Jephthah1 the Gileadite was a mighty warrior.2 His father was Gilead;3 his mother was a prostitute.4
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Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family," they said, "because you are the son of another woman."
So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob,5 where a group of adventurers6 gathered around him and followed him.
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Some time later, when the Ammonites7 made war on Israel,
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the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.
"Come," they said, "be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites."
Jephthah said to them, "Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house?8 Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble?"
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The elders of Gilead said to him, "Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head9 over all who live in Gilead."
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Jephthah answered, "Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me--will I really be your head?"
The elders of Gilead replied, "The LORD is our witness;10 we will certainly do as you say."
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So Jephthah went with the elders11 of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated12 all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.13
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Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: "What do you have against us that you have attacked our country?"
The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah's messengers, "When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon14 to the Jabbok,15 all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably."
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Jephthah sent back messengers to the Ammonite king,
saying: "This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of Moab16 or the land of the Ammonites.17
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But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the desert to the Red Sea18 and on to Kadesh.19
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Then Israel sent messengers20 to the king of Edom, saying, 'Give us permission to go through your country,'21 but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab,22 and he refused.23 So Israel stayed at Kadesh.
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"Next they traveled through the desert, skirted the lands of Edom24 and Moab, passed along the eastern side25 of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon.26 They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.
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"Then Israel sent messengers27 to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon,28 and said to him, 'Let us pass through your country to our own place.'29
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Sihon, however, did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered all his men and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.30
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"Then the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his men into Israel's hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country,
capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.31
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"Now since the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over?
Will you not take what your god Chemosh32 gives you? Likewise, whatever the LORD our God has given us,33 we will possess.
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Are you better than Balak son of Zippor,34 king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them?35
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For three hundred years Israel occupied36 Heshbon, Aroer,37 the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn't you retake them during that time?
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I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the LORD, the Judge,38 decide39 the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.40"
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The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.