The son of Gilead, was a judge of Israel, and successor to Jair. His history is told in Jg 11-12. A most affecting incident in it is his devoting his daughter to God as a sacrifice, in consequence of a rash vow.
The arguments on the question whether Jephthah's daughter was actually sacrificed or not, cannot here be cited. The natural repugnance we feel to such a vow and its fulfillment has led many interpreters to adopt the less obvious theory that she was only condemned to live and die unmarried. There is no intimation in Scripture that God approved of his vow, whatever it was. Paul numbers Jephthah among the saints of the Old Testament distinguished for their faith, Heb 11:32.
whom God sets free, or the breaker through, a "mighty man of valour" who delivered Israel from the oppression of the Ammonites (Jg 11:1-33), and judged Israel six years (Jg 12:7). He has been described as "a wild, daring, Gilead mountaineer, a sort of warrior Elijah." After forty-five years of comparative quiet Israel again apostatized, and in "process of time the children of Ammon made war against Israel" (Jg 11:5). In their distress the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob, to which he had fled when driven out wrongfully by his brothers from his father's inheritance (2), and the people made him their head and captain. The "elders of Gilead" in their extremity summoned him to their aid, and he at once undertook the conduct of the war against Ammon. Twice he sent an embassy to the king of Ammon, but in vain. War was inevitable. The people obeyed his summons, and "the spirit of the Lord came upon him." Before engaging in war he vowed that if successful he would offer as a "burnt-offering" whatever would come out of the door of his house first to meet him on his return. The defeat of the Ammonites was complete. "He smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards [Heb 'Abel Keramim], with a very great slaughter" (Jg 11:33). The men of Ephraim regarded themselves as insulted in not having been called by Jephthah to go with him to war against Ammon. This led to a war between the men of Gilead and Ephraim (Jg 12:4), in which many of the Ephraimites perished. (See Shibboleth.) "Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead" (7).
Son of Gilead by an harlot, the father bearing the same name as the famous Gilead his ancestor. Gilead's sons by his wife drove Jephthah out from share of the father's inheritance as being "son of a strange woman," just as Ishmael and Keturah's sons were sent away by Abraham, so as not to inherit with Isaac (Ge 21:10, etc.; Ge 25:6). Jephthah went to the land of Tob, N.E. of Persea, between Syria and Ammon (2Sa 10:6-8, Ish Tob, "man of Tob"), and there gathered about him a band of loose (1Sa 22:2) men, whom be led in marauding Bedouin-like expeditions. Meantime, through Jehovah's anger at Israel's apostasy to Baalim, Ashtaroth, the gods of Ammon, etc, he sold them (compare Ro 7:14, gave them up to the wages that their sin had earned) into the hands of those very people whose gods they chose (Jg 10:7,17-18), the instrument of their sin being made the instrument of their punishment (Pr 1:31; Jer 2:19).
Then the princes ("elders") of Gilead with Israel encamped at Mizpeh (Jg 10:17-18; 11:5-11), having resolved to make "head" (civil) and "captain" (military) over all Israelite Gilead (the Israelites in Persea) whatever warrior they could find able to lead them against Ammon, applied to Jephthah in Tob. Jephthah, whose temper seems to have been resentful (compare Jg 11:12), upbraided them with having hated and expelled him out of his father's house; yet it was not just to charge them all with what was the wrong of his brethren alone, except in so far as they connived at and allowed his brethren's act. Passion is unreasoning. They did not reason with him the matter, but acknowledged the wrong done him and said, "therefore (to make amends for this wrong) we turn again to thee now, and if thou go with us and fight against Ammon thou shalt be our head, namely over all Gilead."
Jephthah accepted the terms, and "uttered all his words (repeated the conditions and obligations under which he accepted the headship) before Jehovah (as in His presence; not that the ark or any altar of Jehovah was there; simply Jephthah confirmed his engagement by an oath as before Jehovah) in Mizpeh," where the people were met in assembly, Ramoth Mizpeh in Gilead, now Salt. Jephthah before appealing to the sword sent remonstrances to the Ammonite king respecting his invasion of Israel. The marked agreement of Jephthah's appeal with the Pentateuch account proves his having that record before him; compare Jg 11:17,19-22 agreeing almost verbatim with Nu 20:1; 21:21-25. He adds from independent sources (such as the national lays commemorating Israel's victories, quoted by Moses Nu 21:14,17,27) that Israel begged from the king of Moab leave to go through his land (Nu 21:17).
