1基列人耶弗他是个英勇的战士，他父亲名叫基列，母亲是个妓女。 2基列的妻子还生了几个儿子，他们长大后，便把耶弗他赶出家门，说：“你是别的女人生的，你休想继承我们父亲的任何产业。” 3耶弗他只好逃走，住在陀伯地区。有一群匪徒跟随了他。
4后来，亚扪人攻打以色列， 5基列的众长老就去陀伯请耶弗他， 6对他说：“请你回来做统帅带领我们对抗亚扪人。” 7耶弗他说：“从前你们不是厌恶我，把我从父亲家赶走的吗？现在你们遭难，为什么来找我？” 8基列的众长老说：“现在我们是来请你跟我们一起回去抵抗亚扪人，你可以做所有基列人的首领。” 9耶弗他说：“如果我跟你们回去与亚扪人作战，耶和华让我打败他们，我就真的可以做你们的首领吗？” 10基列的首领们说：“我们必听从你的吩咐，有耶和华为我们作证。” 11于是，耶弗他便跟他们一起回去。民众拥立他做他们的首领和元帅。耶弗他在米斯巴将之前所说的话在耶和华面前重申一遍。
12然后，他派遣使者去问亚扪王：“你与我有什么相干？为什么要攻打我的领土？” 13亚扪王对他的使者说：“因为以色列人从埃及出来的时候占据了我们的土地——从亚嫩河到雅博河，一直到约旦河。现在你们要乖乖地把这些土地还给我们。” 14耶弗他再差遣使者去见亚扪王， 15对他说：“以色列人并没有占据摩押和亚扪的土地。 16当年以色列人离开埃及，经旷野渡过红海来到加低斯， 17然后派遣使者去见以东王，说，‘求你让我们经过你的领土。’以东王却不答应。他们又派遣使者去见摩押王，摩押王也不答应。于是，以色列人就住在加低斯。 18后来，他们走过旷野，绕过以东和摩押，到了摩押的东边，在摩押的边界亚嫩河东岸扎营，并没有进入摩押境内。 19以色列人派遣使者去见希实本的亚摩利王西宏，对他说，‘求让我们经过你的领土前往我们自己的土地。’ 20但西宏不信任以色列人，拒绝了他们的请求，并招聚全军驻扎在雅杂，攻打他们。 21但以色列的上帝耶和华帮助以色列人战胜西宏和他的军队，占领了他们所有的土地， 22从亚嫩河直到雅博河，从旷野直到约旦河。 23既然是以色列的上帝耶和华为祂的以色列子民赶走了亚摩利人，你凭什么要夺取这块土地？ 24你拥有你们的神明基抹给你们的土地，我们也要拥有我们的上帝耶和华赐给我们的土地。 25难道你比摩押王西拨的儿子巴勒更强吗？他从未挑战过以色列人，也未和以色列人交过战。 26三百年来，以色列人一直住在希实本及其周围的乡村、亚罗珥及其周围的乡村和亚嫩河沿岸一带的城邑。在这期间，你们为什么不收回这些土地呢？ 27我们没有得罪你们，你们却攻打我们。愿审判者耶和华今天在以色列人和亚扪人之间主持公道。” 28可是，亚扪王不理会耶弗他派使者所传的话。
29那时，耶和华的灵降在耶弗他身上，他便经过基列和玛拿西，来到基列的米斯巴，然后从那里去迎战亚扪人。 30他向耶和华许愿说：“如果你把亚扪人交在我手中， 31让我凯旋而归，第一个从我家门出来迎接我的人必归给你，我必把他献给你作燔祭。” 32于是，耶弗他率军与亚扪人作战，耶和华把敌人交在他手中， 33他大败敌军，摧毁了从亚罗珥到米匿、远至亚备勒·基拉明的二十座城。这样，以色列人征服了亚扪人。
34耶弗他返回自己在米斯巴的家，他的独生女儿敲着鼓、跳着舞出来迎接他。 35他一见自己的女儿，便撕裂衣服，说：“唉，我的女儿啊，你真让我伤心欲绝！我向耶和华许了愿，不能收回了！” 36他女儿说：“父亲啊，你既然向耶和华许了愿，就照你许的愿对待我吧！因为耶和华帮你打败了敌军亚扪人，为你报了仇。 37但求你先给我两个月的时间，让我和同伴到山上去为我终身未嫁哀哭。” 38耶弗他答应了，给了她两个月的时间。于是，她便和同伴到山上为自己终身未嫁哀哭。 39两个月后，她回到父亲那里。她父亲履行了自己所许的愿。她终身未嫁。自此以后，在以色列有个习俗： 40每年以色列的女子都去为基列人耶弗他的女儿哀哭四天。
1Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. ‘You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,’ they said, ‘because you are the son of another woman.’ 3So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.
4Some time later, when the Ammonites were fighting against Israel, 5the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6‘Come,’ they said, ‘be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.’
7Jephthah said to them, ‘Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?’
8The elders of Gilead said to him, ‘Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be head over all of us who live in Gilead.’
9Jephthah answered, ‘Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me – will I really be your head?’
10The elders of Gilead replied, ‘The Lord is our witness; we will certainly do as you say.’ 11So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the Lord in Mizpah.
12Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: ‘What do you have against me that you have attacked my country?’
13The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah’s messengers, ‘When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably.’
14Jephthah sent back messengers to the Ammonite king, 15saying:
‘This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. 16But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea11:16 Or the Sea of Reeds and on to Kadesh. 17Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Give us permission to go through your country,” but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.
18‘Next they travelled through the wilderness, skirted the lands of Edom and Moab, passed along the eastern side of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon. They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.
19‘Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, “Let us pass through your country to our own place.” 20Sihon, however, did not trust Israel11:20 Or however, would not make an agreement for Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered all his troops and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.
21‘Then the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and his whole army into Israel’s hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, 22capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.
23‘Now since the Lord, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? 24Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess. 25Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them? 26For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn’t you retake them during that time? 27I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the Lord, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.’
28The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.
29Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: ‘If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.’
32Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. 33He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
34When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, ‘Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.’
36‘My father,’ she replied, ‘you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37But grant me this one request,’ she said. ‘Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.’
38‘You may go,’ he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
From this comes the Israelite tradition 40that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.