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Judges 11 International Standard Version (ISV)

Jephthah, Israel’s Eighth Judge

11 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant soldier, but he was also the son of a prostitute and Jephthah’s father Gilead. Gilead’s wife bore two sons through him, but when his wife’s sons grew up, they expelled Jephthah and declared to him, “You won’t have an inheritance in this[a] house, since you’re the son of a different woman.” So Jephthah escaped from his brothers and lived in the territory of Tob, where worthless men gathered themselves around him and went out on raiding parties with him.

Later on, the Ammonites attacked Israel. When this happened,[b] the elders of Gilead went to the territory of Tob to find Jephthah. They told him, “Come and be our commander so we can fight the Ammonites!”

But Jephthah replied to the elders of Gilead, “Weren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me out of my father’s house? And you come to me now that you’re in trouble?”

So the elders of Gilead told Jephthah, “Well, we’re coming back to you now so you can accompany us, fight the Ammonites, and become the head of all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

Then Jephthah asked the elders of Gilead, “If you all send me to fight against the Ammonites and the Lord hands them over right in front of me, will I really become your head?”

10 The elders of Gilead responded to Jephthah, “May the Lord serve[c] as a witness that we’re making this agreement between ourselves to do as we’ve said.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people appointed him head and military commander over them. Jephthah uttered everything he had to say with the solemnity of an oath[d] in the Lord’s presence at Mizpah.

Jephthah’s Dialogue with the Ammonites

12 Afterwards, Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites to ask him, “What’s your dispute between us that prompted you to come and attack my land?”

13 The king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “We’re here[e] because Israel took away my land from the Arnon River as far as the Jabbok River and as far as the Jordan River when they came up from Egypt! So restore it as a gesture of good will.”[f]

14 But Jephthah sent additional messengers again to the king of the Ammonites 15 and they informed him, “This is Jephthah’s response:

‘Israel didn’t seize the land of Moab nor the land of the Ammonites. 16 Here’s what happened:[g] When Israel came up from Egypt, passed through the desert to the Red[h] Sea, and arrived at Kadesh, 17 Israel sent a delegation to the king of Edom and asked him, “Please let us pass through your territory.”

‘But the king of Edom wouldn’t listen. So they also sent word to the king of Moab, but he wouldn’t consent, either. So Israel stayed at Kadesh. 18 Then they went through the desert, circumventing the territory belonging to Edom and Moab. They encamped on the other side of the Arnon River, but never entered the territory of Moab because the Arnon River is the border of Moab.

19 ‘Then Israel sent a delegation to Sihon, king of the Amorites and king of Heshbon. Israel requested of him, “Please let us pass through your territory to our place.” 20 But Sihon didn’t trust Israel to pass through his territory, so he assembled his entire army, encamped in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. 21 The Lord God of Israel handed Sihon and his entire army into the control of Israel, and defeated them. As a result, Israel took control over the entire land of the Amorites, who were living in that country. 22 They took possession of the entire territory of the Amorites from the Arnon River as far as the Jabbok River and from the desert as far as the Jordan River.

23 ‘Now then, since the Lord God of Israel expelled the Amorites right in front of his people Israel, are you going to control their territory? 24 Don’t you control what your god Chemosh gives you? In the same way, we’ll take control of whomever the Lord our God has driven out in front of us. 25 Also ask yourselves:[i] do you have a better case[j] than Zippor’s son Balak, king of Moab? Did he ever have a quarrel with Israel or ever win a[k] fight against them? 26 When Israel was living in Heshbon and its surrounding villages, in Aroer and its surrounding villages, and in all the cities that line the banks of the Arnon River these past three hundred years, why didn’t you retake them during that time? 27 I haven’t sinned against you, but you are acting wrongly against me by declaring war on me. May the Lord, the Judge, sit in judgment today between the Israelis and the Ammonites.’”

28 But the king of the Ammonites wouldn’t heed the message that Jephthah had sent to him.

Jephthah’s Vow

29 The Spirit of the Lord came[l] on Jephthah, so he swept through Gilead and the territory of[m] Manasseh, then swept through Mizpah in Gilead, and from Mizpah in Gilead he proceeded toward where the Ammonites were encamped. 30 Jephthah made this solemn vow to the Lord: “If you truly give the Ammonites into my control, 31 then if I return from the Ammonites without incident,[n] whatever comes[o] out the doors of my house to meet me will become the Lord’s, and I will offer it[p] up as a burnt offering.”

