*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
The history of Jephthah appears to be an independent history inserted by the compiler of the Book of Judges. Judges 11:4-5 introduce the Ammonite war without any apparent reference to Judges 10:17-18.
A genealogy of Manasseh 1-Chronicles 7:14-17 gives the families which sprang from Gilead, and among them mention is made of an "Aramitess" concubine as the mother of one family. Jephthah, the son of Gilead by a strange woman, fled, after his father's death, to the land of Tob Judges 11:3, presumably the land of his maternal ancestors (compare Judges 9:1) and an "Aramean" settlement (2-Samuel 10:6, 2-Samuel 10:8; 1 Macc. 5:13). It is difficult to conceive that Jephthah was literally the son of Gilead, if Gilead was the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh. Possibly "Gilead" here denotes the heir of Gilead, the head of the family, whose individual name has not been preserved, nor the time when he lived.
Now Jephthah - was the son of a harlot - I think the word זונה zonah, which we here render harlot, should be translated, as is contended for on Joshua 2:1 (note), viz. a hostess, keeper of an inn or tavern for the accommodation of travelers; and thus it is understood by the Targum of Jonathan on this place: והוא בר אתתא פונדקיתא vehu bar ittetha pundekitha, "and he was the son of a woman, a tavern keeper." She was very probably a Canaanite, as she is called, Judges 11:2, a strange woman, אשה אחרת ishshah achereth, a woman of another race; and on this account his brethren drove him from the family, as he could not have a full right to the inheritance, his mother not being an Israelite.
Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour,.... Jephthah had his name of Gileadite either from his father, whose name was Gilead, or from the city and country in which he was born, which is most likely, and so was of the same country with the preceding judge; and he was a man of great strength and valour, and which perhaps became known by his successful excursions on parties of the enemies of Israel, the Ammonites, being at the head of a band of men, who lived by the booty they got from them:
and he was the son of an harlot; the Targum says, an innkeeper; and, according to Kimchi, she was a concubine, which some reckoned no better than an harlot, but such are not usually called so; some Jewish writers will have her to be one of another tribe his father ought not to have married; and others, that she was of another nation, a Gentile, so Josephus (c): and, according to Patricides (d), he was the son of a Saracen woman; but neither of these are sufficient to denominate her a harlot:
and Gilead begat Jephthah; he was his son; this was a descendant of Gilead the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, called after the name of his great ancestor.
(c) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 7. sect. 7. (d) Apud Selden. de Success. ad leg. Ebr. c. 3. p. 32.
Men ought not to be blamed for their parentage, so long as they by their personal merits roll away any reproach. God had forgiven Israel, therefore Jephthah will forgive. He speaks not with confidence of his success, knowing how justly God might suffer the Ammonites to prevail for the further punishment of Israel. Nor does he speak with any confidence at all in himself. If he succeed, it is the Lord delivers them into his hand; he thereby reminds his countrymen to look up to God as the Giver of victory. The same question as here, in fact, is put to those who desire salvation by Christ. If he save you, will ye be willing that he shall rule you? On no other terms will he save you. If he make you happy, shall he make you holy? If he be your helper, shall he be your Head? Jephthah, to obtain a little worldly honour, was willing to expose his life: shall we be discouraged in our Christian warfare by the difficulties we may meet with, when Christ has promised a crown of life to him that overcometh?
JEPHTHAH. (Judges 11:1-3)
son of an harlot--a concubine, or foreigner; implying an inferior sort of marriage prevalent in Eastern countries. Whatever dishonor might attach to his birth, his own high and energetic character rendered him early a person of note.
Gilead begat Jephthah--His father seems to have belonged to the tribe of Manasseh (1-Chronicles 7:14, 1-Chronicles 7:17).
Election of Jephthah as Prince and Judge of Israel. - Judges 11:1-3. The account begins with his descent and early mode of life. "Jephthah (lxx Ἰεφθά) the Gileadite was a brave hero" (see Judges 6:12; Joshua 1:14, etc.); but he was the son of a harlot, and was begotten by Gilead, in addition to other sons who were born of his wife. Gilead is not the name of the country, as Bertheau supposes, so that the land is mythically personified as the forefather of Jephthah. Nor is it the name of the son of Machir and grandson of Manasseh (Numbers 26:29), so that the celebrated ancestor of the Gileadites is mentioned here instead of the unknown father of Jephthah. It is really the proper name of the father himself; and just as in the case of Tola and Puah, in Judges 10:1, the name of the renowned ancestor was repeated in his descendant. We are forced to this conclusion by the fact that the wife of Gilead, and his other sons by that wife, are mentioned in Judges 11:2. These sons drove their half-brother Jephthah out of the house because of his inferior birth, that he might not share with them in the paternal inheritance; just as Ishmael and the sons of Keturah were sent away by Abraham, that they might not inherit along with Isaac (Genesis 21:10., Genesis 25:6).
Gileadite - So called, either from his father Gilead, or from the mountain, or city of Gilead, the place of his birth. Son of a harlot - That is, a bastard. And though such were not ordinarily to enter into the congregation of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:2. Yet God can dispense with his own laws, and hath sometimes done honour to base - born persons, so far, that some of them were admitted to be the progenitors of the Lord Jesus Christ. And Gilead - One of the children of that ancient Gilead, Numbers 32:1.
*More commentary available at chapter level.