Jephthah was the ninth Judge of Israel. Being an illegimate child, he was kicked out of the family by his half brothers to prevent him from sharing in the inheritance. He fled to "the land of Tob", and gathered a group of "worthless men" and engaged in raids throughout the surrounding area. The elders of Gilead asked Jephthah to free them from the oppression of the Ammonites. He insisted on a position of leadership in Gilead if he succeeded in fighting the Ammonites. He was assured of this, and went to war. He launched an attack through Mizpah of Gilead and defeated the Ammonites "with a very great slaughter."
Jephthah had made a vow to God, that if he was able to return home in triumph from war, he would sacrifice whoever first appeared at the door of his house. Unfortunately, it was his daughter, his only child, who greeted his victorious return "with timbrels and with dances." Jephthah tore his clothing in distress as he realized the terrible rashness of his vow. The following verses seem to indicate he followed through on his vow, but some scholars believe the verse means she was kept as a virgin dedicated to special service to the Lord for the rest of her life.
Before his six years of judging had ended, Jephthah had to put down an uprising by the men of Ephraim, his fellow Israelites, who were angry by his failure to ask them to join the fight against the Ammonites. The two armies went to battle, and Jephthah's army, the Gileadites, killed 42,000 Ephraimites. Although, his weakness was his rash, thoughtless behavior, he's listed in the Book of Hebrews as one of the heros of faith (Heb. 11:32). After his death, he was buried in a city of Gilead. Jephthah's story is found in Judges chapter 11, and chap. 12:1-7.