Jephthahs Foolish Promise

Jephthah, the Gileadite, was an able warrior, but he was the son of a

wicked woman, and had fled from his relatives and lived in the land of

Tob. There certain rascals gathered about him, and they used to go out

on raids with him.

After a time the Ammonites made war against the Israelites. Then the

elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob, and they

said to him, "Come and be our command
r, that we may fight against the

Ammonites." But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Are you not the

men who hated me and drove me out of my father's house? Why then do you

come to me now when you are in trouble?" But the elders of Gilead said

to Jephthah, "This is why we have now turned to you, that you may go

with us and fight against the Ammonites, and you shall be our chief,

even over all the people who live in Gilead." Then Jephthah said to the

rulers of Gilead, "If you take me back to fight against the Ammonites

and Jehovah gives me the victory over them, I shall be your chief." The

elders of Gilead replied, "Jehovah shall be a witness between us; we

swear to do as you say."

Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him

chief and commander over them. Jephthah also made this vow to Jehovah:

"If thou wilt deliver the Ammonites into my power, then whoever comes

out of the door of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from

the Ammonites, shall be Jehovah's, and I will offer that one as an

offering to be burned with fire."

So Jephthah went out to fight against the Ammonites; and Jehovah gave

him the victory over them, and delivered them into his hands. But when

he came home to Mizpah, his daughter was just coming out to meet him

with tambourines and choral dances. She was his only child; besides this

one he had neither son nor daughter. So when he saw her, he tore his

clothes and said, "Oh, my daughter, you have stricken me! It is you who

are the cause of my woe! for I have made a solemn vow to Jehovah and

cannot break it." She said to him, "My father, you have made a solemn

vow to Jehovah; do to me what you have promised, since Jehovah has

punished your enemies the Ammonites. But let this favor be granted me:

spare me two months that I may go out upon the mountains with those who

would have been my bridesmaids and lament because I will never become a

wife and mother." He said, "Go."

So he sent her away for two months with her friends, and she mourned on

the mountains because she would never become a wife and mother. At the

end of two months she returned to her father, who did what he had vowed

to do, even though she had never been married. So it became a custom in

Israel: each year the women of Israel go out for four days to bewail the

death of the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite.