Jephthah: Israelite Warrior and Judge


It’s hard to not admire people whose word can be depended on completely and whose actions are consistent with their words. For such people, talking is not avoiding action; it is the beginning of action. People like this can make excellent negotiators. They approach a conflict with the full intention of settling issues verbally, but they do not hesitate to use other means if verbal attempts fail. Jephthah was this kind of person.

In most of his conflicts, Jephthah’s first move was to talk. In the war with the Ammonites, his strategy was negotiation. He clarified the issues so that everyone knew the cause of the conflict. His opponent’s response determined his next action.

The fate of Jephthah’s daughter is difficult to understand. We are not sure what Jephthah meant by his vow recorded in Judges 11:31. In any case, his vow was unnecessary. We do not know what actually happened to his daughter – whether she was burned as an offering or set apart as a virgin, this denying Jephthah any hope of descendants since she was his only child. What we do know is that Jephthah was a person of his word, even when it was spoken in haste, and even when keeping his word cost him great pain.

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How do you approach conflicts? There is a big difference between trying to settle a conflict through words and simply counter attacking someone verbally. How dependable are the statements you make? Do your children, friends, and fellow workers know you to be a person of your word? The measure of your trustworthiness is your willingness to take responsibility, even if you must pay a painful price because of something you said.

Strengths and Accomplishments

  • Listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11
  • Controlled by God’s Spirit
  • Brilliant military strategist who negotiated before fighting

Weaknesses and Mistakes

  • Was bitter over the treatment he received from his half brothers
  • Made a rash and foolish vow that was costly

Lesson From His Life

  • A person’s background does not prevent God from working powerfully in his or her life

Vital Statistics for Jephthah

  • Where: Gilead
  • Occupations: Warrior, judge
  • Relative: Father: Gilead

Key Verse for Jephthah

Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands” (Judges 11:32).

His story is told in Judges 11:1-12:7. He is also mentioned in 1 Samuel 12:11 and Hebrews 11:32.

Scripture Study Resources

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Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition – A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture. Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture.

The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible – The best concordance for word study! This exclusive new edition of a legendary classic puts generations of biblical research at your fingertips. A valuable tool for pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible. 

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – This classic word study resource allows you to study the meaning of biblical words in the original languages without spending years learning Greek or Hebrew. A great resource for students, seasoned pastors, and anyone who enjoys biblical word studies–even if they have little to no formal training in Hebrew or Greek.

Halley’s Bible Handbook – The beloved and classic Bible companion has been thoroughly updated, while retaining its time-honored features and Dr. Halley’s highly personal style, to offer even greater clarity, insight, and usefulness.

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