Once again the Israelites turned away from God and started worshiping the false gods of the people around them. And so once again God quit helping them and their enemies conquered them. For eighteen years the Ammonite people ruled over the Israelites who lived east of the Jordan River. Finally the Israelites prayed to God and said, "We have sinned, for we have left you and worshiped false gods." God sent them a prophet and said through him, "Many people have conquered you in the past and you cried out to me. I saved you from them and yet you left me and worshiped other gods. Go and cry out to the gods that you have chosen. Let them save you when you get in trouble." Then the people prayed to God. "We have sinned. Do to us whatever you want to, but save us from our enemies." This time they repented and had destroyed the idols that they had been worshiping.
Again the Ammonites gathered to fight the Israelites. The Israelites gathered too, but they asked, "Who is going to lead us?" Now there was a brave man named Jephthah, but his brothers had sent him away to the land of Tob. So the leaders of the Israelites went to him and asked him to lead their army. Jephthah answered, "You hated me and forced me to leave my fathers house. Why are you coming to me now that you're in trouble?" They said, "We want you to lead the people to fight the Ammonites," He said, "If the Lord gives me victory. I will be your ruler!" They said, "We agree. The Lord is our witness." So Jephthah went back with the Israelite leaders.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah and he led the Israelites out to fight the Ammonites. On the way to fight, he made a promise to God that he should not have made. He told God, "If you will give me victory over the Ammonites, I will burn as offering the first creature that comes out of my house when I come back. The Law of Moses said that only cattle, sheep, and goats were to be offered as sacrifices. The battle that followed, the Lord gave the victory to Jephthah and the Israelites over the Ammonites.
When Jephthah went back home, his daughter came out to meet him. She was his only child. When he saw her he tore his clothes in sorrow and said, "Oh my daughter. Why do you cause me pain? I have made a promise to God, and I cannot take it back!" When he told her about his promise, she said, "Since you have promised God, do what you said you would to me. But first let me go with my friends to wander in the mountains for two months and cry because I must die unmarried." So he sent her away for two months. Then she came back and he offered her as a sacrifice. This was a wicked thing, because God had told the Israelites not to offer their children as Sacrifices. He should not have made such a promise to God. After this Jephthah was a judge over Israel for six years until he died.