The time of the judges was a challenging time for the Israelites. As long as they had a strong judge, the people tended to listen and obey God. But as soon as the judge died, they went back to their old ways of following other gods.
God responded to their unfaithfulness by allowing them to be oppressed by their enemies, until the people called out to God, begging Him to send another leader.
Jephthah was an unexpected choice of leader for the people of Israel.
Judges 11:1 tells us that Jephthah was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot. His father had a legitimate wife who bore sons, and those sons kicked him out of their home, telling him he would have no part of their inheritance because he was an illegitimate heir.
Jephthah fled from the home where he wasn’t wanted, dwelling in the land of Tob and attracting the attention of a band of worthless men. Together, they spent their time raiding.
Then the time came when things got so bad for the Israelites that the elders of Gilead came to Jephthah asking him to lead their fight against the Ammonites.
Jephthah pointed out they’d rejected him before, so why were they coming to him now. They told him if he helped them fight, he could be the new leader of Gilead. He agreed.
Who was the woman who attracted the attention of a married man and bore him an illegitimate son? The Bible tells us nothing of her other than she was a harlot. Was she involved in Jephthah’s upbringing? What role did she play in his life? We’ll never know.