The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Judges
There was a Galaadite at this time called Jephte, who was brave and a skilful warrior; his mother was a harlot, his father bore the name of Galaad.
Galaad had other sons by his lawful wife; and these, when they came of age, thrust Jephte out of doors, telling him he was born out of wedlock, and could not inherit.
So he sought refuge from their ill-will in the country of Tob, where he gathered about him a company of penniless robbers, that followed him as their chieftain.
These were the days when Israel was being attacked by the Ammonites;
and when they found themselves hard pressed, some of the elders of Galaad went to the country of Tob to bring Jephte to their aid;
Come and be our leader, they said, fighting as our champion against the sons of Ammon.
Why, said he, are you not the very men that have used me ill, and thrust me out of my father’s house? You must be hard driven by your need, that you should come to me now.
So the elders of Galaad told him what was the meaning of their errand; if he would go with them and fight against the Ammonites, he should become ruler of all that dwelt in Galaad.
And you have come here, answered Jephte, meaning in all honesty to make me your ruler, if I fight against Ammon for you and the Lord grants me victory?
The Lord, said they, is listening to us as we speak, let him be the arbiter between us; let him be the witness of our pledged word.
So Jephte accompanied the elders, and the whole people acclaimed him as their leader; there at Maspha in the Lord’s presence, he came to terms with them.✻
And next, he sent messengers to ask the king of Ammon, in his name, What interfering ways are these, that thou comest here to plunder my land?
His answer was, Why, when the Israelites removed from Egypt, they robbed me of the land that was once mine, the land that is bounded by Arnon, Jaboc and Jordan; give it back to me now, and all shall be well between us.
By the same messengers, Jephte sent back word to the king of Ammon:
Jephte thus answers thee. Neither Moab nor Ammon did Israel rob of any lands that belonged to them.
When they left Egypt, and had crossed the desert that reaches down to the Red Sea, the Israelites found themselves in Cades.
Here they sent out envoys to ask the king of Edom for passage through his land, but he would not listen to them; and also to the king of Moab, but he too refused. So they halted on their journey at Cades,
and then passed round Edom and Moab, keeping to the east of them and encamping on the further side of Arnon, which was its frontier, so as not to trespass on Moabite territory.
And now they must needs send envoys to Sehon, the Amorrhite king that ruled in Hesebon, and ask leave to pass through his land on their way to the Jordan.
He too refused their request, and would not let them cross his frontier; he mustered a great army and met them at Jasa to bar their passage.
Over this king, over this army, the Lord granted Israel victory; and it was through that victory that they occupied the lands which the Amorrhites had occupied before them,
the whole territory that is bounded by Arnon and Jaboc, by the desert and Jordan.
It was the Amorrhites the God of Israel overthrew, in battle against his chosen people; it is Amorrhite land thou art now claiming for thy own.
For thee, all the lands thy god Chamos has won for himself; the conquests of the Lord who is our God become ours by right.
What, dost thou rate thyself higher than Balac son of Sephor, the king of Moab? Prove, if thou canst, that Balac came to an issue with our people, or fought against them,
although for three hundred years they occupied Hesebon and Aroer with all their townships, and all the cities this side of Jordan. And all these long years you have not lifted a hand to claim them.
No, I am not doing thee a wrong, it is I that have a complaint against thee, for levying war against me unjustly. May the Lord defend the right this day between Israel’s claim and Ammon’s.
But to the king of Ammon the word of Jephte’s messengers brought no content.
And now the spirit of the Lord was with Jephte wherever he went, as he journeyed through Galaad and Manasses, and came to Maspha of Galaad, and marched thence against the Ammonites.
And this was a vow of his, that he made to the Lord, If thou wilt grant me victory over Ammon,
what living creature first leaves my doors, to greet my safe returning, shall be offered up in burnt-sacrifice.✻
Thus Jephte offered battle to the sons of Ammon, and the Lord gave him the mastery over them,
so that he drove them out of twenty cities, from Aroer to Mennith, and as far as Abel, out among the vineyards. A great victory was this, that brought Ammon down to the dust.
Then Jephte went back to his house at Maspha. He had no children except one daughter, and she it was who came out, with music and dance, to welcome him.
And at the sight he tore his garments; Alas, daughter, he said, thou hast undone me, and art thyself undone; the vow that hast once left my lips I must needs fulfil.
Why, father, she answered, if thou hast uttered a vow to the Lord, carry out thy promise; I am well content, now that thou hast won redress, and victory over thy enemies.
But, father, grant me this one request. Let me go away and spend two months with my fellow-maidens, out among the hills, bewailing my ill fortune, that I must die unwed.
So he bade her begone for two months; and she went out among the hills with the maids that were her friends and fellows, to weep a maiden’s tears.
And when the two months were over, she came back to her father; and he fulfilled his promise, and she died unwed. That is why the custom grew up in Israel which has been kept ever afterwards,
that for four days in every year the maidens of Israel should gather, and make lament for the daughter of Jephte the Galaadite.
The Holy Bible