In Judges 11: 1-3 it reads:

Jephthah [Yiftach] the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. ‘You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,’ they said, ‘because you are the son of another woman.’ 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.

The passage describes Yiftach as an outcast being driven out by his father's presumably legitimate sons, and taking up a life on the fringes of society. But when in verse 4 and following the Ammonites afflict the region, the "elders" (or princes) of Gilead [here presumably the region]come for his help.

I have read somewhere that his parenthood and even tribe is questionable, his mother being a prostitute. Is there textual or reliable commentary sources to clarify whether his father was a man named Gilead, or was his mother's profession such that his father was "a man of Gilead?"

  • 1
    I'm a bit confused on clarity. Your question seems to focus entirely on a possible ambiguity in verse 1... but verse 2-3 show he lived with his father, whose name was Gilead.
    – user2910
    Jan 23, 2017 at 15:49
  • This has always been my reading as well, but the article jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/daughter-of-jephthah-bible made me question it, and seek further clarification. Is there anything in rabbinic literature, or the Hebrew text that might indicate Gilead as something other than a name? Such as a son of Gilead along the lines of "a son of France " etc.
    – r m
    Jan 23, 2017 at 18:00
  • In an attempt to clarify the question, I don't want to make it more complicated. Any editorial help would be welcome as the question could read - "Is his father named Gilead, or was titled Gilead (ie the headman of Gilead); or was the fact that his mother was a prostitute make his parentage uncertain and therefore his father was "a man of Gilead?"
    – r m
    Jan 23, 2017 at 18:59

3 Answers 3


Like Mark said, verses 2-3 indicate that he lived with his father,his half brothers drove him away when they grew up, most likely after his father died. This may also possibly indicate that Jephthah was the first born son of Gilead.

The text that you quoted also proves that Jephthah was a legitimate son of Gilead, for his half brothers said to him ‘You are not going to get any inheritance in our family, " an illegitimate son was not allowed a portion of the inheritance, and if he was the first born, he was entitled to a double share. Deuteronomy says:

Deuteronomy 21:15-17 (NIV)

The Right of the Firstborn

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love,

16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love.

17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

Jephthah was not born in prostitution:

Further proof that Jephthah was not born in prostitution, but was a legitimate son of Gilead, is that Jephthah made a vow to the LORD at the Tabernacle. (Judges 11:30-31 read below) An illegitimate son was not allowed to do this. Deuteronomy says:

Deuteronomy 23:2 (NIV)

"No one born of a forbidden marriage[a] nor any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation."

Jephthah's vow to the LORD:

Judges 11:30-31 (NIV)

30" And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands,"

31 "Whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”


It is simply not completely clear. The best we can gather is that there were clans of Gilead, descendants of Makir who is the son of Manasseh, the son of Joseph. Jephthah the son of Gilead could be the cla Gilead, or a man named Gilead, the father of Jephthah, who was named after an ancestral clan of Gilead. The text reads that Jephthah was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead... Therefore, his father's name is Gilead and likely, of the ancestral clan of Gilead. What is important, is to know that Jephthah was filled with God's spirit to lead his people to victory and judge Israel for 6 years of their 5th period of peaceful rule under God. He was controlled by God's spirit. He likely came from Joseph's lineage. He led Israel under God's control. The statement that his father is Gilead is "probably" only a clue to lead us to discover Jephthah's ancestral lineage to Joseph....even though Jephthah's mother was a prostitute and he was chased away by his half brothers. God still used Jephthah to serve Him.

  • Welcome to the BH site, Gary. The Hebrew is not completely clear, but not to shady either: וַיֹּ֥ולֶד גִּלְעָ֖ד אֶת־יִפְתָּֽח. In some other translations, וַיּ֥וֹלֶד is rendered as "and [Gilead] begot ..." Then in vs. 2 we find out that this Gilead had a wife, therefore he was a person, not a geographical region or a clan. Can you please clarify? Last but not least, do take this tour and if possible edit your answer accordingly, it is obvious you have many interesting things to say. Aug 4, 2018 at 17:00

Although "Gilead" is indeed an ancestral name and a clan or regional name, there are also many cases where an individual is named after an important ancestor, place or hero. So I would be inclined to accept the fact that Jephthah's father was a man named Gilead.

I also tend to accept the fact that Jephthah's mother was indeed "a prostitute." We need not, however, believe that this was her current profession when he was conceived. It is significant that his brothers call him only the son of "another woman." It may well be that she was no longer a prostitute by this time but was a concubine. If he was the youngest son, she may also have been a former prostitute who became "Gilead's" bride after his first wife's death.

Nor do we need to believe that Jephthah's vow was made at the Tabernacle. In the first place it was not a proper vow, as its fulfillment would almost certainly require human sacrifice, something which the priests at the Tabernacle would not allow. Secondly, he did not fulfill the vow at the Tabernacle, so why would he make the vow there even if it were a proper vow.

Summary: interpretations differ on this issue, so there is no certain answer. Mine would be that Jephthah's father probably was indeed a man named Gilead. It is improbable that his mother was still a prostitute, but we need not doubt that this was once her profession.

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