Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.
Heb. a woman, an harlot. Probably zonah should be rendered as in Jos 2:1, a hostess, or inn-keeper: so Targum of Jonathan, wehoo bar ittetha pundekeetha, "and he was the son of a woman, a tavern-keeper." She was very probably a Canaanite, as she is called, ver. 2, a strange woman, ishah achereth, "a woman of another race;" and on this account his brethren drove him from the family, as not having a full right to the inheritance.
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.
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.
from his brethren
Heb. from the face of. Tob. Probably the same as Ish-Tob; and appears to have been a part of Syria, near Zobah, Rehob, and Maachah, east of Jordan, and in the most northern part of the portion of Manasseh. If so, it could not be far from Gilead, the country of Jephthah. This country is called Tobie or Tubin, 1 Mac 5:13; and the Jews who inhabited this district Tubieni, 2 Mac 12:17. 2 Sa 10:6.
And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.
A. M. 2817. B.C. 1187. An. Ex. Is. 304. in process of time. Heb. after days
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:
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?
Did not ye hate
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.
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?
If ye bring
And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.
be the hearer.
if we do
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.
That is, upon his elevation, he immediately retired to his devotion, and in prayer spread the whole matter before God, both his choice to the office, and his execution of the office, as one that had his eye ever toward the Lord, and would do nothing without him; that leaned not to his own understanding or courage, but depended on the Almighty God, and his favour. This is an ensample worthy of universal imitation; in All Our Ways, whether great or apparently subordinate, let us acknowledge God and seek his direction. So shall we make our way prosperous, and obtain that peace which passeth all understanding. Jephthah opened his campaign with prayer.
This Mizpeh was east of Jordan in the mountains of Gilead (Ge 31:49); and hence called Mizpeh of Gilead (ver. 29), to distinguish it from another place of the same name, west of Jordan, in the tribe of Judah.
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?
In this Jephthah acted in accordance with the law of Moses; and hence the justice of his cause would appear more forcibly to the people.
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.
That is, all the land which had belonged to the Amorites and Moabites.
And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon:
And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:
But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh;
The whole of these messages shew, Jephthah had well studied the book of Moses. His arguments also are very clear and cogent, and his demands reasonable; for he only required that the Ammonites should cease to harass a people who had neither injured them, nor intended to do so.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.
from the wilderness
From Arabia Deserta on the east, to Jordan on the west.
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.
Wilt not thou possess
This is simply an argumentum ad hominem; in which Jephthah argues on this principles recognized by the king of Ammon. As if he had said, "You suppose that the land which you possess was given you by your god Chemosh; and therefore will not relinquish what you believe you hold by a divine right. Now we know that Jehovah, our God, has given us the land of the Israelites; and therefore we will not give it up."
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,
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?
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.
Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.
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.
"Jephthah seems to have been judge only of north-east Israel."
And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
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.
Heb. that which cometh forth, which shall come forth. shall surely.
and I will
or, or I will, etc. Weh‰‚leetheehoo Ùlah, rather, as Dr. Randolph and others contend, "and I will offer Him (or to Him, i.e., Jehovah) a burnt offering;" for hoo may with much more propriety be referred to the person to whom the sacrifice was to be made, than to the thing to be sacrificed. Unless understood in this way, or as the marginal reading, it must have been the vow of a heathen or a madman. If a dog, or other uncleaned animal had met him, he could not have made it a burnt offering; or if his neighbour's wife, sons, etc., his vow gave him no right over them.
So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.
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.
Situated, according to Eusebius, four miles from Heshbon, towards Philadelphia or Rabbath.
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.
or, he had not of his own either son or daughter. Heb. of himself. neither.
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.
rent his clothes
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.
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.
go up and down
Heb. go and go down. bewail.
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,
That Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter, but consecrated her to the service of God in the tabernacle, in a state of celibacy, will we imagine be evident from the following consideration:--1. Human sacrifices were ever an abomination to Jehovah, of which Jephthah could not be ignorant; and consequently he would neither have made such a vow, nor carried it into execution. 2. We are expressly told (ver. 29) that Jephthah was under the influence of the Spirit of God, which would effectually prevent him from embruing his hands in the blood of his own child. 3. He had it in his power to redeem his daughter, (Le 27:4;) and surely his only child must have been of more value than thirty shekles. 4. Besides, who was to perform the horrid rite? Not Jephthah himself, who was no priest, and in whom it would have been most unnatural and inhuman; and the priests would certainly have dissuaded him from it. 5. The sacred historian informs us, that she bewailed her virginity, that she knew no man, and that the Israelitish women went yearly to comfort or lament with her.
to his vow
That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
Heb. from year to year. lament. or, to talk with.