A Promise Is a Promise
a story about Jephthah
by Sophia Prinsloo with Barbara Wilmerton Haas
Text Version | Afrikaans
Have you ever made an unnecessary, hasty promise you were sorry about afterwards but had to keep?
Always remember: God honors us when we keep our promises.
[Shouting loudly and angrily:] “JEPHTHAH! JEPHTHAH!”
Jephthah was lying peacefully in his room when the loud, unfriendly yelling of familiar voices outside his door jolted him awake from his deep sleep. Jumping to his feet onto the cold, dirt floor, he quickly grabbed his sword as the unwelcome shouting continued.
“Jephthah, come outside immediately! We need to talk to you!”
As he opened the door, Jephthah stared into the angry faces of his brothers. Actually, they were his half-brothers.
“Jephthah,” they threatened, “you think that just because you're the oldest son of our father, Gilead, you'll inherit his possessions. Well, we have news for you. You will NOT! And we will make SURE of that! You're an illegitimate child because your mother is not married to our father. You have no right to our inheritance! We're giving you a chance to flee or this will be the end of you!”
Outnumbered by his brothers, Jephthah didn't want to quarrel with them, so he carefully bolted the door behind him, shoved a few belongings into a bag and then fled from his brothers to the land of Tob.
Determined not to let the sin of his father ruin his life or cause him to pity himself, Jephthah put all his energy into becoming a brave hero, skillful with the sword. A gang of scoundrels noticed how good he was with the sword and decided to join him. He became their leader and led them on raids, reaching beyond the borders of Israel.
For 18 years of Jephthah's life, Israel found themselves in dire straits, brought upon themselves for doing wrong in the eyes of the Lord. They had forsaken the Holy One of Israel and gone their own way, serving idols, which were an abomination in the sight of God.
The Lord became so angry with Israel that He no longer protected them against heathen nations, such as the Philistines and the Ammonites. During this time, the Ammonites marched across the Jordan River to come, fight against the children of Israel at Mizpah in Gilead. The Israelites were in great distress and extremely afraid when they heard enemy armies were coming to fight them.
Trembling — their skin crawling with terror — they humbled themselves before God, falling with their faces to the ground, and cried out with bitter tears of repentance, “We have sinned against You, oh Lord, by serving other gods. We beg You to forgive us. Please have mercy on us and save us!”
But the Lord would hear none of it. “Why do you bother to come to Me and ask for help? Go, ask those idols you love so much! You don't want to serve ONLY Me, as I have commanded, so why must I help you? I have helped you countless times before and still you choose to serve your dead and worthless idols.”
In desperation, the children of Israel cried, “Lord, You can punish us any way You wish but please rescue us now!”
Then the whole Hebrew nation got rid of every idol in their midst and served only the Lord. Seeing their commitment, the Lord had mercy on them. He had compassion on them because of their misery, and He began stirring up hearts to set a plan in place, to save Israel from the Ammonites.
So the elders of Gilead came together. “Who will lead our forces against the Ammonites?” they asked each other. “Whoever volunteers must be our leader.” They reasoned back and forth until one wise, old man said, “Let's go, ask that mighty warrior Jephthah. He's skillful with a sword and he knows how to do battle. Let him be our leader.”
Everyone agreed so a company of elders were sent to the land of Tob to fetch Jephthah.
“Jephthah, Jephthah! Please come, help us fight against the Ammonites!” they begged him.
“Why do you come to me?” Jephthah asked. “You hate me! You have driven me out of my father's house. Why do you ask me for help when you are in trouble?”
“Please listen. We really need a great warrior like you to lead us in battle against the Ammonites. We promise, with a solemn oath before the Lord, that if you will be our commander-in-chief against them, we will also make you leader of all the people of Gilead.”
Having faith that this was the Lord's doing, Jephthah listened and followed them to Mizpah. There in Mizpah, everything that was promised to Jephthah was repeated before the Lord and all the people. So Jephthah became their commander-in-chief and leader of Gilead.
Before going to battle, Jephthah's first strategy was to try and reason with the King of Ammon. He sent messengers to him, wanting to know why the Ammonites were planning to attack the Israelites living in the land of Gilead.
The King of Ammon replied that Israel had stolen this land and he wanted it back peaceably.
Jephthah knew exactly how Israel had obtained the land and he also knew the King's words were not true. So he sent messengers to the King of Ammon with three reasons why Israel owned the land of Gilead:
“First of all, King of Ammon, Gilead was never the King of Ammon's land to begin with because Israel took it from the AmoRites, not the AmmoNites.
“Secondly, King of Ammon, it was the Lord our God Who gave the land of Gilead to us.
“Thirdly, King of Ammon, for 300 years since it became Israel's land, not one person contested our ownership of Gilead.”
He added, “I have not sinned against you, King of Ammon, but you have done me wrong to come, fight against me. Soon our Lord God, the one true and righteous Judge, will come, show which of us is right — Israel or Ammon.“
But the King of Ammon paid no attention to Jephthah's message. Instead, he prepared his troops for war.
