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Judges chapter 11

New International Version

1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. 'You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,' they said, 'because you are the son of another woman.' 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.
4 Some time later, when the Ammonites were fighting against Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 Come,' they said, 'be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.'
7 Jephthah said to them, 'Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble?'
8 The elders of Gilead said to him, 'Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be head over all of us who live in Gilead.'
9 Jephthah answered, 'Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me--will I really be your head?'
10 The elders of Gilead replied, 'The LORD is our witness; we will certainly do as you say.' 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.
12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: 'What do you have against me that you have attacked my country?'
13 The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah's messengers, 'When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably.'
14 Jephthah sent back messengers to the Ammonite king,
15 saying: 'This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. 16 But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and on to Kadesh. 17 Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, 'Give us permission to go through your country,' but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.
18 Next they traveled through the wilderness, skirted the lands of Edom and Moab, passed along the eastern side of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon. They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.
19 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, 'Let us pass through your country to our own place.' 20 Sihon, however, did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered all his troops and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.
21 Then the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and his whole army into Israel's hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, 22 capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.
23 Now since the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? 24 Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the LORD our God has given us, we will possess. 25 Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them? 26 For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn't you retake them during that time? 27 I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the LORD, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.'
28 The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.
29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: 'If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.'
32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, 'Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.'
36 My father,' she replied, 'you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,' she said. 'Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.'
38 You may go,' he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry.
39 After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin. From this comes the Israelite tradition 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.
English Standard Version

1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.
4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The LORD will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah.
12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably.” 14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, 16 but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17 Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.
18 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. 19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’ 20 but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 And the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. 22 And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23 So then the LORD, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them? 24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The LORD, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.” 28 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him.
29 Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.
34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. 39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.
King James Version

1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, 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 unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house; for thou art the son of a strange woman. 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him.
4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. 5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: 6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. 7 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? 8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. 9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head? 10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy 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 before the LORD in Mizpeh.
12 And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? 13 And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably. 14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: 15 And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon: 16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh; 17 Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh. 18 Then they went along 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: for Arnon was the border of Moab. 19 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place. 20 But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: 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 coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan. 23 So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it? 24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess. 25 And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? 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? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time? 27 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon. 28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto 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 unto the children of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. 32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. 33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. 34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. 36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. 37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down 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 unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, 40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
New American Standard Bible

1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. And Gilead had fathered Jephthah. 2 Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, 'You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.' 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless men gathered around Jephthah, and they went wherever he did.
4 Now it came about, after a while, that the sons of Ammon fought against Israel. 5 When the sons of Ammon fought against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob; 6 and they said to Jephthah, 'Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the sons of Ammon.' 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, 'Did you not hate me and drive me from my father’s house? So why have you come to me now when you are in trouble?' 8 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, 'For this reason we have now returned to you, that you may go with us and fight the sons of Ammon, and become our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.' 9 So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, 'If you bring me back to fight against the sons of Ammon and the LORD gives them up to me, will I become your head?' 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, 'The LORD is witness between us; be assured we will do as you have said.' 11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah.
12 So Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, 'What conflict do you and I have, that you have come to me to fight against my land?' 13 And the king of the sons of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthah, 'It is because Israel took my land when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and the Jordan; so return them peaceably now.' 14 But Jephthah sent messengers once again to the king of the sons of Ammon, 15 and they said to him, 'This is what Jephthah says: ‘Israel did not take the land of Moab nor the land of the sons of Ammon. 16 For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea, and came to Kadesh, 17 then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, 'Please let us pass through your land'; but the king of Edom would not listen. And they also sent messengers to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. 18 Then they went through the wilderness and around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east side of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon; but they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. 19 And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said to him, 'Please let us pass through your land to our place.' 20 But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people and camped in Jahaz, and fought with Israel. 21 And the LORD, the God of Israel, handed Sihon and all his people over to Israel, and they defeated them; so Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 So they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan. 23 And now the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven out the Amorites from His people Israel; so should you possess it? 24 Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess it. 25 Now then, are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend with Israel, or did he ever fight against them? 26 While Israel was living in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time? 27 So I have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me. May the LORD, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.’?' 28 But the king of the sons of Ammon disregarded the message which Jephthah sent him.
29 Now the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, 'If You will indeed hand over to me the sons of Ammon, 31 then whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me when I return safely from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.' 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD handed them over to him. 33 He inflicted a very great defeat on them from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.
34 But Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, and behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. And she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. 35 So when he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, 'Oh, my daughter! You have brought me disaster, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.' 36 So she said to him, 'My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me just as you have said, since the LORD has brought you vengeance on your enemies, the sons of Ammon.' 37 And she said to her father, 'Let this thing be done for me; allow me two months, so that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my friends.' 38 Then he said, 'Go.' So he let her go for two months; and she left with her friends, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity. 39 And at the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her what he had vowed; and she had no relations with a man. And it became a custom in Israel, 40 that the daughters of Israel went annually to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days in the year.
New Living Translation

