Judge Jephthah ben Gilead

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Judge Jephthah ben Gilead

Hebrew: השופט יפתח הגלעדי
Death: (Date and location unknown)
Immediate Family:

Son of Gilead of the Tribe of Menasse
Father of Daughter of Jephthah / בת יפתח

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About Judge Jephthah ben Gilead

Jephthah (also spelled Jephtha or Jephte; Hebrew: יפתח‎, "Yifthaḥ"; Greek: Ιεφθάε; Latin: Jephte) is a character in the Old Testament's Book of Judges, serving as a judge over Israel for a period of six years (Judges 12:7). He lived in Gilead and was a member of the Tribe of Manasseh. His father's name was also Gilead. The Book of Judges describes Jephthah as leading the Israelites in battle against Ammon and, as the result of a rash vow, sacrificing his daughter after defeating the Ammonites.

Summary

The Israelites "again did what was evil in the eyes of God...they abandoned God and did not worship him. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites ..." (Judges 10:6-7). Jephthah is driven out by his half-brothers and takes up his dwelling in Tob, east of Gilead. "There gathered around him some worthless ["empty"] men, and they went out with him." (Judges 11:3) The elders of Gilead ask him to be their leader in the campaign against the Ammonites, but he holds out for a more permanent and a broader position, and the elders agree that, provided Jephthah succeeds in defeating Ammon, he will be their permanent chieftain. On behalf of Israel as a whole and in reliance on the might of God the Judge, Jephthah challenges the Ammonites. Jephthah swears an oath: "Whatever/whoever emerges and comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be God’s, and I shall sacrifice him/her/it as a holocaust." (Judges 11:31 - a holocaust is a burnt offering).

The victorious Jephthah is met on his return by his daughter, his only child. Jephthah tears his clothes and cries, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low!" but is bound by his vow: "I have given my word to God, and I cannot go back on it" (Judges 11:35). The girl asks for two months' grace, "... that I may go down on the mountains ... and bewail my virginity" (Judges 11:37). And so Jephthah "carried out his vow with her which he had vowed" (Judges 11:39). The story ends by recounting how "the daughters of Israel went four days each year to celebrate about the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite" (Judges 11:40). According to commentators of the rabbinic Jewish tradition, this was a gross violation of God's law, and this part of the Bible illustrates the terrible tragedy of human sacrifice. Flavius Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, writes that "he sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering: offering such an oblation as was neither conformable to the law, nor acceptable to God; not weighing with himself what opinion the hearers would have of such a practice." However some scholars believe the passage suggests the sacrifice was accepted by God. Others point out the complete lack of censure by God of Jephthah and the sacrifice of his daughter in the biblical account. Later, Jephthah went to war against the Ephraimites, who refused to acknowledge him. The story is remembered for the killing of the fugitive Ephraimites who were identified by their accent; they said the Hebrew word shibboleth as sibboleth. "And there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand." (Judges 12:5-6). Jephthah is mentioned in the New Testament in Hebrews 11:32 as a man of faith. He is commemorated as one of the Holy Forefathers in the Calendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 26.

About השופט יפתח הגלעדי (עברית)

יפתח הגלעדי הוא דמות מקראית - השופט השמיני של שבטי ישראל בתקופת השופטים, אחרי יאיר הגלעדי. יפתח - ככל הנראה משבט מנשה - שפט את ישראל שש שנים. אחריו שפט אבצן מבית לחם. יפתח הוא דמות שנויה במחלוקת בעיני חז"ל: לדעתם פעל בקיצוניות רבה וללא מחשבה, ובכך המיט אסון על עצמו, על בתו שלו ועל רבבות אחרים מבני אפרים שנרצחו.