Morrish Bible Dictionary
- Jephthah, Jephthae
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 Exodus 13:13 and Leviticus 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. Judges 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. 1 Samuel 12:11 . The faith of Jephthae is spoken of in Hebrews 11:32 . He maintained the title of God's people to the inheritance God had given them.