Judges 11

Jephthah the Ninth Judge

1 Now 1Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot *. And Gilead was the father of Jephthah.
2 Gilead's wife 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 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of 2Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.
4 It came about after a while that 3the sons of Ammon fought against Israel.
5 When the sons of Ammon fought against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob;
6 and they said to Jephthah, "Come and be our chief that we may fight against the sons of Ammon."
7 Then Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "4Did you not hate me and drive me from my father's house? So why have you come to me now when you are in trouble?"
8 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "For this reason we have now returned to you, that you may go with us and fight with the sons of Ammon and 5become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."
9 So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "If you take me back to fight against the sons of Ammon and the LORD gives them up to me, will I become your head?"
10 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "6The LORD is witness between us; surely * we will do as you have said."
11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at 7Mizpah.
12 Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, "What is between you and me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?"
13 The king of the sons of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthah, "Because Israel 8took away my land when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the 9Jabbok and the Jordan; therefore, return them peaceably now."
14 But Jephthah sent messengers again * to the king of the sons of Ammon,
15 and they said to him, "Thus says Jephthah, 'Israel did not take away the land of Moab nor the land of the sons of Ammon.
16 'For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel 10went through the wilderness to the Red * Sea and 11came to Kadesh,
17 then Israel 12sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, "Please let us pass through your land," but the king of Edom would not listen. 13And they also sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.
18 'Then they went through the wilderness and 14around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east * side * of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon; but they 15did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab.
19 'And Israel sent 16messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, "Please let us pass through your land to our place."
20 'But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people and camped in Jahaz and fought with Israel.
21 'The LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they 17defeated them; so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.
22 '18So they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan.
23 'Since now the LORD, the God of Israel, drove out the Amorites from before His people Israel, are you then to possess it?
24 'Do you not possess what 19Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever * the LORD our God has driven out before * us, we will possess it.
25 'Now are you any better than 20Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive with Israel, or did he ever fight against them?
26 '21While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time?
27 'I therefore have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me; 22may the LORD, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.' "
28 But the king of the sons of Ammon disregarded * the message which Jephthah sent him.

Jephthah's Tragic Vow

29 Now 23the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon.
30 Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, "If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand,
31 then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering."
32 So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD gave them into his hand.
33 He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer to the entrance of 24Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before * the sons of Israel.
34 When Jephthah came to his house at 25Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him 26with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter.
35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and 27I cannot * take it back."
36 So she said to him, "My father, you have given your word to the LORD; 28do to me as you have said * *, since * the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon."
37 She said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me; let me alone * two months, that I may go * to the mountains and weep because of 29my virginity, I and my companions."
38 Then he said, "Go." So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity.
39 At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel,
40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate 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 29

  • 1. Hebrews 11:32
  • 2. 2 Samuel 10:6, 8
  • 3. Judges 10:9, 17
  • 4. Genesis 26:27
  • 5. Judges 10:18
  • 6. Genesis 31:50; Jeremiah 29:23; Jeremiah 42:5; Micah 1:2
  • 7. Judges 10:17; Judges 11:29; Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 10:17
  • 8. Numbers 21:24
  • 9. Genesis 32:22
  • 10. Numbers 14:25; Deuteronomy 1:40
  • 11. Num 20:1, 4-21
  • 12. Numbers 20:14-21
  • 13. Joshua 24:9
  • 14. Numbers 21:4; Deuteronomy 2:8
  • 15. Deut 2:9, 18, 19
  • 16. Numbers 21:21-32; Deuteronomy 2:26-36
  • 17. Numbers 21:24; Deuteronomy 2:32-34
  • 18. Deuteronomy 2:36, 37
  • 19. Numbers 21:29; 1 Kings 11:7
  • 20. Numbers 22:2; Joshua 24:9; Micah 6:5
  • 21. Numbers 21:25, 26; Deuteronomy 2:36
  • 22. Genesis 16:5; Genesis 18:25; Genesis 31:53; 1 Samuel 24:12, 15
  • 23. Judges 3:10
  • 24. Ezekiel 27:17
  • 25. Judges 10:17; Judges 11:11
  • 26. Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6; Jeremiah 31:4
  • 27. Numbers 30:2; Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5
  • 28. Numbers 30:2
  • 29. Genesis 30:23; Luke 1:25

Footnotes 16

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

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