1 Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead's wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. 'You will not get any of our father's inheritance,' they said, 'for you are the son of a prostitute.' 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.
4 At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel. 5 When the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. The elders said, 6 'Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!'
7 But Jephthah said to them, 'Aren't you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now when you're in trouble?'
8 'Because we need you,' the elders replied. 'If you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead.'
9 Jephthah said to the elders, 'Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the LORD gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?'
10 'The LORD is our witness,' the elders replied. 'We promise to do whatever you say.'
11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their ruler and commander of the army. At Mizpah, in the presence of the LORD, Jephthah repeated what he had said to the elders.
12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon, asking, 'Why have you come out to fight against my land?'
13 The king of Ammon answered Jephthah's messengers, 'When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they stole my land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River and all the way to the Jordan. Now then, give back the land peaceably.'
14 Jephthah sent this message back to the Ammonite king:
15 'This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not steal any land from Moab or Ammon. 16 When the people of Israel arrived at Kadesh on their journey from Egypt after crossing the Red Sea, 17 they sent messengers to the king of Edom asking for permission to pass through his land. But their request was denied. Then they asked the king of Moab for similar permission, but he wouldn't let them pass through either. So the people of Israel stayed in Kadesh.
18 'Finally, they went around Edom and Moab through the wilderness. They traveled along Moab's eastern border and camped on the other side of the Arnon River. But they never once crossed the Arnon River into Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab.
19 'Then Israel sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled from Heshbon, asking for permission to cross through his land to get to their destination. 20 But King Sihon didn't trust Israel to pass through his land. Instead, he mobilized his army at Jahaz and attacked them. 21 But the LORD, the God of Israel, gave his people victory over King Sihon. So Israel took control of all the land of the Amorites, who lived in that region, 22 from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River, and from the eastern wilderness to the Jordan.
23 'So you see, it was the LORD, the God of Israel, who took away the land from the Amorites and gave it to Israel. Why, then, should we give it back to you? 24 You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the LORD our God gives us. 25 Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he try to make a case against Israel for disputed land? Did he go to war against them?
26 'Israel has been living here for 300 years, inhabiting Heshbon and its surrounding settlements, all the way to Aroer and its settlements, and in all the towns along the Arnon River. Why have you made no effort to recover it before now? 27 Therefore, I have not sinned against you. Rather, you have wronged me by attacking me. Let the LORD, who is judge, decide today which of us is right--Israel or Ammon.'
28 But the king of Ammon paid no attention to Jephthah's message.
29 At that time the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and from there he led an army against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, 'If you give me victory over the Ammonites, 31 I will give to the LORD whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.'
32 So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave him victory. 33 He crushed the Ammonites, devastating about twenty towns from Aroer to an area near Minnith and as far away as Abel-keramim. In this way Israel defeated the Ammonites.
34 When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. 'Oh, my daughter!' he cried out. 'You have completely destroyed me! You've brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.'
36 And she said, 'Father, if you have made a vow to the LORD, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But first let me do this one thing: Let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin.'
38 'You may go,' Jephthah said. And he sent her away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children.
39 When she returned home, her father kept the vow he had made, and she died a virgin. So it has become a custom in Israel 40 for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah's daughter.
Christian Standard Bible

