וְיִפְתָּח הַגִּלְעָדִי הָיָה גִּבּוֹר חַיִל וְהוּא בֶּן־אִשָּׁה זוֹנָה וַיּוֹלֶד גִּלְעָד אֶת־יִפְתָּח׃ 11:1
Judg. 11:1 Now Jephthach, the Gileadite, was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of a woman harlot, and Gilead begot Jephthach.
וַתֵּלֶד אֵשֶׁת־גִּלְעָד לוֹ בָּנִים וַיִּגְדְּלוּ בְנֵי־הָאִשָּׁה וַיְגָרְשׁוּ אֶת־יִפְתָּח וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ לֹא־תִנְחַל בְּבֵית־ 11:2
אָבִינוּ כִּי בֶּן־אִשָּׁה אַחֶרֶת אָתָּה׃
Judg. 11:2 And the wife of Gilead bore sons to him; when the sons of the woman grew up, then they drove out Jephthach and they said to him, “You shall not inherit in the house of our father, for are you the son of a different woman.”
From this verse and from the order of these first two verses (although as we know this is not absolutely consistent), we may surmise that Jephthach was the eldest of Gilead’s sons.
וַיִּבְרַח יִפְתָּח מִפְּנֵי אֶחָיו וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּאֶרֶץ טוֹב וַיִּתְלַקְּטוּ אֶל־יִפְתָּח אֲנָשִׁים רֵיקִים וַיֵּצְאוּ עִמּוֹ׃ 11:3
Judg. 11:3 Then Jephthach fled away from the faces of his brothers and dwelled in the land of Tob. And idle men were gathered to Jephthach and they went out with him.
There is general acceptance among scholars that the land of Tob was not in Gilead. But no one is certain.
וַיְהִי מִיָּמִים וַיִּלָּחֲמוּ בְנֵי־עַמּוֹן עִם־יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ 11:4
Judg. 11:4 And it came to pass after a while that the children of Ammon made war with Israel.
וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר־נִלְחֲמוּ בְנֵי־עַמּוֹן עִם־יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֵּלְכוּ זִקְנֵי גִלְעָד לָקַחַת אֶת־יִפְתָּח מֵאֶרֶץ טוֹב׃ 11:5
Judg. 11:5 And it was about when the children of Ammon made war with Israel that the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthach from the land of Tob.
וַיֹּאמְרוּ לְיִפְתָּח לְכָה וְהָיִיתָה לָּנוּ לְקָצִין וְנִלָּחֲמָה בִּבְנֵי עַמּוֹן׃ 11:6
Judg. 11:6 And they said to Jephthach, “Come and be for a leader to us and we will fight with the children of Ammon.
וַיֹּאמֶר יִפְתָּח לְזִקְנֵי גִלְעָד הֲלֹא אַתֶּם שְׂנֵאתֶם אוֹתִי וַתְּגָרְשׁוּנִי מִבֵּית אָבִי וּמַדּוּעַ בָּאתֶם אֵלַי 11:7
עַתָּה כַּאֲשֶׁר צַר לָכֶם׃
Judg. 11:7 And Jephthach said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out from the house of my father? Then why have you come to me now when there is distress for you?”
Apparently the elders had concurred with and enforced the decision of Jephthach’s brothers. I am guessing that he had gone to them to plead on his behalf.
וַיֹּאמְרוּ זִקְנֵי גִלְעָד אֶל־יִפְתָּח לָכֵן עַתָּה שַׁבְנוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְהָלַכְתָּ עִמָּנוּ וְנִלְחַמְתָּ בִּבְנֵי עַמּוֹן וְהָיִיתָ לָּנוּ 11:8
לְרֹאשׁ לְכֹל יֹשְׁבֵי גִלְעָד׃
Judg. 11:8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthach, “Therefore now we return to you that you should come with us and fight against the children of Ammon and be for a chief to us for all the inhabitants of Gilead.”
Notice, there is no sound of apology or regret. Only what seems like a less-than-humble order to accompany and save them. Would he get his inheritance back? Nothing about this!
וַיֹּאמֶר יִפְתָּח אֶל־זִקְנֵי גִלְעָד אִם־מְשִׁיבִים אַתֶּם אוֹתִי לְהִלָּחֵם בִּבְנֵי עַמּוֹן וְנָתַן יְהוָה אוֹתָם לְפָנָי 11:9
אָנֹכִי אֶהְיֶה לָכֶם לְרֹאשׁ׃
Judg. 11:9 And Jephthach said to the elders of Gilead, “If you are bringing me back to fight against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them before me, I will be for a chief to you.”
וַיֹּאמְרוּ זִקְנֵי־גִלְעָד אֶל־יִפְתָּח יְהוָה יִהְיֶה שֹׁמֵעַ בֵּינוֹתֵינוּ אִם־לֹא כִדְבָרְךָ כֵּן נַעֲשֶׂה׃ 11:10
Judg. 11:10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthach, “Let the Lord be a witness between us if we do not do so according to your word.”