At that time, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and he led his army across the lands of Gilead and Manasseh, past Mizpah in Gilead, to reach the army of the Ammonites. Jephthah knew the strength of the mighty Ammonite army and he really wanted the Lord's help. So just before he attacked the Ammonites, he made one, rash vow to the Lord:
“Lord, if You will let Israel conquer the Ammonites, then when we return home in peace, the first thing, coming out the door of my house to meet me, will belong to You. Or if nothing comes to meet me, I will sacrifice a burnt offering to You!”
Commander-in-Chief Jephthah and his army marched against the Ammonites, and the Lord led them to a huge victory over their enemies, helping them conquer twenty cities, reaching far and wide across the land. And that is the story of how the Israelites subdued Ammon.
When Jephthah returned triumphantly to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter — his only child — dancing joyfully, playing the tambourine to welcome him.
When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish and wept bitterly, crying out, “Oh, my daughter! You bring me great sorrow. I am devastated because I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back!” Jephthah knew what that meant. His only daughter had to be sent away, completely consecrated to the service of the Lord in the tabernacle. Never would she be able to marry or have children, meaning Jephthah would never have grandchildren or any descendants, something of utmost importance in Israel's culture.
But Jephthah's daughter, being just as honest and upright as himself, answered, “Father, you must do whatever you promised the Lord, for He has given you great victory over your enemies. But, first, do me a favor. Let me go up into the mountains with my girlfriends for two months to weep and mourn, because I will never marry and never be able to have a child.”
So he granted her request and sent her into the mountains with her female companions. After two months, she bravely returned home. Keeping his promise, Jephthah consecrated her solely to the Lord, according to his vow, and she never did marry. And so it became a custom that young women of Israel put aside four days each year to remember the consecration of the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite.
In the Book of Hebrews, Jephthah is mentioned as a great hero of faith.
“Why?” you ask.
Because he sacrificed his own earthly future to keep his vow to the Lord and, in keeping his promise, he secured his eternal future in heaven, by faith.
Dear young one, you can be a great hero of faith too. Be brave, be honest, be true to your word and have faith, because God loves you and has a great plan for your life and wants you to spend eternity in heaven with Him!
Always be true to your word.
1. Why did Jephthah's brothers chase him away?
2. Did Jephthah let his circumstances ruin his life?
3. Do you think Jephthah forgave his brothers before he became the leader of Gilead?
4. Was Jephthah a man of his word?
5. Do you think Jephthah trusted his daughter to come back to him after two months in the mountains?
6. What does that say about his daughter?
7. Have you ever made a foolish promise? Did you keep it?
A VERSE TO LEARN
“Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?…He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not” (Psalm 15:1,4).
AN ALTERNATIVE VERSE TO LEARN
“Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
Can you think of something you want real badly? Is there a toy or gadget
you want your parents to get for you? Would you go so far as to promise them
anything if they would only buy it for you?
Do you want to be friends with someone so badly that you would do or promise
anything just to please them? Let's stop and think about it for a moment.
What kind of foolish promise could hurt you?
[After discussion:] God does not want us to make rash promises we can't keep
or don't intend to keep, and He doesn't want us to say things we don't mean
and then have to take back. God wants us to be like Him, to be truthful in
what we say and do.
Let's take time now to ask for God's forgiveness. Let's ask Him to remind us
next time we're tempted to say or do the wrong thing, to stop and ask ourselves,
“What would Jesus do?”
Heavenly Father, forgive me where I have lied
and gone back on my word. Keep me from making
foolish and rash promises. Help me be honest with You
and others. Keep me true to my word and to You.
Give me power every hour to be true. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
CAN YOU FIND THIS STORY IN THE BIBLE?