1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father. 2 Gilead's wife bore him sons, and when they grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, "You will have no inheritance in our father's family, because you are the son of another woman." 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Then some worthless men joined Jephthah and went on raids with him.
4 Some time later, the Ammonites fought against Israel. 5 When the Ammonites made war with Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 They said to him, "Come, be our commander, and let's fight the Ammonites."
7 Jephthah replied to the elders of Gilead, "Didn't you hate me and drive me out of my father's family? Why then have you come to me now when you're in trouble? "
8 They answered Jephthah, "That's true. But now we turn to you. Come with us, fight the Ammonites, and you will become leader of all the inhabitants of Gilead."
9 So Jephthah said to them, "If you are bringing me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me, I will be your leader."
10 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "The Lord is our witness if we don't do as you say." 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead. The people made him their leader and commander, and Jephthah repeated all his terms in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah.
12 Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites, asking, "What do you have against me that you have come to fight me in my land? "
13 The king of the Ammonites said to Jephthah's messengers, "When Israel came from Egypt, they seized my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok and the Jordan. Now restore it peaceably."
14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 to tell him, "This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. 16 But when they came from Egypt, Israel traveled through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17 Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, 'Please let us travel through your land,' but the king of Edom would not listen. They also sent messengers to the king of Moab, but he refused. So Israel stayed in Kadesh.
18 "Then they traveled through the wilderness and around the lands of Edom and Moab. They came to the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon but did not enter into the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab.
19 "Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon. Israel said to him, 'Please let us travel through your land to our country,' 20 but Sihon would not trust Israel to pass through his territory. Instead, Sihon gathered all his troops, camped at Jahaz, and fought with Israel. 21 Then the Lord God of Israel handed over Sihon and all his troops to Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of the entire land of the Amorites who lived in that country. 22 They took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.
23 "The Lord God of Israel has now driven out the Amorites before his people Israel, and will you now force us out? 24 Isn't it true that you can have whatever your god Chemosh conquers for you, and we can have whatever the Lord our God conquers for us? 25 Now are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend with Israel or fight against them? 26 While Israel lived three hundred years in Heshbon and Aroer and their surrounding villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, why didn't you take them back at that time? 27 I have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by fighting against me. Let the Lord who is the judge decide today between the Israelites and the Ammonites." 28 But the king of the Ammonites would not listen to Jephthah's message that he sent him.
29 The Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah, who traveled through Gilead and Manasseh, and then through Mizpah of Gilead. He crossed over to the Ammonites from Mizpah of Gilead. 30 Jephthah made this vow to the Lord: "If you in fact hand over the Ammonites to me, 31 whoever comes out the doors of my house to greet me when I return safely from the Ammonites will belong to the Lord, and I will offer that person as a burnt offering."
32 Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord handed them over to him. 33 He defeated twenty of their cities with a great slaughter from Aroer all the way to the entrance of Minnith and to Abel-keramim. So the Ammonites were subdued before the Israelites.
34 When Jephthah went to his home in Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with tambourines and dancing! She was his only child; he had no other son or daughter besides her. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, "No! Not my daughter! You have devastated me! You have brought great misery on me. I have given my word to the Lord and cannot take it back."
36 Then she said to him, "My father, you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me as you have said, for the Lord brought vengeance on your enemies, the Ammonites." 37 She also said to her father, "Let me do this one thing: Let me wander two months through the mountains with my friends and mourn my virginity."
38 "Go," he said. And he sent her away two months. So she left with her friends and mourned her virginity as she wandered through the mountains. 39 At the end of two months, she returned to her father, and he kept the vow he had made about her. And she had never been intimate with a man. Now it became a custom in Israel 40 that four days each year the young women of Israel would commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

What does Judges chapter 11 mean?

