1: Now Jephthah (= He [i.e. Yah = God] will deliver. Note the Fig., to call attention to the facts of this verse, introducing Jephthah. All are irregular: no king, no ruler, no priest) the son of the man Gilead was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.
2: And Gilead's wife bare him sons; and his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said to him, “You shall not inherit in our father's house; for you are the son of a foreign woman.”
3: Then Jephthah fled from (Heb. "from the face of") his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob (= fruitful land. East of Syria): and there were gathered unemployed (or bankrupt) men to Jephthah, and went out with him.
4: And it came to pass in process of time, that the sons of Ammon made war against Israel.
5: And it was so, that when the sons of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob:
6: And they said to Jephthah, “Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.”
7: And Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did not you all hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are you all come to me now when you all are in distress?”
8: And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “Therefore we turn again to you now, that you may go with us, and fight against the sons of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”
9: And Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you all bring me home again to fight against the sons of Ammon, and the Lord deliver them before me, shall I be your head?”
10: And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord be a hearer between us, if we do not so according to your words.
11: Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words in the presence of Yehovah in Mizpeh (cp. 10:17).
G³ e 12. First message. f 13. King's answer. e 14-27. Second message. f 28. King's obstinacy.
12: And Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, “What have you to do with me, that you are come against me to fight in my land?”
13: And the king of the sons of Ammon answered to the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even to Jabbok, and to Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.”
14: And Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the sons of Ammon:
15: And said to him (some codices read, "and they said". Heb. text = he), “Thus says Jephthah, ‘Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the sos of Ammon:
16: But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness to the Red sea, and came to Kadesh;
17: Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Let us, I pray you, pass through your land:’ but the king of Edom would not listen thereto. And in like manner they sent to the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.
18: Then they went on through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab (cp. Num. 21:13,24): for Arnon was the border of Moab.
19: And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon (cp. Deut.2:26); and Israel said to him, “Let us pass (cp. Deut. 2:27), we pray you, through your land into our place.”
20: But Sihon stayed (or rested) Israel not to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.
21: And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.
22: And they possessed all the borders of the Amorites, from Arnon even to Jabbok, and from the wilderness even to Jordan.
23: So now the Lord God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before His People Israel, and should you possess him? (i.e. Israel. Being masc. [in Heb.] cannot refer to the land of v. 21; and sing., so that it cannot refer to borders of v. 22)
24: Will not you possess that which Chemosh your god gives you to possess? (Jephthah does not recognize Chemosh as a god. The emphasis is on "your" and "our", and is the argument fortiori: and, taking them on their own ground, it is the argumentum ad hominem) So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.
25: And now are you any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? (cp. Num. 22:2. Deut. 23:4. Josh. 24:9) did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them,
26: While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? (not a "round number") why therefore did you all not recover them within that time?
27: Wherefore I have not sinned against you, but you do me wrong to war against me: The Lord the Judge be judge this day between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.’ ”
28: However the king of the sons of Ammon listened not to the words of Jephthah which he sent him.
29: Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over to the children of Ammon.
30: And Jephthah made a solemn vow to the Lord (see Lev. 27:1-8), and said, “If You shall without fail deliver the sons of Ammon into my hands,
31: Then it shall be, that whatsoever comes forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's (this is masculine. But the issuer from his house was feminine. Thus his rash vow was impossible of fulfillment, and was to be repented of), or I will offer it up for a burnt offering (here, Jephthah's vow consisted of 2 parts: (1) He would either dedicate it to Yahaveh [according to Lev.27]; or (2) if unsuitable for this, he would offer it as a burnt offering. He performed his vow, and dedicated his daughter to Yehovah by a perpetual virginity [vv.36,39,40]; but he did not offer her as a burnt offering, because it was forbidden by the Lord, and could not be accepted by Him [Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5]).
32: So Jephthah passed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands.
33: And he smote them from Aroer, even till you come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and to the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.
34: And Jephthah came to Mizpeh to his house,
d4 g -34-36. Performance. h 37,38. Suspension. g 39-. Performance. h -39,40. Commemoration.
and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with drums and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter (the fact is stated in 2 ways, in order to emphasize it).
35: And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! you have brought me very low, and you are one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth to the Lord (Hebraism for making a formal, prepared, and solemn statement), and I cannot go back.”
36: And she said to him, “My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth; forasmuch as the Lord has taken vengeance for you of your enemies, even of the sons of Ammon.”
37: And she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may wander about upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.”
38: And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
39: And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed (= He did not offer her as a burnt offering; for the Lord could not accept that. Therefore Jephthah must have dedicated her to the Lord by a perpetual virginity. Such a vow was provided for in Lev.27. See note on v.31): and she knew no man (this is conclusive. It has nothing to do with sacrificial death, but it has to do with a dedicated life to Yehovah. Thus was Jephthah's vow fulfilled). And it became a custom in Israel,
40: That the daughters of Israel went yearly to rehearse with (as in 5:11; to celibate her dedication in praises) the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year (thus annually her friends "went", evidently to Jephthah's daughter, to rehearse with her this great event of her life: not her death).