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Judges - Chapter 11

1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior. He was a prostitute's son. Gilead was Jephthah's father,

2 but Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and the sons of this wife, when they grew up, drove Jephthah away, saying, 'No share of the paternal heritage for you, since you are a son of another woman.'

3 Jephthah fled far from his brothers and settled in the territory of Tob. Jephthah enlisted a group of adventurers who used to go raiding with him.

4 It was some time after this that the Ammonites made war on Israel.

5 And when the Ammonites had attacked Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah from the territory of Tob.

6 'Come', they said, 'and be our commander, so that we can fight the Ammonites.'

7 Jephthah replied to the elders of Gilead, 'Didn't you hate me and drive me out of my father's house? Why come to me now, when you are in trouble?'

8 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, 'That is why we are turning to you now. Come with us; fight the Ammonites and be our chief, chief of all the people living in Gilead.'

9 Jephthah then said to the elders of Gilead, 'If you bring me home to fight the Ammonites and Yahweh defeats them for me, I am to be your chief?'

10 And the elders of Gilead then said to Jephthah, 'Yahweh be witness between us, if we do not do as you have said!'

11 So Jephthah set off with the elders of Gilead. The people put him at their head as chief and commander; and Jephthah repeated all his conditions at Mizpah in Yahweh's presence.

12 Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites to say to him, 'What do you have against us, for you to come and make war on my country?'

13 The king of the Ammonites replied to Jephthah's messengers, 'The reason is that when Israel came up from Egypt, they seized my country from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; so now restore it to me peacefully.'

14 Jephthah sent messengers back to the king of the Ammonites

15 with this answer, 'Jephthah says this, "Israel seized neither the country of Moab nor the country of the Ammonites.

16 When Israel came out of Egypt, they marched through the desert as far as the Sea of Reeds and, having reached Kadesh,

17 Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom to say: Please let me pass through your country, but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent similarly to the king of Moab, but he refused, and Israel remained at Kadesh;

18 later, moving on through the desert and skirting the countries of Edom and Moab until arriving to the east of Moabite territory, the people camped on the other side of the Arnon but did not enter Moabite territory, the Arnon being the Moabite frontier.

19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, ruling in Heshbon. Israel's message was: Please let me pass through your country to my destination.

20 But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory; he mustered his whole army; they encamped at Jahaz, and he then joined battle with Israel.

21 Yahweh, God of Israel, delivered Sihon and his whole army into the power of Israel, who defeated them; as the result of which, Israel took possession of the entire territory of the Amorites living in that region.

22 Israel took possession of all the Amorite territory from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.

23 And now that Yahweh, God of Israel, has dispossessed the Amorites before his people Israel, do you think you can dispossess us?

24 Will you not keep as your possession whatever Chemosh, your god, has given you? And, just the same, we shall keep as ours whatever Yahweh our God has given us, to inherit from those who were before us!

25 Are you a better man than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he pick a quarrel with Israel? Did he make war on them?

26 When Israel settled in Heshbon and its dependencies, and in Aroer and its dependencies, or in any of the towns on the banks of the Arnon (three hundred years ago), why did you not recover them then?

27 I for my part have done you no harm, but you are wronging me by making war on me. Let Yahweh the Judge give judgement today between the Israelites and the king of the Ammonites." '

28 But the king of the Ammonites took no notice of the message that Jephthah sent him.

29 The spirit of Yahweh was on Jephthah, who crossed Gilead and Manasseh, crossed by way of Mizpah in Gilead, and from Mizpah in Gilead crossed into Ammonite territory.

30 And Jephthah made a vow to Yahweh, 'If you deliver the Ammonites into my grasp,

31 the first thing to come out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from fighting the Ammonites shall belong to Yahweh, and I shall sacrifice it as a burnt offering.'

32 Jephthah crossed into Ammonite territory to attack them, and Yahweh delivered them into his grasp.

33 He beat them from Aroer to the border of Minnith (twenty towns) and to Abel-Keramim. It was a very severe defeat, and the Ammonites were humbled by the Israelites.

34 As Jephthah returned to his house at Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, dancing to the sound of tambourines. She was his only child; apart from her, he had neither son nor daughter.

35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and exclaimed, 'Oh my daughter, what misery you have brought upon me! You have joined those who bring misery into my life! I have made a promise before Yahweh which I cannot retract.'

36 She replied, 'Father, you have made a promise to Yahweh; treat me as the promise that you have made requires, since Yahweh has granted you vengeance on your enemies the Ammonites.'

37 She then said to her father, 'Grant me this! Let me be free for two months. I shall go and wander in the mountains, and with my companions bewail my virginity.'

38 He replied, 'Go,' and let her go away for two months. So she went away with her companions and bewailed her virginity in the mountains.

39 When the two months were over she went back to her father, and he treated her as the vow that he had uttered bound him. She had remained a virgin. And hence, the custom in Israel

40 for the daughters of Israel to leave home year by year and lament over the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days every year.

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