New Defender's Study Bible Notes
11:2 And Gilead. Gilead was the general name of the hilly region east of the Jordan, occupied by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh. Apparently this name was given to several Biblical characters (the name itself means “strong rock”), including the father of Jephthah. This Gilead was also a Gileadite–that is, belonging to the tribe descended from Gilead, the son of Machur, the son of Manasseh (Numbers 26:29).
11:3 vain men. Jephthah’s band was essentially composed of misfits and outcasts, but Jephthah was “a mighty man of valor,” and had apparently developed them into a strong fighting army.
11:13 took away my land. Israel had not taken land from the Ammonites, but from the Amorites. Furthermore, they had occupied it for over three hundred years. Most importantly, it had been given to them by God. The Ammonites, therefore, had no legitimate claim to it. Jephthah reveals a keen knowledge of history in this recitation, as well as an acknowledgment of his faith in the true God.
11:26 three hundred years. The chronology of the period of the judges is difficult to decipher, but this statement of Jephthah’s, inserted more or less incidentally in his polemic against the king of Ammon, provides an important constraint on such estimates. The children of Israel conquered Heshbon, Aroer and Arnon, and “dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites” (Numbers 21:24-26) shortly before they crossed the Jordan into Canaan. Thus, the time from the beginning of the conquest under Joshua until the judgeship of Jephthah was about three hundred years. Judges of this period included Othniel (forty years), Ehud (eighty years), Deborah (forty years), Gideon (forty years), Abimelech (three years), Tola (twenty-three years), and Jair (twenty-two years; see Judges 3:11,30; 5:31; 8:28; 9:22; 10:2,3). In addition, a total of fifty-three years of “oppression” are listed (Judges 3:8, 14; 4:3; 6:1), plus eighteen years just before Jephthah.
11:31 and. The Hebrew conjunction, vau, can mean “and” or “or” depending on context. Here it is better rendered “or.” That is, whatever first came forth would be dedicated to the Lord: if a person came out (Jephthah was probably thinking of a servant), he or she would be dedicated to God’s service at the tabernacle, as Samuel would later be (I Samuel 1:11); if an animal came out, it would be offered as a burnt offering. Jephthah apparently kept small flocks of clean animals in his “house” (enclosed area where he lived), and fully expected it to be one of these.
11:31 offer it up. Some competent Hebrew scholars say this clause could as well be translated: “and I will offer to Him a burnt-offering.” In any case, Jephthah was a true man of faith (Hebrews 11:32) and surely knew God’s prohibitions against human sacrifices (e.g., Leviticus 18:21). He would hardly make such a rash vow as to offer a human sacrifice, or carry it out if he had. Although he knew about God’s right to the firstborn (Exodus 13:2–Jephthah’s daughter was his only child), he knew also that she could be redeemed (Exodus 13:15; Leviticus 27:1-4) with a payment of thirty shekels.
11:38 two months. If his daughter were to die, as many interpret this passage, Jephthah would never have sent her away from home for her last two months. It is obvious that they loved each other very much and would not want to be separated under these conditions. This interpretation is clearly wrong.
11:38 bewailed her virginity. Jephthah’s daughter would have bewailed her coming death, not her virginity, if she was to be sacrificed. Rather, she bewailed the fact that she would have to live her whole life without husband and children, merely performing service to the Lord, presumably in some menial capacity at the tabernacle. Yet she was willing to do this, because of her father’s vow and her gratitude to the Lord for His deliverance of her people from the Ammonites.
11:39 according to his vow. Note this does not say that he offered her as a burnt offering, merely that she “knew no man” throughout her life, in accord with her father’s vow.