Old Testament Story List

Jephtha's Daughter

Jephthah had lived in the land of Tob ever since his brothers drove him away from home. He became a strong man, and many people told about his mighty deeds. Even his brothers heard about them.

The Israelites were in great trouble again. They had quit going to the tabernacle at Shiloh to worship God. Everywhere they bowed 

down to the gods of their heathen neighbors. The people round about them made war on the Israelites and took their riches. The Ammonites came from the east and the Philistines from the west to rule over the Israelites. The Ammonites even threatened to take the homes of the Israelites and drive them out of the country.

After eighteen years of suffering under the rule of their enemies, the Israelites remembered how God had given them this land long ago and made them stronger than all the nations round about. In their trouble, they cried to God. They expected God to send a deliverer, just as he had done many times before.

Instead, God told them, "You have forsaken me and served other gods. For that reason I will not deliver you any more. Go and cry unto your new gods. Let them help you out of your trouble."

And the people prayed to the Lord, "We have sinned. Do to us what you think is best, but deliver us." They knew their idols could never help them. Only God could save them. They tore down their idols and began to serve the Lord.

God saw the people worshiping Him, and He felt sorry for them. He saw them gather their soldiers at Mizpeh to fight the Ammonites, but they did not have a leader.

Then they remembered Jephthah who was famous for his brave deeds. And the elders went to Jephthah in the land of Tob. They begged, "Come, be our captain in a battle against the Ammonites."

Jephtha said, "you sent me away from my father's house. Now why are you coming to me with your troubles?"

Finally the elders promised Jephthah that he could be the leader of Israel if he would command their forces against their enemies. And Jephtha agreed.

Jephtha knew he could not defeat the Ammonites without God's help. Not only did he ask God's help, but he promised to give God the first thing that came out of his house when he returned from battle. How foolish Jephtha was! He did not know what he would see when he came back. God did not want Jephtha to make such a promise.

Before the battle the Ammonites ordered the Israelites to give up the land east of hte Jordan River. The Israelites said, "When we came out of Egypt to this land, the Lord gave us the land east of he Jordan. Why should you have it now? It was not yours in the first place, but belonged to the Amorites whom we defeated."

The Ammonites till demanded the land, and Jephthah sent back the answer, "You do wrong to fight against us, but today the Lord will judge between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon."

The battle raged, and the Israelites won. News of the victory reached Jephtha's home before he returned. How glad his family were ! When Jephtha's daughter saw her father coming, she ran out to meet him.

As soon as Jephthah saw his daughter, he remembered his promise. He thought he had to give her as an offering to God. How brokenhearted he was!

Their heathen neighbors sometimes offered children to their gods, but the Law of Moses forbade the Israelites to do this. Perhaps Jephthah did not know that law. He knew his promise had been foolish, but both he and his daughter thought he should keep it. And he did.

Jepthah judged Israel for six years. When he died, the people buried him in his home town.


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