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Judges Chapter 11 | Parsha: Hukkat

1Jephthah the Gileadite was an able warrior, who was the son of a prostitute. Jephthah’s father was Gilead; 2but Gilead also had sons by his wife, and when the wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out. They said to him, “You shall have no share in our father’s property, for you are the son of an outsider.” 3So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the Tob country. Men of low character gathered about Jephthah and went out raiding with him.

4Some time later, the Ammonites went to war against Israel. 5And when the Ammonites attacked Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah back from the Tob country. 6They said to Jephthah, “Come be our chief, so that we can fight the Ammonites.” 7Jephthah replied to the elders of Gilead, “You are the very people who rejected me and drove me out of my father’s house. How can you come to me now when you are in trouble?” 8The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “Honestly, we have now turned back to you. If you come with us and fight the Ammonites, you shall be our commander over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “[Very well,] if you bring me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord delivers them to me, I am to be your commander.” 10And the elders of Gilead answered Jepthah, “The Lord Himself shall be witness between us: we will do just as you have said.”

11Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their commander and chief. And Jephthah repeated all these terms before the Lord at Mizpah.

12Jephthah then sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites, saying, “What have you against me that you have come to make war on my country?” 13The king of the Ammonites replied to Jephthah’s messengers, “When Israel came from Egypt, they seized the land which is mine, from the Arnon to the Jabbok as far as the Jordan. Now, then, restore it peaceably.”

14Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites. 15He said to him, “Thus said Jephthah: Israel did not seize the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. 16When they left Egypt, Israel traveled through the wilderness to the Sea of Reeds and went on to Kadesh. 17Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Allow us to cross your country.’ But the king of Edom would not consent. They also sent a mission to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel, after staying at Kadesh, 18traveled on through the wilderness, skirting the land of Edom and the land of Moab. They kept to the east of the land of Moab until they encamped on the other side of the Arnon; and, since Moab ends at the Arnon, they never entered Moabite territory.

19“Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon. Israel said to him, ‘Allow us to cross through your country to our homeland.’ 20But Sihon would not trust Israel to pass through his territory. Sihon mustered all his troops, and they encamped at Jahaz; he engaged Israel in battle. 21But the Lord, the God of Israel, delivered Sihon and all his troops into Israel’s hands, and they defeated them; and Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that land. 22Thus they possessed all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.

23“Now, then, the Lord, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites before His people Israel; and should you possess their land? 24Do you not hold what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So we will hold on to everything that the Lord our God has given us to possess.

25“Besides, are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he start a quarrel with Israel or go to war with them?

26“While Israel has been inhabiting Heshbon and its dependencies, and Aroer and its dependencies, and all the towns along the Arnon for three hundred years, why have you not tried to recover them all this time? 27I have done you no wrong; yet you are doing me harm and making war on me. May the Lord, who judges, decide today between the Israelites and the Ammonites!”

28But the king of the Ammonites paid no heed to the message that Jephthah sent him.

29Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. He marched through Gilead and Manasseh, passing Mizpeh of Gilead; and from Mizpeh of Gilead he crossed over [to] the Ammonites. 30And Jephthah made the following vow to the Lord: “If you deliver the Ammonites into my hands, 31then whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me on my safe return from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s and shall be offered by me as a burnt offering.”

32Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites and attacked them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. 33He utterly routed them—from Aroer as far as Minnith, twenty towns—all the way to Abel-cheramim. So the Ammonites submitted to the Israelites.

34When Jephthah arrived at his home in Mizpah, there was his daughter coming out to meet him, with timbrel and dance! She was an only child; he had no other son or daughter. 35On seeing her, he rent his clothes and said, “Alas, daughter! You have brought me low; you have become my troubler! For I have uttered a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract.” 36“Father,” she said, “you have uttered a vow to the Lord; do to me as you have vowed, seeing that the Lord has vindicated you against your enemies, the Ammonites.” 37She further said to her father, “Let this be done for me: let me be for two months, and I will go with my companions and lament upon the hills and there bewail my maidenhood.” 38“Go,” he replied. He let her go for two months, and she and her companions went and bewailed her maidenhood upon the hills. 39After two months’ time, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. She had never known a man. So it became a custom in Israel 40for the maidens of Israel to go every year, for four days in the year, and chant dirges for the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

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