The Pentateuch omitted this as having no direct bearing on Israel's further course. The Ammonite king replied that what he claimed was that Israel should restore his land between the Arnon, Jabbok, and Jordan. This claim was so far true that Israel had taken all the Amorite Sihon's land (because of his wanton assault in answer to Israel's peaceable request for leave to pass through unto "his place," i.e. to Israel's appointed possession), including a portion formerly belonging to Moab and Ammon, but wrested from them by Sihon (Nu 21:26,28-29); for Jos 13:25-26 shows that Sihon's conquests must have included, besides the Moabite land mentioned in the Pentateuch, half the Ammonite land E. of Moab and Gilead and W. of the upper Jabbok. But Israel, according to God's prohibition, had not meddled with Edom, Moab, or Ammon (De 2:5,9,19), i.e. with the land which they possessed in Moses' time.
What was no longer Ammon's, having been taken from them by Sihon, the prohibition did not debar Israel from. Israel, as Jephthah rejoindered, went round Edom add Moab, along the eastern boundary by Ije Abarim (Nu 21:11-13), on the upper Arnon, the boundary between Moab and the Amorites. (See IJE ABARIM.) Jephthah reasons, Jehovah Elohim of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites, and transferred their land to Israel; Ammon therefore has no claim. Ammon can only claim what his god Chemosh gives him to possess; so Israel is entitled to all that land which Jehovah gives, having dispossessed the previous owners. Further, Jephthah reasons, Balak did not strive against Israel for the once Moabite land taken by the Amorites then transferred to Israel; he bribed Balaam indeed to curse them, but never fought against them. Moreover, it was too late now, after Israel's prescriptive right was recognized for 300 years, for Ammon to put forward such a claim. "I (says Jephthah, representing Israel) have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me."
Ammon having rejected his remonstrances, Jephthah gathered his army out of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (northern Gilead and Bashan), and went to (translated Jg 11:29 "passed over to") Mizpeh Gilead, the encampment and rendezvous of Israel (Jg 10:17), and thence to Ammon. He smote them from Aroer to Minnith, 20 cities, "with a very great slaughter," so that Ammon was completely subdued. Jephthah had vowed, in the event of Jehovah giving him victory, to "offer as a burnt offering whatsoever (rather whosoever) should come forth from the doors of his house to meet him"; certainly not a beast or sheep, for it is human beings not brutes that come forth from a general's doors to meet and congratulate him on his victory. Jephthah intended a hard vow, which the sacrifice of one animal would not be. He left it to Providence to choose what human being should first come forth to meet him.
In his eagerness to smite the foe and thank God for it Jephthah could not think of any particular object to name, great enough to dedicate. He shrank from measuring what was dearest to God, and left this for Him to decide (Cassel in Herzog Encyclopedia). He hoped (if he thought of his daughter at the time) that Jehovah would not require this hardest of sacrifices. She was his only child; so on her coming out to meet him with timbrels and dances (Ex 15:20) Jephthah rent his clothes, and exclaimed: "Thou hast brought me very low, for I have opened my mouth (vowing) unto the Lord, and I cannot go back" (Nu 30:2-3; Ec 5:2-5; Ps 15:4 end, Ps 66:14). Her filial obedience, patriotic devotion, and self sacrificing piety shine brightly in her reply: "My father (compare Isaac's reverent submission, Ge 22:6-7,10), do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth, forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of ... Ammon."
She only begged two months to bewail with her fellows her virginity, amidst the surrounding valleys and mountains (margin 37). Afterward he did with her according to his vow, namely, doomed her forever to "virginity," as her lamentation on ibis account proves, as also what follows, "she knew no man." So it became "a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went yearly to praise (timah; Jg 5:11, not 'to lament') the daughter of Jephthah ... four days in a year." Jephthah contemplated evidently a human sacrifice. A literal human sacrifice was forbidden as an abomination before Jehovah (Le 18:21; 20:2-5). It was unknown until introduced by the godless Ahaz and Manasseh. Le 27:28-29 is not in point, for it refers to a forced devoting of the wicked to God's glory in their destruction; God alone could so devote any. Nor was Jephthah otherwise impetuous and hasty; he had not recourse to the sword until negotiation with Ammon proved of no avail.
