Judges 11

Listen to Judges 11

Jephthah Delivers Israel

1 Now 1Jephthah the Gileadite was 2a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah.
2 And Gilead's wife also bore him sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, "You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman."
3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of 3Tob, and 4worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.
4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel.
5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of 5Tob.
6 And they said to Jephthah, "Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites."
7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Did you not hate me and drive me out of 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, "That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and 6be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."
9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head."
10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, 7"The LORD will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say."
11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people 8made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words 9before the LORD at 10Mizpah.
12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, "What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?"
13 And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, 11"Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the 12Arnon to the 13Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably."
14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites
15 and said to him, "Thus says Jephthah: 14Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites,
16 but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness 15to the Red Sea and 16came to Kadesh.
17 17Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, 'Please let us pass through your land,'18but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel 19remained at Kadesh.
18 "Then they journeyed through the wilderness and 20went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and 21arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and 22camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab.
19 23Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, 'Please let us pass through your land to our country,'
20 but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.
21 And the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country.
22 And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.
23 So then the LORD, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them?
24 Will you not possess what 24Chemosh your god gives you to possess? 25And all that the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess.
25 Now are you any better than 26Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them?
26 While Israel lived 27in Heshbon and its villages, and 28in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time?
27 I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. 29The LORD, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon."
28 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him.

Jephthah's Tragic Vow

29 30Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.
30 And Jephthah 31made a vow to the LORD and said, "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand,
31 then whatever[a] comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites 32shall be the LORD's, and 33I will offer it[b] up for a burnt offering."
32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD gave them into his hand.
33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of 34Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.
34 Then Jephthah came to his home at 35Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him 36with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter.
35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, 37and I cannot take back my vow."
36 And she said to him, "My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites."
37 So she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions."
38 So he said, "Go." Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains.
39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, 38who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel
40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

Judges 11 Commentary

Chapter 11

Jephtah and the Gileadites. (1-11) He attempts to make peace. (12-28) Jephthah's vow. He vanquishes the Ammonites. (29-40)

Verses 1-11 Men ought not to be blamed for their parentage, so long as they by their personal merits roll away any reproach. God had forgiven Israel, therefore Jephthah will forgive. He speaks not with confidence of his success, knowing how justly God might suffer the Ammonites to prevail for the further punishment of Israel. Nor does he speak with any confidence at all in himself. If he succeed, it is the Lord delivers them into his hand; he thereby reminds his countrymen to look up to God as the Giver of victory. The same question as here, in fact, is put to those who desire salvation by Christ. If he save you, will ye be willing that he shall rule you? On no other terms will he save you. If he make you happy, shall he make you holy? If he be your helper, shall he be your Head? Jephthah, to obtain a little worldly honour, was willing to expose his life: shall we be discouraged in our Christian warfare by the difficulties we may meet with, when Christ has promised a crown of life to him that overcometh?

Verses 12-28 One instance of the honour and respect we owe to God, as our God, is, rightly to employ what he gives us to possess. Receive it from him, use it for him, and part with it when he calls for it. The whole of this message shows that Jephthah was well acquainted with the books of Moses. His argument was clear, and his demand reasonable. Those who possess the most courageous faith, will be the most disposed for peace, and the readiest to make advances to obtain; but rapacity and ambition often cloak their designs under a plea of equity, and render peaceful endeavours of no avail.

Verses 29-40 Several important lessons are to be learned from Jephthah's vow. 1. There may be remainders of distrust and doubting, even in the hearts of true and great believers. 2. Our vows to God should not be as a purchase of the favour we desire, but to express gratitude to him. 3. We need to be very well-advised in making vows, lest we entangle ourselves. 4. What we have solemnly vowed to God, we must perform, if it be possible and lawful, though it be difficult and grievous to us. 5. It well becomes children, obediently and cheerfully to submit to their parents in the Lord. It is hard to say what Jephthah did in performance of his vow; but it is thought that he did not offer his daughter as a burnt-offering. Such a sacrifice would have been an abomination to the Lord; it is supposed she was obliged to remain unmarried, and apart from her family. Concerning this and some other such passages in the sacred history, about which learned men are divided and in doubt, we need not perplex ourselves; what is necessary to our salvation, thanks be to God, is plain enough. If the reader recollects the promise of Christ concerning the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and places himself under this heavenly Teacher, the Holy Ghost will guide to all truth in every passage, so far as it is needful to be understood.

Cross References 38

  • 1. Hebrews 11:32
  • 2. Judges 6:12; 2 Kings 5:1
  • 3. 2 Samuel 10:6, 8
  • 4. See Judges 9:4; [1 Samuel 22:2]
  • 5. [See ver. 3 above]
  • 6. Judges 10:18
  • 7. Jeremiah 42:5
  • 8. ver. 6, 8; Judges 10:18
  • 9. 1 Samuel 10:19, 25; 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 12:7; [Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 10:17]
  • 10. Judges 10:17
  • 11. See Numbers 21:24-26
  • 12. Numbers 21:13
  • 13. Genesis 32:22
  • 14. Deuteronomy 2:9, 19
  • 15. Numbers 14:25; Deuteronomy 1:40
  • 16. Numbers 13:26
  • 17. Numbers 20:14
  • 18. See Numbers 20:18-21
  • 19. Numbers 20:1; Deuteronomy 1:46
  • 20. Numbers 21:4; See Deuteronomy 2:1-8
  • 21. Numbers 21:11
  • 22. Numbers 21:13; Numbers 22:36
  • 23. For ver. 19-22, see Numbers 21:21-26; Deuteronomy 2:26-37
  • 24. Numbers 21:29; 1 Kings 11:7
  • 25. Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 18:12; Joshua 3:10
  • 26. Numbers 22:2; Joshua 24:9; Micah 6:5
  • 27. Numbers 21:25
  • 28. Deuteronomy 2:36
  • 29. Genesis 16:5; Genesis 18:25; Genesis 31:53; 1 Samuel 24:12, 15
  • 30. See Judges 3:10
  • 31. Genesis 28:20; 1 Samuel 1:11
  • 32. [Leviticus 27:2; 1 Samuel 1:28]
  • 33. Psalms 66:13
  • 34. Ezekiel 27:17
  • 35. ver. 11; Judges 10:17
  • 36. Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6; Psalms 68:25; Jeremiah 31:4
  • 37. Numbers 30:2; [Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5]
  • 38. ver. 31

Footnotes 2

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of another judge of Israel, Jephthah, of his descent and character, Jud 11:1-3 of the call the elders of Gilead gave him to be their captain general, and lead out their forces against the Ammonites, and the agreement he made with them, Jud 11:4-11 of the message he sent to the children of Ammon, which brought on a dispute between him and them about the land Israel possessed on that side Jordan the Ammonites claimed; Israel's right to which Jephthah defended, and made it clearly to appear, hoping thereby to put an end to the quarrel without shedding of blood, Jud 11:12-27 but the children of Ammon not attending to what he said, he prepared to give them battle, and previous to it he made a vow, and then set forward and fought them, and got the victory over them, Jud 11:28-33 and the chapter concludes with the difficulties Jephthah was embarrassed with upon his return home, on account of his vow, and the performance of it, Jud 11:34-40.

Judges 11 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.