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Who is Jephthah?
        (whom God sets free), one of the judges of Israel, was the illegitimate son of Gilead, Jud 11:1; and this fact made him so odious to the other children of the family that they banished him from the house, and he took up his residence in the land of Tob, a district of Syria not far from Gilead, and probably the same with Ishtob. 2 Sam 10:8. Here he became the head of a marauding-party; and when a war broke out between the children of Israel and the Ammonites, he probably signalized himself for courage and enterprise. This led the Israelites to seek his aid as their commander-in-chief; and though he objected at first, on the ground of their ill-usage of him, yet, upon their solemn covenant to regard him as their leader in case they succeeded against the Ammonites, he took command of their army. After some preliminary negotiations with the Ammonites, in which the question of the right to the country is discussed with great force and ingenuity, and every attempt to conciliate them proved abortive, the two armies met. The Ammonites were defeated with great loss of life, and their country secured by the Israelites. On the eve of the battle Jephthah made a vow that if he obtained the victory he would devote to God whatever should come forth from his house to meet him on his return home. This turned out to be his daughter, an only child, who welcomed his return with music and dancing. Jephthah was greatly afflicted by this occurrence; but his daughter cheerfully consented to the performance of his vow, which took place at the expiration of two months, and the commemoration of the event by the daughters of Israel was required by a public ordinance. Jud 11:34-40. The Ephraimites quarrelled with Jephthah because they had not been invited to join in the war. But Jephthah again put himself at the head of his army, defeated them, and by the word "shibboleth" detected those Ephraimites who tried to cross the Jordan, and slew them. In all, 42,000 Ephraimites, were slain. Jephthah judged the trans-Jordanic region six years. Jud 12:1-7. The perplexing question what Jephthah did with his daughter will perhaps never obtain a satisfactory answer. The passage reads thus: "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." Jud 11:30-31, An unprejudiced reading of the text leads naturally to the conclusion that Jephthah offered her up as a burnt-sacrifice, but the other opinion, that he devoted his daughter to a life of celibacy, is defended by these arguments: 1. The particle van, which in the A.V. is translated "and" ("and I will offer it up"), should be translated "or." But there is a Hebrew word with that meaning. 2. The emphasis is laid upon "him," which is made to refer to the Lord, and the vow is thus interpreted as contemplating two things: (1) a person to be consecrated to Jehovah, and (2) the additional offering of a burnt-sacrifice. But such a construction would be a solecism in Hebrew. 3. The "burnt-offering" has been taken in a spiritual sense, but that is to put an interpretation upon the word which the Hebrew will not bear. 4. Jephthah could not vow to God a human sacrifice, so abhorrent to him, and so contrary to the whole spirit of the Hebrew religion. Lev 20:2-5; Deut 12:31. But it must be borne in mind that Jephthah was a rude warrior in the semi-barbaric age of the Judges. Celibacy of a voluntary and religious character was unknown in Israel. Jephthah's daughter, on this supposition, would have been the first and last Hebrew nun. The Jews looked upon the family as a divine ordinance, and upon the unmarried state as a misfortune equalled only by that of being a childless wife. It may not be correct to say that each Hebrew woman looked forward to being the mother of the Messiah, but at all events to be a mother was to fulfil the function in society God had designed for her. A vow of celibacy, therefore, would have been contrary to the spirit of the Jewish religion as much as a vow of bloody sacrifice. The sojourn of Jephthah's daughter in the mountains for two months is inconsistent with any such dedication to Jehovah. But if she were to be sacrificed, her home would indeed be filled with too mournful associations, whereas the open air, especially to such a girl, and the solitude of the hills, would be real aids in preparation for death. Jephthah's intense sorrow when she came forth to meet him likewise harmonizes with the literal and natural interpretation.

Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'jephthah' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". - Schaff's

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