An Israelite ‘Judge’ for six years, probably in the century before the establishment of the monarchy of Saul (c.1050 BCE). After a period of exile, Jephthah was recalled to Gilead by the elders and persuaded to lead an expedition against the marauding Ammonites. He accepted the responsibility but made a vow that if successful he would sacrifice to Yahweh whatever or whomever emerged first from his house to meet him (Judg. 11:30–1). This proved to be his daughter. The vow took priority over his humanity and the girl was sacrificed after a delay of two months for lamentation for her virginity. The story is related as a rather shocking incident, which perhaps implies that human sacrifice practised amongst Israel's neighbours was normally unacceptable in Israel.
During an inter-tribal conflict with the Ephraimites (Judg. 12:1–6) Jephthah instructed his men to use the word shibboleth, which their enemies could not pronounce, as a password (cf. Heb. 11:32).

Dictionary of the Bible.

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  • JEPHTHAH — (Heb. חָתְפִיּ), judge of Israel for six years and victor over the Ammonites (Judg. 11:1–12:7). According to Judges, Jephthah was the son of a harlot, and his father s name is given as Gilead. Jephthah is described as a Gileadite warrior. After… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Jephthah — (also spelled Jephtha; from Hebrew יפתח Yiftach / YipthaIPA|χ) is a character in the Hebrew Bible 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… …   Wikipedia

  • Jephthah — biblical judge of Israel, from Gk. Iephthae, from Heb. Yiphtah, lit. God opens, imperf. of pathah he opened (Cf. pethah opening, entrance ) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Jephthah — [jef′thə] n. [Heb Yiphtáh, lit., God opens] Bible a judge who sacrificed his daughter in fulfillment of a vow: Judg. 11:30 40 …   English World dictionary

  • Jephthah — /jef theuh/, n. a judge of Israel. Judges 11, 12. * * * ▪ Hebrew leader       a judge or regent (often a hero figure) of Israel who dominates a narrative in the Book of Judges, where he is presented as an exemplar of faith for Israel in its… …   Universalium

  • Jephthah —    Whom God sets free, or the breaker through, a mighty man of valour who delivered Israel from the oppression of the Ammonites (Judg. 11:1 33), and judged Israel six years (12:7). He has been described as a wild, daring, Gilead mountaineer, a… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Jephthah — (fl. c. 12th cent, BCE)    Israelite judge. When Gilead was threatened by the Ammonites, he went to war against them. Before he engaged in battle, he vowed to sacrifice to God whatever came first from his house should he return safely. To his… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • JEPHTHAH —    one of the Judges of Israel, famed for his rash vow in the event of victory to offer in sacrifice the first object that came out of his house on his return, and which happened to be his daughter and only child, and whom it would seem he… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Jephthah — /ˈdʒɛfθə/ (say jefthuh) noun Bible a judge of Israel. Judges 11–14 …   Australian English dictionary

  • Jephthah — /jef theuh/, n. a judge of Israel. Judges 11, 12 …   Useful english dictionary

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