וַיֵּלֶךְ יִפְתָּח עִם־זִקְנֵי גִלְעָד וַיָּשִׂימוּ הָעָם אוֹתוֹ עֲלֵיהֶם לְרֹאשׁ וּלְקָצִין וַיְדַבֵּר יִפְתָּח אֶת־כָּל־דְּבָרָיו 11:11
לִפְנֵי יְהוָה בַּמִּצְפָּה׃
Judg. 11:11 So Jephthach went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him for a head and for a chief over them; and Jephthach spoke all his words before the Lord in Mizpah.
The words Jephthach spoke have been assumed to be his agreement with the elders. However, I’m inclined to think this verse refers to the vow he will make below in vss. 11:30 and 31. I suspect that the intervening verses actually occurred after he made his vow.
וַיִּשְׁלַח יִפְתָּח מַלְאָכִים אֶל־מֶלֶךְ בְּנֵי־עַמּוֹן לֵאמֹר מַה־לִּי וָלָךְ כִּי־בָאתָ אֵלַי לְהִלָּחֵם בְּאַרְצִי׃ 11:12
Judg. 11:12 And Jephthach sent messengers to the king of the children of Ammon to say, “What have I to do with you that you have come to me to fight in my land?”
וַיֹּאמֶר מֶלֶךְ בְּנֵי־עַמּוֹן אֶל־מַלְאֲכֵי יִפְתָּח כִּי־לָקַח יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־אַרְצִי בַּעֲלוֹתוֹ מִמִּצְרַיִם מֵאַרְנוֹן 11:13
וְעַד־הַיַּבֹּק וְעַד־הַיַּרְדֵּן וְעַתָּה הָשִׁיבָה אֶתְהֶן בְּשָׁלוֹם׃
Judg. 11:13 And the king of the children of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthach, “Because Israel took my land in his coming up from Egypt, from the Arnon and as far as the Jabbok, and all the way to the Jordan. So now return them in peace.”
וַיּוֹסֶף עוֹד יִפְתָּח וַיִּשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים אֶל־מֶלֶךְ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן׃ 11:14
Judg. 11:14 But Jephthach persisted longer and he sent messengers to the king of the children of Ammon,
וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ כֹּה אָמַר יִפְתָּח לֹא־לָקַח יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־אֶרֶץ מוֹאָב וְאֶת־אֶרֶץ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן׃ 11:15
Judg. 11:15 and it was said to him, “Thus has said Japhthach: ‘Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the children of Ammon.’
כִּי בַּעֲלוֹתָם מִמִּצְרָיִם וַיֵּלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּמִּדְבָּר עַד־יַם־סוּף וַיָּבֹא קָדֵשָׁה׃ 11:16
Judg. 11:16 ‘For in their coming up from Egypt, then Israel walked in the wilderness as far as the Reed Sea and came to Kadesh.’
וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל מַלְאָכִים אֶל־מֶלֶךְ אֱדוֹם לֵאמֹר אֶעְבְּרָה־נָּא בְאַרְצֶךָ וְלֹא שָׁמַע מֶלֶךְ אֱדוֹם וְגַם 11:17
אֶל־מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב שָׁלַח וְלֹא אָבָה וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקָדֵשׁ
Judg. 11:17 ‘Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom to say, ‘May I pass, please, through your land?’ but the king of Edom did not consent. And he sent also to the king of Moab, and he did not consent, so Israel stayed in Kadesh.’
וַיֵּלֶךְ בַּמִּדְבָּר וַיָּסָב אֶת־אֶרֶץ אֱדוֹם וְאֶת־אֶרֶץ מוֹאָב וַיָּבֹא מִמִּזְרַח־שֶׁמֶשׁ לְאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב וַיַּחֲנוּן 11:18
בְּעֵבֶר אַרְנוֹן וְלֹא־בָאוּ בִּגְבוּל מוֹאָב כִּי אַרְנוֹן גְּבוּל מוֹאָב׃
Judg. 11:18 ‘Then he walked in the wilderness and avoided the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and he came from the rising of the sun to the land of Moab, and they camped on the other side of the Arnon, and they did not come into the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab.’
וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל מַלְאָכִים אֶל־סִיחוֹן מֶלֶךְ־הָאֱמֹרִי מֶלֶךְ חֶשְׁבּוֹן וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל נַעְבְּרָה־נָּא 11:19
Judg. 11:19 ‘Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘May we pass, please, through your land to my place?’