Judges 11 begins the story Jephthah, one of the most complex of Israel's Judges (Judges 2:16). Depending on how one interprets his character, he could be considered a powerful warrior or a leader of gangsters. He seems to have trusted in the Lord, but also made senseless vows. He rescued Israel from oppression, but also engaged in civil war against other Israelites.

Jephthah is the oldest son of a prostitute and a man named Gilead. His father bears the same name as the region in which they live. Gilead's sons by his legitimate wife drive Jephthah away from their home when they are grown. Their goal is to keep him from sharing in their father's inheritance. Jephthah flees from Gilead to a land called Tob, where he gains his reputation as a warrior. This comes as the leader of what appears to be a group of bandits (Judges 11:1–3).

Meanwhile, the Ammonites have been oppressing Israel for many years (Judges 10:7–8). They now stage another offensive against the region of Gilead (Judges 10:17–18), on the east side of the Jordan River. The Israelites in Gilead want to fight back against the Ammonites. To do so effectively, they need an experienced leader. The elders of Gilead travel to the land of Tob to offer Jephthah the job of commander of the army (Judges 11:4–6).

Jephthah objects, blaming the leaders of Gilead for being complacent while his brothers drove him away. They insist they want him back to help in the fight against the Ammonites. The elders agree to make Jephthah head over all the people of Gilead, including themselves, if he will lead them. Jephthah agrees and returns with the elders to Mizpah, where he takes the oath and becomes the functional leader of the region (Judges 11:7–11).

The Ammonites are massed not far away from Mizpah. Before engaging in battle, Jephthah attempts to negotiate with them. He asks the Ammonite king why he is attacking their land. The king replies that the Israelites wrongly took the land of Gilead from his ancestors during the time of Moses. Jephthah responds with a long message of his own. In it, he clearly shows that the Ammonite king's claim is false. Gilead never belonged to the Ammonites. The Amorites lost it when they attacked Israel for attempting to pass through peaceably. Gilead was given to Israel by God Himself, and for three hundred years, Ammon has made no claims to it (Judges 11:12–26).

Jephthah's message concludes by insisting that Israel has never harmed the Ammonites. He firmly asks the king of Ammon not to sin against Israel by making unjust war. The king refuses to listen to these arguments. Most likely, his earlier excuse was just that: a casual lie meant to justify his aggression (Judges 11:27–28).

For the first time in this passage, the Lord's Spirit comes on Jephthah. He successfully recruits fighters from Gilead and the larger territory of the tribe of Manasseh. He then prepares to attack the Ammonites from Israel's base at Mizpah. Before the battle, however, Jephthah makes a tragically misguided vow. He promises God to offer "as a burnt offering" whatever or whomever comes to meet him if he returns in victory. The wording of this vow and Jephthah's intent are among the most debated words in the entire Bible. Jephthah attacks and utterly defeats the Ammonites, completely turning back Israel's enemy from being any further immediate threat (Judges 11:29–33).

Jephthah arrives home safely to Mizpah following this victory over Ammon. His daughter—his one and only child—comes out of his house to greet him with tambourines and dancing. Jephthah remembers his vow. He tears his clothes in grief, telling his daughter about what he has promised the Lord. Depending on what his intentions were, he was either obligated to offer her as a human sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10) or devote the rest of her life to service to God. For her part, the daughter agrees that the vow must be kept. She says Jephthah must do to her as He vowed since the Lord gave victory (Judges 11:34–36).

What the daughter requests from Jephthah is among the reasons some interpreters believe she became a religious devotee, rather than a sacrifice. Her primary regret is that she will never have children, not that she will die. Rather than act immediately, Jephthah agrees to his daughter's request: two months of freedom to travel in the mountains with her friends and grieve that she will never marry or have children. Jephthah then carries out the vow—in whatever fashion that implies. For years afterward, the women of Israel would grieve for the daughter of Jephthah, for four days every year (Judges 11:37–39)