His vow was made, not in the heat of battle without weighing his words, but before he set out. Jephthah, though a freebooter (the godly David was one too), was one who looked to Jehovah as the only Giver of victory, and uttered all his words of engagement with the princes of Gilead "before Jehovah." He showed in his message to Ammon his knowledge of the Pentateuch, therefore he must have known that a human sacrifice was against the spirit of the worship of Jehovah. "The Spirit of Jehovah came upon Jephthah" moreover, which shows he was no Moloch worshipper. Above all Jephthah is made an instance of FAITH for our imitation, in Heb 11:32. Therefore the sense in which he fulfilled his vow was "she knew no man," words adverse to the notion of a sacrificial de
Spoken of simply as 'the Gileadite,' and as being a 'mighty man of valour.' In Jg 11:1 it is said that he was 'the son of a harlot,' for which cause he was driven out from his home in Gilead by his brethren. Hereupon he gathers a band of followers, and leads the life of a freebooter in the land of Tob. Some time after this, Gilead is threatened with an attack by the Ammonites, and Jephthah is besought to return to his country in order to defend it; he promises to lead his countrymen against the Ammonites on condition of his being made chief (king?) if he returns victorious. Not only is this agreed to, but he is forthwith made head of his people (Jg 11:4-11).
In the long passage which follows, Jg 11:12-28, Israel's claim to possess Gilead is urged by messengers who are sent by Jephthah to the Ammonite king; the passage, however, is concerned mostly with the Moabites (cf. Nu 20; 21), and is clearly out of place here.
The 'spirit of the Lord' comes upon Jephthah, and he marches out to attack the Ammonites. On his way he makes a vow that if he returns from the battle victorious, he will offer up, as a thanksgiving to Jahweh, whoever comes out of his house to welcome him. He defeats the Ammonites, and, on his return, his daughter, an only child, comes out to meet him. The father beholds his child, according to our present text, with horror and grief, but cannot go back upon his word. The daughter begs for two months' respite, in order to go into the mountains to 'bewail her virginity.' At the end of this period she returns, and Jephthah fulfils his vow (an arch
Jeph'thah Jephthae. Jeph'thae
Son of Gilead by a 'strange woman.' Being turned out by his half-brothers he went into the land of Tob, where 'vain men' joined him, and went out with him, apparently as freebooters. But when the Ammonites attacked Israel, the men of Gilead called in the aid of this 'mighty man of valour.' He covenanted with them that if he was successful in the war he should be their head. After vainly seeking to divert the Ammonites from their unjust aggression, by maintaining that the Lord God of Israel had given them the land which Ammon now sought to possess, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he prepared for the war; but before the battle, he vowed that if the Lord would deliver the Ammonites into his hand he would on returning devote to the Lord whatever should first come out of his house to meet him.
The Ammonites were smitten with very great slaughter: he conquered twenty cities, for the Lord delivered them into his hand. On returning to his house, his daughter, his only child, came out to meet him. He rent his clothes, and was in deep trouble; but said he had opened his mouth to the Lord, and could not go back. His daughter coincided with this view, seeing that the Lord had taken vengeance on their enemies. Two months were occupied by her and her companions bewailing her virginity.
As to his daughter being really offered as a sacrifice, the vow was "I will offer it up for a burnt offering;" and at the end of the two months "she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed:" which seems to imply that she was offered up as a sacrifice. If so, such a sacrifice would have been contrary to the law, only certain clean beasts and birds being eligible. One of these may have been offered for her in the spirit of Ex 13:13 and Lev. 26: and she have been devoted to perpetual virginity. This to an Israelite would have been a sufficient calamity to account for Jephthah's grief. Judges 11.
The men of Ephraim then gathered themselves together and complained that Jephthah had not called them to the war, beginning a quarrel, which ended with the death of 42,000 of the Ephraimites. Jephthah judged Israel six years. Jg 12:1-7.
The history of Jephthah shows how Israel had fallen in having recourse to the captain of a troop of 'vain men.' Jephthah suffered severely through his rash vow, and he had not wisdom and humility to appease the anger of Ephraim. God did not desert His people, but their low state is very manifest. 1Sa 12:11. The faith of Jephthae is spoken of in Heb 11:32. He maintained the title of God's people to the inheritance God had given them.
(whom God sets free), A judge about B.C. 1143-1137. His history is contained in
He was a Gileadite, the son of Gilead and a concubine. Driven by the legitimate sons from his father's inheritance, he went to Tob and became the head of a company of freebooters in a debatable land probably belonging to Ammon.