וְלֹא־הֶאֱמִין סִיחוֹן אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲבֹר בִּגְבֻלוֹ וַיֶּאֱסֹף סִיחוֹן אֶת־כָּל־עַמּוֹ וַיַּחֲנוּ בְּיָהְצָה וַיִּלָּחֶם עִם־ 11:20
Judg. 11:20 ‘But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon assembled all his people, and they camped in Jahaz, and he fought with Israel.’
וַיִּתֵּן יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־סִיחוֹן וְאֶת־כָּל־עַמּוֹ בְּיַד יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיַּכּוּם וַיִּירַשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵת כָּל־אֶרֶץ 11:21
הָאֱמֹרִי יוֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ הַהִיא׃
Judg. 11:21 ‘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 land.’
וַיִּירְשׁוּ אֵת כָּל־גְּבוּל הָאֱמֹרִי מֵאַרְנוֹן וְעַד־הַיַּבֹּק וּמִן־הַמִּדְבָּר וְעַד־הַיַּרְדֵּן׃ 11:22
Judg. 11:22 ‘And they possessed all the territory from the Arnon and as far as the Jabbok and from the wilderness and as far as the Jordan.’
וְעַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הוֹרִישׁ אֶת־הָאֱמֹרִי מִפְּנֵי עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאַתָּה תִּירָשֶׁנּוּ׃ 11:23
Judg. 11:23 ‘Now that the Lord, God of Israel, has dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel, then you should possess us?’
הֲלֹא אֵת אֲשֶׁר יוֹרִישְׁךָ כְּמוֹשׁ אֱלֹהֶיךָ אוֹתוֹ תִירָשׁ וְאֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר הוֹרִישׁ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מִפָּנֵינוּ 11:24
Judg. 11:24 ‘That which Chemosh, your god, has given you to inherit, do you not possess it? So everyone whom the Lord, our God, has dispossessed from before us, him will we possess.’
וְעַתָּה הֲטוֹב טוֹב אַתָּה מִבָּלָק בֶּן־צִפּוֹר מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב הֲרוֹב רָב עִם־יִשְׂרָאֵל אִם־נִלְחֹם נִלְחַם בָּם׃ 11:25
Judg. 11:25 ‘Now then, are you much better than Balak, the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he successfully strive with Israel? Did he successfully fight against them?’
בְּשֶׁבֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּחֶשְׁבּוֹן וּבִבְנוֹתֶיהָ וּבְעַרְעוֹר וּבִבְנוֹתֶיהָ וּבְכָל־הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר עַל־יְדֵי אַרְנוֹן שְׁלֹשׁ 11:26
מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה וּמַדּוּעַ לֹא־הִצַּלְתֶּם בָּעֵת הַהִיא׃
Judg. 11:26 ‘While Israel has been dwelling in Heshbon and in its towns, and in Aroer and its towns, and the cities that are along the side of the Arnon three hundred years, then why did you not recover during that time?’
וְאָנֹכִי לֹא־חָטָאתִי לָךְ וְאַתָּה עֹשֶׂה אִתִּי רָעָה לְהִלָּחֶם בִּי יִשְׁפֹּט יְהוָה הַשֹּׁפֵט הַיּוֹם בֵּין בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל 11:27
וּבֵין בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן׃
Judg. 11:27 ‘Now I have not been sinful to you, but you do me wrong to fight against me. The Lord, the Judge, shall execute judgment today between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.’”
וְלֹא שָׁמַע מֶלֶךְ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן אֶל־דִּבְרֵי יִפְתָּח אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַח אֵלָיו׃ 11:28
Judg. 11:28 But the king of the children of Ammon did not listen to the words of Jephthach that he sent to him.
וַתְּהִי עַל־יִפְתָּח רוּחַ יְהוָה וַיַּעֲבֹר אֶת־הַגִּלְעָד וְאֶת־מְנַשֶּׁה וַיַּעֲבֹר אֶת־מִצְפֵּה גִלְעָד וּמִמִּצְפֵּה גִלְעָד 11:29
עָבַר בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן׃
Judg. 11:29 Then the spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthach, and he passed over the Gilead and Manasseh, and he passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over the children of Ammon.
וַיִּדַּר יִפְתָּח נֶדֶר לַיהוָה וַיֹּאמַר אִם־נָתוֹן תִּתֵּן אֶת־בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן בְּיָדִי׃ 11:30
Judg. 11:30 And Japhthach made a vow to the Lord and he said, “If indeed You will deliver the children of Ammon into my hand,
וְהָיָה הַיּוֹצֵא אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִדַּלְתֵי בֵיתִי לִקְרָאתִי בְּשׁוּבִי בְשָׁלוֹם מִבְּנֵי עַמּוֹן וְהָיָה לַיהוָה וְהַעֲלִיתִהוּ 11:31
Judg. 11:31 then it shall be that surely whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me on my return in peace from the children of Ammon, that he shall be for the Lord, and I shall offer him up for a burnt offering.”
