JEPHTHAH'S RASH PROMISE, AND WHAT CAME FROM IT
Judges viii: 33, to xi: 40.
LTHOUGH Gideon had refused to become a king, even when all the
tribes desired him, after his death, one of his
sons, whose name was Abimelech, tried to make himself a
king. He began by killing all his brothers, except one
who escaped. But his rule was only over Shechem and a
few places near it, and lasted only a few years; so
that he was never named among the kings of Israel.
Abimelech is sometimes called the sixth of the judges,
though he did not deserve the title. After him came
Tola, the seventh judge, and Jair, the eighth. Of
these two judges very little is told.
After this the Israelites again began to worship the
idols of the Canaanites, and again fell under the power
of their enemies. The Ammonites came against them from
the southeast and held rule over the tribes on the east
of Jordan. This was the sixth of "the oppressions;" and
the man who set Israel free was Jephthah. He called
together the men of the tribes on the east of
Jordan—Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh—and
against the Ammonites.
Before Jephthah went to battle he said to the Lord: "If
thou wilt give me victory over the Ammonites, then when
I come back from the battle, whatever comes out of the
house to meet me shall be the Lord's, and I will offer
it up as a burnt-offering."
This was not a wise promise, nor a right one; for God
had told the Israelites long before what offerings were
commanded, as oxen and sheep, and what were forbidden.
But Jephthah had lived on the border near the desert,
far from the house of God at Shiloh, and he knew very
little about God's law.
Jephthah fought the Ammonites and won a victory, and
 the enemies out of the land. Then, as he was going back
to his home, his daughter, who was his only child, came
out to meet him, leading the young girls, her
companions, dancing and making music, to welcome his
return. When Jephthah saw her he cried out in sorrow,
"Oh, my daughter, what trouble you bring with you! I
have given a promise to the Lord, and now I must keep
JEPHTHAH MOURNING FOR HIS DAUGHTER
As soon as his daughter had learned what promise her
father had made she met it bravely, as a true daughter
of Israel. She said:
"My father, you have made a solemn promise to the Lord,
and you shall keep it, for God has given to you victory
over the enemies of your people. But let me live a
little while and weep with my young friends over the
death that I must suffer."
JEPHTHAH'S DAUGHTER AND HER YOUNG FRIENDS
For two months she stayed with the young girls upon the
mountains, for perhaps she feared that if she was at
home with her father he would fail to keep his promise.
Then she gave herself up to death, and her father did
with her as he had promised.
JEPHTHAH OFFERS UP HIS DAUGHTER
In all the history of the Israelites this was the only
time when a living man or woman was offered in
sacrifice to the Lord. Among all the nations around
Israel the people offered human lives, even those of
their own children, to the idols which they worshipped.
 But the people of Israel remembered what God had taught
Abraham when he was about to offer up Isaac; and they
never, except this once, laid a human offering upon
God's altar. (See Story 10.) If Jephthah
had lived near the Tabernacle at Shiloh, and had been
taught God's law, he would not have given such a
promise, for God did not desire it, and his daughter's
life would have been saved. From all these stories it
is easy to see how the Israelites lived during the
three hundred years while the judges ruled. There was
no strong power to which all gave obedience; but each
family lived as it chose. Many people worshipped the
Lord; but many more turned from the Lord to the idols,
and then turned back to the Lord, after they had fallen
under the hand of their enemies. In one part of the
land they were free; in another part they were ruled by
the foreign peoples.