Judges 10:6–11:40; Hebrews 11:32
Brothers of Jephthah chase him away — coloring page
Jephthah's Daughter coloring page
God receives and uses those who trust un Him (scroll down to lesson 1)
Colour the Bible Book 1: Genesis - 2 Chronicles
Bible Colour and Learn: 01 The Old Testament
My Bible Stories Coloring Book 2
Action Bible Coloring Book
Coloring Through the Bible
Beginner's Bible Super-Duper Mighty Jumbo Coloring Book
Bible Stories Kids Love Coloring Book (ages 2 to 4)
Bible Verse Coloring Pages #2
Big Book of Bible Story Coloring Pages for Elementary Kids
Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, Coloring Book
My Bible Coloring Book
My Jumbo Bible Story Coloring Book
Children's Bible Coloring Books
Jigsaw Puzzle (online)
A Promise Is a Promise Crossword Puzzle
All Is in Order Jephthah Worksheet
Be Careful What You Say Game
Jephthah's Daughter Activities
Kids of Integrity: Self-Control Activities
Best Book of Bible Activities
Bible Puzzles: Word Search
Big Book Of Bible Puzzles
Big Book Of Bible Story Activity Pages V1
Children's Activity Books
Christian and educational toys
Encyclopedia Of Bible Games For Children's Ministry
Jumbo Bible Activity Book 4
Memory Verse Games for Kids
Sticker Books The Humongous Book of Games for Children's Ministry
The Super Sized Book of Bible Puzzles
Keep Me True, Lord Jesus
100 Ways To Know God Loves Me & 100 Songs
100 Bible Stories 100 Bible Songs
Action Bible Songs
Bible Songs on CD
Bible Songs on DVD
100 Singalong Bible Songs For Kids
Platinum Bible Collection of Classic Christian Songs on DVD
25 Favorite Sunday School Songs
Adventures in Odyssey® Life Lessons Series #7: Honesty
Adventures in Odyssey® 389: OT Action News: Jephthah's Vow [Download]
Jephthah's daughter: Old Testament Bible for children (dramatized audio story)
Paws & Tales: Doing What's Right #13 DVD
Story of Jephthah (watch online)
Walls, Brawls, and the Great Rebellion - Manga Bible eBook
What If? Story on responsibility, respect, good decisions
Read and Share DVD Bible
God's Story from Creation to Eternity (listen & watch online)
Bible Collection: Jesus TV Mini-Series [Streaming Video Rental]
The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum Kit
Bible story DVDs
Fracturing the Falsehoods of the Fibbler
An Adventure in Truthfulness - eBook
God, I Need to Talk to You about Lying
Beginner's Bible for Little Ones
Bible in Pictures For Toddlers
Early Reader's Bible
100 Bible Stories 100 Bible Songs w/2 CD
Pilgrim's Progress for Kids
Spanish Children's Books
365 Activities For Kids:
A Bible Story And Activity For Each Day Of The Year
365 Read-Aloud Bedtime Bible Stories
The Complete Illustrated Children's Bible
The Picture Bible (also in Spanish)
The Preschooler's Bible
Cross of Promises
Bible Craft Videos (online)
Crafting the Word of God (online)
Easy-to-Make Bible Crafts PDF for Kids
& Digital Album Download [PDF Download]
Encyclopedia Of Bible Crafts For Preschoolers
Hot Crafts for Cool Kids pdf download
Maker-ific WOWS! (ages 8-12): 54 Surprising Bible Crafts
More! Bible Crafts on a Shoe String Budget:
Paper Sacks & Cardboard Tubes
(Reproducible: Ages 5-10)
Puppet Crafts For Kids (online)
The Big Picture Bible Crafts:
101 Simple and Amazing Crafts to Help Teach Children the Bible
Resources for Parents and Teachers
Character by God's Design: Volume 2 (Trust, Honesty, Obedience)
Digital Wait Training curriculum ages 14-18: Jephthah Obeys God
Father Jephthah Bible Story Teaching Skit
Jephthah Delivers Israel - Primary Lesson
Lesson on Jephthah (See p.5-1)
Lessons from Jephthah's Vow
Think Before You Speak Lesson
Free Bible story images (online)
801 Questions Kids Ask About God
African American Resources
Almost Every Answer for Practically Any Teacher
Bible for Children in 232 languages (online)
Bible Memory Match Game
Big Book of Bible Games
Bulletin Board helps
Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul
Children's Sermon (online)
Closing Prayer (online)
FREE materials to Bible schools, Bible colleges, seminaries,
churches, missionaries & individuals worldwide (online)
52 Games That Teach The Bible
Free educational videos (online)
God's Servants Teach Me
God's Wisdom for Little Boys:
Character-Building Fun from Proverbs
Help! I'm a Sunday School Teacher
How To Lead a Child To Christ
How to Make Bible Characters from Milk Cartons (online)
KidMin ToolBox: Boxed Book Set
King James Version Gift & Award Bibles
Leading Little Ones to God:
A Child's Book of Bible Teachings
Lord Teach Me To Pray For Kids
Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours
Memory Verse Activities (online)
Memory Verse Resources
Opening Prayer (online)
Review Activities for Bible Lessons (online)
Seven Laws of the Learner
Sunday school resources
Sunday School Songs: Lyrics and Tunes (online)
Talking to God
Teachers' Reproducible Classroom Pages
Teaching Children Memory Verses Ages 4-5
Teaching Children To Pray Ages 4-5
Teaching to Change Lives
The Beginner's Bible Curriculum Kit
The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum Kit
The Humongous Book of Bible Skits
for Children's Ministry
Vacation Bible School
What Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know
Children's resources (online)
BIBLE STORY ARCHIVE
Add/update a Bible story resource
Copyright © 2023 www.childrenschapel.org
Northeast Ohio, U.S.A.
You may NOT re-post this Bible story.
However, you may freely link to it,
provided visitors can see our web address
when they click on the link.
Free Bible Stories!
To receive a new Bible story each week, enter your e-mail address under “Subscribe…” at
You will be sent a message requesting confirmation of your subscription request.
IMPORTANT! YOU MUST REPLY to this confirmation request to activate your subscription to this list.
BIBLE STORY ARCHIVE
Add/update a Bible story resource
TOP OF THE PAGE
Last updated January 9, 2023
Around the Piano/
Events/ Children's Chapel/ Adult Chapel/ Missing Link/ Links/ Resources