This is a rather strange vow. There’s a strong implication that it is a pagan form of a vow. To our knowledge no other Israelite has ever made such a vow.
וַיַּעֲבֹר יִפְתָּח אֶל־בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן לְהִלָּחֶם בָּם וַיִּתְּנֵם יְהוָה בְּיָדוֹ׃ 11:32
Judg. 11:32 So Jephthach crossed over to the children of Ammon to fight with them, and the Lord delivered them into his hand.
וַיַּכֵּם מֵעֲרוֹעֵר וְעַד־בּוֹאֲךָ מִנִּית עֶשְׂרִים עִיר וְעַד אָבֵל כְּרָמִים מַכָּה גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד וַיִּכָּנְעוּ בְּנֵי 11:33
עַמּוֹן מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
Judg. 11:33 And he smote them from Aroer and as far as your coming in to Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-cheramim, a very great slaughter. And the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
וַיָּבֹא יִפְתָּח הַמִּצְפָּה אֶל־בֵּיתוֹ וְהִנֵּה בִתּוֹ יֹצֵאת לִקְרָאתוֹ בְתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלוֹת וְרַק הִיא יְחִידָה אֵין־ 11:34
לוֹ מִמֶּנּוּ בֵּן אוֹ־בַת׃
Judg. 11:34 And Jephthach of Mizpeh came to his house and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances, but only she was unique; there was no other son or daughter for him.
וַיְהִי כִרְאוֹתוֹ אוֹתָהּ וַיִּקְרַע אֶת־בְּגָדָיו וַיֹּאמֶר אֲהָהּ בִּתִּי הַכְרֵעַ הִכְרַעְתִּנִי וְאַתְּ הָיִיתְ בְּעֹכְרָי 11:35
וְאָנֹכִי פָּצִיתִי־פִי אֶל־יְהוָה וְלֹא אוּכַל לָשׁוּב׃
Judg. 11:35 And it was upon his seeing her that he rent his clothes and he said, “Alas, my daughter, you have brought me down very low, and you have become my troubler, as I have opened my mouth to the Lord and I am not able to retreat.”
This is a rather impressive dilemma that Japhthach is now faced with. If he doesn’t fulfill his vow and spares his only child, he breaks a commandment, and if he fulfills his vow he likewise breaks a commandment. Since he was the judge of the land, who could he go to for advice? The priesthood was a poor choice since they were probably as corrupt as the people. The lesson? Think carefully before you make a vow before the Lord, both about the nature of the vow and its possible consequences.
וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אָבִי פָּצִיתָה אֶת־פִּיךָ אֶל־יְהוָה עֲשֵׂה לִי כַּאֲשֶׁר יָצָא מִפִּיךָ אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ 11:36
יְהוָה נְקָמוֹת מֵאֹיְבֶיךָ מִבְּנֵי עַמּוֹן׃
Judg. 11:36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord. Do to me as proceeded from your mouth after what the Lord did for you by avenging of your enemies, of the children of Ammon.”
וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל־אָבִיהָ יֵעָשֶׂה לִּי הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה הַרְפֵּה מִמֶּנִּי שְׁנַיִם חֳדָשִׁים וְאֵלְכָה וְיָרַדְתִּי עַל־הֶהָרִים 11:37
וְאֶבְכֶּה עַל־בְּתוּלַי אָנֹכִי ורעיתי וְרֵעוֹתָי׃
Judg. 11:37 And she said to her father, “This thing must be done to me. Stay from me two months that I may leave and go down on the mountains and bewail over my virginity, I and my companions.”
וַיֹּאמֶר לֵכִי וַיִּשְׁלַח אוֹתָהּ שְׁנֵי חֳדָשִׁים וַתֵּלֶךְ הִיא וְרֵעוֹתֶיהָ וַתֵּבְךְּ עַל־בְּתוּלֶיהָ עַל־הֶהָרִים׃ 11:38
Judg. 11:38 And he said, “Go.” And he sent her away two months and she departed, she and her companions, and she bemoaned over her virginity on the mountains.
וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ שְׁנַיִם חֳדָשִׁים וַתָּשָׁב אֶל־אָבִיהָ וַיַּעַשׂ לָהּ אֶת־נִדְרוֹ אֲשֶׁר נָדָר וְהִיא לֹא־יָדְעָה אִישׁ 11:39
Judg. 11:39 And it was at the end of two months that she returned to her father and he fulfilled to her his vow that he had vowed, and she did not know a man. And it has become a custom in Israel
מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה תֵּלַכְנָה בְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְתַנּוֹת לְבַת־יִפְתָּח הַגִּלְעָדִי אַרְבַּעַת יָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה׃ 11:40
Judg. 11:40 from year to year the daughters of Israel should go to lament for the daughter of Jephthach, the Gileadite, four days in the year.
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