32 Then Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites and attacked them. The Lord gave them into his control. 33 He attacked them from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith—twenty cities in all[q]—even as far as Abel-keramim. As a result, the Ammonites were subdued right in front of the Israelis. 34 When Jephthah arrived at his home in Mizpah—surprise!—it was his daughter who came out to meet him, playing tambourines and dancing. She was his one and only child. Except for her, he had no other son or daughter. 35 When he saw her, he ripped his clothes and cried out, “Oh no! My daughter! You have terribly burdened me! You’ve joined those who are causing me trouble, because I’ve given my word[r] to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.[s]

36 She told him, “My father, you have given your word[t] to the Lord. Do to me according to what has come out of your own mouth, considering that the Lord has paid back your enemies, the Ammonites.” 37 Then she continued talking with her father, “Do this for me: leave me alone by myself for two months. I’ll go up to the mountains and cry there because I’ll never marry.[u] My friends and I will go.”[v]

38 So he said, “Go!” He sent her away for two months. She left with her friends and cried there on the mountains because she would never marry.[w] 39 Later, after the two months were concluded, she returned to her father, and he fulfilled what he had solemnly vowed—and she never married.[x] That’s how the custom arose in Israel 40 that for four days out of every year the Israeli women would go to mourn the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite in commemoration.


  1. Judges 11:2 Lit. in our father’s
  2. Judges 11:5 Lit. When the Ammonites attacked Israel
  3. Judges 11:10 Lit. hear
  4. Judges 11:11 Lit. uttered all his words
  5. Judges 11:13 The Heb. lacks We’re here
  6. Judges 11:13 Lit. restore them in peace
  7. Judges 11:16 Lit. Because
  8. Judges 11:16 Lit. Reed
  9. Judges 11:25 Lit. And now
  10. Judges 11:25 Lit. are you better
  11. Judges 11:25 The Heb. lacks ever win a
  12. Judges 11:29 Lit. was
  13. Judges 11:29 The Heb. lacks the territory of
  14. Judges 11:31 Lit. Ammonites in peace
  15. Judges 11:31 MT participle is masculine
  16. Judges 11:31 MT suffix is masculine
  17. Judges 11:33 The Heb. lacks in all
  18. Judges 11:35 Lit. I’ve opened my mouth
  19. Judges 11:35 The Heb. lacks on it
  20. Judges 11:36 Lit. You’ve opened your mouth
  21. Judges 11:37 Lit. there on behalf of my virginity; i.e. terminating the genealogy of Jephthah
  22. Judges 11:37 The Heb. lacks will go
  23. Judges 11:38 Lit. there for her virginity
  24. Judges 11:39 Lit. she did not know a man
International Standard Version (ISV)

Copyright © 1995-2014 by ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC.

Judges 11 New International Version (NIV)

11 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 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, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.

Some time later, when the Ammonites were fighting against Israel, 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? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?”

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 head over all of us who live in Gilead.”

Jephthah answered, “Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me—will I really be your head?”

10 The elders of Gilead replied, “The Lord is our witness; we will certainly do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the Lord in Mizpah.

12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: “What do you have against me that you have attacked my country?”

13 The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah’s messengers, “When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably.”

14 Jephthah sent back messengers to the Ammonite king, 15 saying:

“This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. 16 But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea[a] and on to Kadesh. 17 Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Give us permission to go through your country,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.

18 “Next they traveled through the wilderness, skirted the lands of Edom and Moab, passed along the eastern side of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon. They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.

19 “Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, ‘Let us pass through your country to our own place.’ 20 Sihon, however, did not trust Israel[b] to pass through his territory. He mustered all his troops and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.

21 “Then the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and his whole army into Israel’s hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, 22 capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.

23 “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? 24 Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess. 25 Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them? 26 For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn’t you retake them during that time? 27 I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the Lord, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.

28 The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.

29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.

32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.

36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

38 “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.

From this comes the Israelite tradition 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.


  1. Judges 11:16 Or the Sea of Reeds
  2. Judges 11:20 Or however, would not make an agreement for Israel
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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