And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman (Judges 11:2). The covetousness of the younger brothers for the family inheritance is obvious and stated as the reason for thrusting him out, but they may also have had the law against any illegitimate child going into the congregation of the people (Deuteronomy 23:2) in mind too.
Judges 11:3 says Jephthah joined vain men (not evil, but useless, empty; OT:7386 from OT:7324; empty; figuratively, worthless). King David did the same thing when Saul was chasing him, and most of those vain men were related to David through his mother.
Gilead was a place as well as the name of three men in Israel. Numbers 32:39-41 tells us that the children of Machir, the son of Manesseh went to the towns of Gilead and took them and dwelt there. In Judges 11:5-6, we see it was the elders of Gilead and not Jephthah’s family that requested he help them against their enemies.
Jephthah vowed a vow to the Lord as he prayed for victory. He had not been guaranteed victory, but he knew he was fighting for God’s people—a war against 20 cities of the Ammonites. He believed the war was right and just—thus he vowed in Judges 11:30-31 to give whatever came first from his house as a burnt offering if God gave him the victory. A little research regarding how houses were built and how they were used in those days shows that families usually kept their sheep and cattle inside a type of compound wall while the family lived in separate quarters above the animals. With a situation like that, we can believe that Jephthah expected an animal (small or large) to appear first.
When Jephthah saw his daughter coming out of the house with timbrels and dancing to celebrate his victory, he tore his clothes and cried, because she was his only child. But she (and he) believed that their duty was to keep the vow he had made. Judges 11:36-37 shows that she believed his vow was binding and she agreed to abide by the vow he had made—unlike many in Israel’s time, who did not keep the vows they made in marriage or any other agreement (Ecclesiastes 5:5-7).
At the end of the two months his daughter returned from her mourning, and Jephthah did with her according to his vow (Judges 11:39).
Are we so faithful? Do we keep the vows we make to God even if they are inconvenient or hard? What about our marriage vows?