|Judges in the Bible|
|In the Book of Joshua|
|In the Book of Judges|
|In First Samuel|
|†Not explicitly described as a judge|
Jephthah (pronounced //, also spelled Jephtha or Jephte; (Hebrew: יפתח, "Yifthaḥ"; Greek: Ιεφθάε; Latin: Jephte), as described in the Old Testament's Book of Judges, served as a judge over Israel for a period of six years (Judges 12:7). He lived in Gilead and was a member of the Tribe of Manasseh. His father's name was also Gilead. The Book of Judges describes Jephthah as leading the Israelites in battle against Ammon and, as the result of a rash vow, he sacrificed his daughter after defeating the Ammonites. An alternative interpretation of the story is that his daughter was subject to a chastity vow as a sacrifice.
The Israelites "again did what was evil in the eyes of God...they abandoned God and did not worship him. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites ..." (Judges 10:6-7).
Jephthah, having been born illegitimately, is driven out by his half-brothers and takes up his dwelling in Tob, east of Gilead. "There gathered around him some worthless ["empty"] men, and they went out with him." (Judges 11:3) The elders of Gilead ask him to be their leader in the campaign against the Ammonites, but he holds out for a more permanent and a broader position, and the elders agree that, provided Jephthah succeeds in defeating Ammon, he will be their permanent chieftain. On behalf of Israel as a whole and in reliance on the might of God the Judge, Jephthah challenges the Ammonites. Jephthah swears an oath:
- "Whatever/whoever emerges and comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be God’s, and I shall sacrifice him/her/it as a burnt offering." (Judges 11:31) 
The victorious Jephthah is met on his return by his daughter, his only child. Jephthah tears his clothes and cries, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low!" but is bound by his vow: "I have given my word to God, and I cannot go back on it." (Judges 11:35). The girl asks for two months' grace, "... that I may go down on the mountains ... and bewail my virginity" (Judges 11:37). And so Jephthah "carried out his vow with her which he had vowed" (Judges 11:39). The story ends by recounting how "the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament about the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite" (Judges 11:40).
According to commentators of the rabbinic Jewish tradition, this was a gross violation of God's law, and this part of the Bible illustrates the terrible tragedy of human sacrifice. Flavius Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, writes that "he sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering: offering such an oblation as was neither conformable to the law, nor acceptable to God; not weighing with himself what opinion the hearers would have of such a practice." However some scholars think that the writers of the passage make it sound like the sacrifice was accepted by God. Others point out the complete lack of censure by God of Jephthah and the sacrifice of his daughter in the biblical account.
Later, Jephthah was forced to fight against the Ephraimites, who refused to aid him in his struggle against the Ammonites. The story is remembered for the killing of the fugitive Ephraimites who were identified by their accent; they said the Hebrew word shibboleth as sibboleth. "And there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand." (Judges 12:5-6).
Sacrifice controversy 
Since the 18th century, some scholars have questioned the traditional interpretation of Jephthah's sacrifice of his daughter. Alternative views of the events have been proposed claiming mistranslations or comparing the sacrifice to other biblical events and given the contradiction in the moral message, seeking a more poetic interpretation.
A modern commentator, Solomon Landers, believes that a plausible alternative is that Jephthah's vow was most likely modified and that she was not in fact sacrificed, but rather, her fate may have been perpetual virginity or solitary confinement. This saving of Iphis also occurs in Handel's 1751 oratorio, Jephtha. This story stands in stark contrast to the Binding of Isaac in Genesis, where an angel of God directly intervenes and stops the sacrifice.
Ethelbert William Bullinger, looks at the word "and" in the Jephthah's vow (Judges 11:31: "whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering"). As he explains  the Hebrew prefix "ו" that is translated in the above passage as "and" is often used as a disjunctive, and means "or", when there is a second proposition. Indeed this rendering is suggested in the margin of the A.V. Bullinger goes on to give examples from the Bible where the same word has been translated as "or". According to him, the right translation of this passage is: "whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, or I will offer it up as a burnt offering." Jephthah's daughter, being the first that came out of the house, was thus, according to Bullinger, dedicated to God. He also says: "In any case, it should have been unlawful, and repugnant to Jehovah, to offer a human being to Him as a burnt-offering, for His acceptance. Such offerings were common to heathen nations at that time, but it is noteworthy that Israel stands out among them with this great peculiarity, that human sacrifices were unknown in Israel."
This interpretation is disputed by, for example, the Catholic Encyclopaedia, noting that the Israelites of the time were decidedly barbarous; that Mosaic law (which forbade human sacrifice) was at this time widely disrespected; and that there are several other examples of rash vows to God with similarly terrible consequences.
See also 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Jephthah|
- Binding of Isaac
- Biblical judges
- Jephtas Gelübde, an opera on the story by Meyerbeer.
- Historia di Jephta, an oratorio by Giacomo Carissimi.
- Jephtha, an oratorio on the story by Handel.
- Jefta, een offerbelofte, a play by Joost van den Vondel (1659).
- The story of Jephthah and his daughter is the subject of Lion Feuchtwanger's historical novel, "Jefta und seine Tochter" (1957), English translation, "Jephta and his Daughter" also known as "Jephthah and his Daughter", published 1958
- In Hamlet, Polonius tells Hamlet "If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter I love passing well."
- George Buchanan wrote a dramatized version of the episode in his Sacred Dramas.
- The words translated here as "sacrifice" are capable of other readings, and the ambiguity has been the subject of much discussion - see below.
- The Greek term for burnt offering is actually "holocaust" though the Hebrew עלה, (`olah) carries the meaning of "ascent".
- The translation is uncertain: it might mean "recount/talk about", or alternatively "mourn", or even "to talk with".
- The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, The Jewish Historian: Containing Twenty Books of the Jewish Antiquities, Seven Books of the Jewish War, and the Life of Josephus, Written by Himself. Translated from the Original Greek, According to Havercamp's Accurate Edition. Together with Explanatory Notes and Observations; Parallel Texts of Scripture; The True Chronology of the Several Histories; An Account of the Jewish Coins, Weights and Measures, and a Complete Index. By the Late William Whiston, M.A. Professor of Mathematics in the University of Cambridge, &c. &c. - A New Edition, Now First Revised and Improved, by the Rev. Thomas Smith. Albion Press Printed, for James Cundee, Ivy Lane; M. Jones, Paternoster-Row; and Williams and Smith, Stationers' Court. (c. 1810), pp. 117-18
- "Why the Deuteronomist Told about the Sacrifice of Jephthah's Daughter", Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Sage Publications, p7
- "Did Jephthah Kill his Daughter?", Solomon Landers, Biblical Archaeology Review, August 1991.
- Jephtha's Vow Reconsidered
- A Moral Argument for Atheism
- It was the Scottish scholar ad dramatist George Buchanan (1506–1582) who first called Jephthah' daughter "Iphis", "an obvious allusion to Iphigenia" (see The Renaissance Bible:Scholarship, Sacrifice, and Subjectivity, by Debora Kuller Shuger, 1998, page 136)
- Great Cloud of Witnesses in Hebrew 11 (1911) ISBN 0-8254-2247-7
- "Did Jephthah really sacrifice his daughter? An analysis of Judges 11:31".
- "Jephta", Catholic Encyclopaedia
- " "clarkejud11", Adam Clarke's Commentary
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