Jephthah greeted by his Daughter


And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. – Hebrews 11:32-34


This man of faith judged Israel for 6 years and we read about him in Judges 11 and 12. He was born the child of a harlot and was rejected by his father’s other children. He was forsaken but not helpless. He commanded a band of raiders who were asked after an attack by the Ammonites to lead the army of Israel.

While he was a brilliant military leader and was used of God to free the people from this attack by Ammon, Jephthah is better known for making a rash vow. Have any of us ever done that? Have we made a promise to God, saying that if He will do something for us then we will do something for Him? This was what Jephthah did. He promised to God that if he was given the victory over the Ammonites then when he returned home, whatever came out of his house first would belong to the Lord.

That does not sound too bad until we realize what he meant. He made a vow – if God gave him victory then he would give God, as a sacrifice, whatever first appeared from his house when he went home.

Surely he thought it would be an animal of some sort that he could sacrifice to God. But instead, after God gave him the victory and he came home, the first thing to come out that door was his daughter! She was his only child, a young woman, still a virgin. And he had made a promise to God.

After telling his daughter, who knew how serious a vow to God was, she asked for two months to “bewail” this decision. She went to the hills and with her friends mourned her impending death. This is an incredible view of making a vow. Both Jephthah and his daughter knew that what he had promised God he had to pay!

After two months she returned home and was sacrificed. It became a custom in the land then for young virgin women to spend four days a year mourning for her because of this rash vow.

Several factors must be considered here for there are several lessons to learn, and Jephthah is listed in the Hall of Faith. First we must understand that Jephthah had a wrong view of vows, for provision was made to redeem a person who had been consecrated to the Lord by a vow. Once they were set apart for the Lord (not to be killed but set apart for some service) they would then be redeemed, or bought back, at a price set in Leviticus 27:1-8. So Jephthah was not required to sacrifice her! He apparently was ignorant of the Law in this case and actually did what was an abomination before God and sacrificed his daughter, killing her on an altar.

We must see how seriously he and his family took making a promise to God. Think about it – how often today do people lie and break vows? We think of marriage and divorce, but even the little things, the white lies we tell violate God’s Law. Jephthah took making a promise to God so seriously that he was willing to kill his only daughter to keep that promise. How seriously do we take making a vow to others or especially to God?

When we make a promise to God, we must mean it and keep it. We need to be sure that we understand what we are promising! We should not make promises just to get a favor from God. That is ignorant. God does not bargain with us. If we are facing a hard situation He desires that we pray and fellowship with Him and His people for strength and counsel and guidance. There is no need for rash vows that we will break or that will lead us into sin. Talk to God about it and let Him work all things out for our good and His glory – He promises nothing less.

(tomorrow: A King after God’s Own Heart)