for two months. She and her friends went to the mountains, and she cried about never being able to get married.
At the end of those two months she came back to her father. He did to her what he had vowed, and she never had a husband. So the custom began in Israel
that for four days every year the girls in Israel would go out to sing the praises of the daughter of Jephthah, the man from Gilead.