1 Jephthah was from the family group of Gilead. He was a strong soldier. But Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. His father was a man named Gilead. 2 Gilead’s wife had several sons. When those sons grew up, they did not like Jephthah. Those sons forced Jephthah to leave his home town. They said to him, “You will not get any of our father’s property. You are the son of another woman.” 3 So Jephthah went away because of his brothers. He lived in the land of Tob. In the land of Tob, some rough men began to follow Jephthah. 4 After a time the Ammonite people fought with the people of Israel. 5 The Ammonite people were fighting against Israel, so the elders ˻(leaders)˼ in Gilead went to Jephthah. They wanted Jephthah to leave the land of Tob and come back to Gilead. 6 The elders said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader so that we can fight the Ammonite people.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders ˻(leaders)˼ of the land of Gilead, “You forced me to leave my father’s house. You hate me! So why are you coming to me now that you are having trouble?” 8 The elders ˻(leaders)˼ from Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is the reason that we have come to you now. Please come with us and fight against the Ammonite people. You will be the commander over all the people living in Gilead.” 9 Then Jephthah said to the elders ˻(leaders)˼ from Gilead, “If you want me to come back to Gilead and fight the Ammonite people, fine. But if the Lord helps me win, then I will be your new leader.” 10 The elders ˻(leaders)˼ from Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord is listening to everything we are saying. And we promise to do all that you tell us to do.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders ˻(leaders)˼ from Gilead. Those people made Jephthah their leader and their commander. Jephthah repeated all of his words in front of the Lord at the city of Mizpah. 12 Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites. The messengers gave the king this message: “What is the problem between the Ammonites and the people of Israel? Why have you come to fight in our land?” 13 The king of the Ammonite people said to the messengers of Jephthah, “We are fighting Israel because the people of Israel took our land when they came up from Egypt. They took our land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River to the Jordan River. Now tell the people of Israel to give our land back to us in peace.” 14 So the messengers of Jephthah took this message back to Jephthah. Then Jephthah sent the messengers to the king of the Ammonite people again. 15 They took this message: This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of the people of Moab or the land of the people of Ammon. 16 When the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, the people of Israel went into the desert. The people of Israel went to the Red Sea. Then they went to Kadesh. 17 The people of Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom. The messengers asked for a favor. They said, “Let the people of Israel cross through your land.” But the king of Edom didn’t let us go through their land. We also sent the same message to the king of Moab. But the king of Moab would not let us go through his land either. So the people of Israel stayed at Kadesh. 18 Then the people of Israel went through the desert and around the edges of the land of Edom and the land of Moab. The people of Israel traveled east of the land of Moab. They made their camp on the other side of the Arnon River. They did not cross the border of the land of Moab. (The Arnon River was the border of the land of Moab.) 19 Then the people of Israel sent messengers to Sihon the king of the Amorite people. Sihon was the king of the city of Heshbon. The messengers asked Sihon, “Let the people of Israel pass through your land. We want to go to our land.” 20 But Sihon, the king of the Amorite people would not let the people of Israel cross his borders. Sihon gathered all of his people and made a camp at Jahaz. Then the Amorite people fought with the people of Israel. 21 But the Lord, the God of Israel, helped the people of Israel to defeat Sihon and his army. So the land of the Amorite people became the property of the people of Israel. 22 So the people of Israel got all of the land of the Amorite people. That land went from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River. That land also went from the desert to the Jordan River. 23 It was the Lord, the God of Israel, who forced the Amorite people to leave their land. And the Lord gave the land to the people of Israel. Do you think you can make the people of Israel leave this land? 24 Surely you can live in the land which Chemosh your god has given to you. So we will live in the land that the Lord our God has given to us! 25 Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor? He was the king of the land of Moab. Did he argue with the people of Israel? Did he actually fight with the people of Israel? 26 The people of Israel have lived in the city of Heshbon and the towns around it for 300 years. The people of Israel have lived in the city of Aroer and the towns around it for 300 years. The people of Israel have lived in all of the cities along the side of the Arnon River for 300 years. Why have you not tried to take these cities in all that time? 27 The people of Israel have not sinned against you. But you are doing a very bad thing against the people of Israel. May the Lord, the true Judge, decide whether the people of Israel are right or the Ammonite people! 28 The king of the Ammonite people refused to listen to this message from Jephthah. 29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. Jephthah passed through the area of Gilead and Manasseh. He went to the city of Mizpah in Gilead. From the city of Mizpah in Gilead, Jephthah passed through to the land of the Ammonite people. 30 Jephthah made a promise to the Lord. He said, “If you will let me defeat the Ammonite people, 31 I will give you the first thing that comes out of my house when I come back from the victory. I will give it to the Lord as a burnt offering.” 32 Then Jephthah went to the land of the Ammonite people. Jephthah fought the Ammonite people. The Lord helped him defeat them. 33 He defeated them from the city of Aroer to the city of Minnith. Jephthah captured 20 cities. Then he fought the Ammonite people to the city of Abel Keramim. The people of Israel defeated the Ammonite people. It was a very great defeat for the Ammonite people. 34 Jephthah went back to Mizpah. Jephthah went to his house and his daughter came out of the house to meet him. She was playing a tambourine and dancing. She was his only daughter. Jephthah loved her very much. Jephthah did not have any other sons or daughters. 35 When Jephthah saw that his daughter was the first thing to come out of his house, he tore his clothes to show his sadness. Then he said, “Oh, my daughter! You have ruined me! You have made me very, very sad! I made a promise to the Lord, and I cannot change it!” 36 Then his daughter said to Jephthah, “Father, you have made a promise to the Lord. So keep your promise. Do what you said you would do. After all, the Lord did help you defeat your enemies, the Ammonite people.” 37 Then Jephthah’s daughter said to her father, “But do this one thing for me first. Let me be alone for two months. Let me go to the mountains. I will not marry and have children, so let me and my friends go and cry together.” 38 Jephthah said, “Go and do that.” Jephthah sent her away for two months. Jephthah’s daughter and her friends stayed in the mountains. They cried for her because she would not marry and have children. 39 At the end of two months, Jephthah’s daughter returned to her father. Jephthah did what he promised to the Lord. Jephthah’s daughter never had sexual relations with anyone. So this became a custom in Israel. 40 Every year the women of Israel remembered the daughter of Jephthah from Gilead. The women of Israel cried four days every year for Jephthah’s daughter.