(This land was east of Jordan and southeast of Gilead, and bordered on the desert of Arabia. --ED.) His fame as a bold and successful captain was carried back to his native Gilead; and when the time was ripe for throwing off the yoke of Ammon, Jephthah consented to become the captain of the Gileadite bands, on the condition, solemnly ratified before the Lord in Mizpeh, that int he event of his success against Ammon he should still remain as their acknowledged head. Vowing his vow unto God,
that he would offer up as a burn offering whatsoever should come out to meet him if successful, he went forth to battle. The Ammonites were routed with great slaughter; but as the conqueror returned to Mizpeh there came out to meet him his daughter, his only child, with timbrels and dancing. The father is heart-stricken; but the maiden asks only for a respite of two months in which to prepare for death. When that time was ended she returned to her father, who "did with her according to his vow." The tribe of Ephraim challenged Jephthah's right to go to war as he had done, without their concurrence, against Ammon. He first defeated them, then intercepted the fugitives at the fords of Jordan, and there put forty-two thousand men to the sword. He judged Israel six years, and died. It is generally conjectured that his jurisdiction was limited to the transjordanic region. That the daughter of Jephthah was really offered up to God in sacrifice is a conclusion which it seems impossible to avoid. (But there is no word of approval, as if such a sacrifice was acceptable to God. Josephus well says that "the sacrifice was neither sanctioned by the Mosaic ritual nor acceptable to God." The vow and the fulfillment were the mistaken conceptions of a rude chieftain, not acts pleasing to God. --ED.)
JEPHTHAH, one of the judges of Israel, was the son of Gilead by a concubine, Jg 11:1-2. His father having several other children by his lawful wife, they conspired to expel Jephthah from among them, insisting that he who was the son of a strange woman should have no part of the inheritance with them. Like Ishmael, therefore, he withdrew, and took up his residence beyond Jordan, in the land of Tob, where he appears to have become the chief of a banditti, or marauding party, who probably lived by plunder, Jg 11:3. In process of time, a war broke out between the Ammonites and the children of Israel who inhabited the country beyond Jordan; and the latter, finding their want of an intrepid and skilful leader, applied to Jephthah to take the command of them. He at first reproached them with the injustice they had done him, in banishing him from his father's house; but he at length yielded to their importunity, on an agreement that, should he be successful in the war against the Ammonites, the Israelites should acknowledge him for their chief, Jg 11:4-11.
As soon as Jephthah was invested with the command of the Israelites he sent a deputation to the Ammonites, demanding to know on what principle the latter had taken up arms against them. They answered that it was to recover the territory which the former had taken from them on their first coming out of Egypt. Jephthah replied that they had made no conquests in that quarter but from the Amorites; adding, "If you think you have a right to all that Chemosh, your god, hath given you, why should not we possess all that the Lord our God hath conferred on us by right of conquest?" Jephthah's reasoning availed nothing with the Ammonites; and as the latter persisted in waging war, the former collected his troops together and put himself at their head. The Spirit of the Lord is said to have now come upon Jephthah; by which we are here to understand, that the Lord endowed him with a spirit of valour and fortitude, adequate to the exigence of the situation in which he was placed, animating him with courage for the battle, and especially inspired him with unshaken confidence in the God of the armies of Israel, Jg 11:17; Heb 11:32; 1Sa 11:6; Nu 24:2. Jephthah at this time made a vow to the Lord that if he delivered the Ammonites into his hand, whatever came forth out of the doors of his house to meet him when he returned should be the Lord's; it is also added in our English version, "and I will offer it up for a burnt- offering," Jg 11:31. The battle terminated auspiciously for Jephthah; the Ammonites were defeated, and the Israelites ravaged their country. But on returning toward his own house, his daughter, an only child, came out to meet her father with timbrels and dances, accompanied by a chorus of virgins, to celebrate his victory. On seeing her, Jephthah rent his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low; for I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and cannot go back." His daughter intimated her readiness to accede to any vow he might have made in which she was personally interested; only claiming a respite of two months, during which she might go up to the mountains and bewail her virginity with her companions. Jephthah yielded to this request, and at the end of two months, according to the opinion of many, her father offered her up in sacrifice, as a burnt-offering to the Lord, Jg 11:34-39. It is, however, scarcely necessary to mention, that almost from the days of Jephthah to the present time, it has been a subject of warm contest among the critics and commentators, whether the judge of Israel really sacrificed his daughter, or only devoted her to a state of celibacy. Among those who contend for the former opinion, may be particularly mentioned the very learned Professor Michaelis, who insists most peremptorily that the words, "did with her as he had vowed," cannot mean any thing else but that her father put her to death, and burned her body as a burnt-offering. On this point, however, the remarks of Dr. Hales are of great weight: