Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter to the Lord?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Eced7a1f c81d 42f4 95ea 9d5719dce241 Singapore Moses Messenger of God, CEO in IT industry, Astronaut, Scientist
Two Parts of Jephthah's Vow: 

1. Dedicate it to God, according to Lev. 27 
2. If suitable, offer it as a burnt sacrifice to Jehovah 

According to the most accurate Hebrew scholars, this twofold vow reads: "I will consecrate it to the Lord, or I will offer it for a burnt offering," meaning that anything fit for a burnt offering should be made one, and anything fit for the service of God should be consecrated to Him. Even if this translation is incorrect, we must understand that such a thought is implied in the vow since God would NOT accept a human sacrifice (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5), or any animal other than the ox, bullock, lamb, ram, goat, heifer, pigeon, or turtledove. 

Therefore, the only thing Jephthah could do was offer her to the Lord by a perpetual virginity (Judg. 11:36-40). The law of vows (Lev. 27) provided that persons, beasts, and other things could be offered to God for holy uses even though all could not be used for burnt offerings. Furthermore, these could be redeemed with money, if the vow was a simple one, and the amount given to the priests and Levites (Lev. 27:1-25). Other things (as the firstborn of clean animals, all tithes, and anything dedicated to the Lord as a devoted thing) could not be redeemed. Devoted things were to remain in the service of God (Lev. 27:26-29). 

It was this nature of vow that Jephthah made to Him, so he devoted his daughter to God by perpetual virginity--this he was under obligation to do (Judg. 11:35). 

Without God Jephthah would not have been successful. He smote the Ammonites from Aroer, a river on the north bank of Arnon, to Minnith, a city 4 miles from Heshbon--a distance of 30 to 40 miles--and took twenty cities (Judg. 11:32-33).

It was customary for women of a victorious army to go out with timbrels and dances to meet the returning heroes (1Sam. 18:6). Jephthah's daughter was willing to fulfill her part in the vow because God had given Israel victory over the Ammonites. She even made some terms which were accepted by her father (Judg. 11:37).

She requested two months to mourn her virginity with other daughters of Israel. This confirms that it was not a question of her being offered illegally as a sacrifice to God; she was simply to remain a virgin all her days. This was a great sacrifice which meant she could never carry out her part in the life of Israel, keeping her own family alive. She was to be devoted to the tabernacle as a servant for life. That there were a number of such consecrated servants is clear from the fact that after the Midianite war certain virgins were to be devoted to God as the Lord's part (Num. 31:15-40).

She knew no man. This again confirms that the vow was fulfilled by her perpetual virginity. This new custom was created in Israel by this devoting of a daughter to perpetual virginity. The daughters of Israel lamented the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter whose consecration denied her the possibility of having a part in bringing the coming Messiah into the world. Her plight was mourned four days out of each year from that time on (Judg. 11:39-40). How long the custom was practiced is unknown, but at least it continued throughout the lifetime of Jephthah's daughter and was observed in Gilead if not in all Israel.

July 26 2014 6 responses Vote Up Share Report

Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
A judge of Israel, Jephthah, had made a foolish vow to the Lord that if God gave him victory in battle, he would sacrifice whatever first came out of his door when he came home (Judges 11:30-31). J...

July 01 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Kenneth Heck
This idea that if the LORD gives a person something, then that person will likewise give the LORD something is found more than once in the bible, for example, Jacob's vow in Gen 28:20-22.

The verse just before Jephthah's vow (Judges 11:29) indicates the spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. Perhaps Jephthah's vow was due at least in part, to the presence of the LORD's spirit, and so inspired by the LORD. 

If inspired by the LORD, then there is no reason to conclude that Jephthah's daughter was to be offered as a burnt sacrifice to the LORD or simply killed. The word "and" in the last part of the vow could also be translated as "or" (and likely should be) to include any animal fit for sacrifice. 

In my opinion, Jephthah's daughter was dedicated to the LORD, which means she was given to the Levites as a maid servant to help in their activities. Whether she remained a virgin all her life isn't clear, since she might have been chosen later as a "wife" for one of the Levites, as the idea of perpetual virginity isn't found in Mosaic Law.

January 18 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Jennifer Henkel Bible/History Middle School Teacher, Lover of the OT!
A literal reading of this account makes it clear that Jephthah did indeed sacrifice his daughter "as a burnt offering to The Lord." Having been influenced by the surrounding cultures which thought human sacrifices were a supreme proof of devotion to a god, Jephthah made this vow.

What else could have come out of his house? Surely not an animal suitable for sacrifice. This account is a warning to us, to keep ourselves unstained by the world's evil practices (James 1:27).

Only by reading and studying the Bible and spending time in prayer can we know what God wants and how to obey Him.

August 10 2014 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
We had to write a paper on this question in Judges 11:30-40 at Arizona Bible College (Phoenix, AZ) under one Professor Robert Bowles. And we may have even debated it (this has been over 50 years ago!) I took the view that Jepthah did NOT sacrifice his daughter literally, but that he dedicated her to perpetual virginity. 

I doubt that Jephthah’s friends and neighbors would have permitted him to kill his own daughter in order to fulfill a foolish vow. King Saul’s soldiers didn’t let him kill his son Jonathan, who had violated his father’s foolish vow (1 Sam. 14:24-46).

February 08 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
Jephthah, a judge in Israel, made a vow to God, Judges 11:30-31. It seems clear that Jephthah had to honor a rash vow and that he had his daughter burnt on an altar, Judges 11:39. However, it may not have happened that way.

Jephthah one of the heroes of the faith, Hebrews 11:32, probably knew that offering a human sacrifice was prohibited, Deuteronomy 18:9. If he had done this, he would not have gone unpunished or unnoticed for six years while serving as judge, but would have been put to death, Leviticus 20:2. While Gideon’s heathen act is commented on, Judges 8:26-27, Jephthah’s action is not. When Ahaz did it, II Kings 16:3, this would have been the time to mention Jephthah having done this atrocity.

Besides, in Judges 10:15-16, the people had just put away foreign gods of the nations that burned their sons and daughters, Deuteronomy 12:29-31. Furthermore, there was no such thing as a human offering unto the Lord. There was no provision for it, no altar for it, or a priest who would condone it.

Jephthah does not come across as one rashly or thoughtlessly making a vow, but as a man of honor and integrity. He made his vow after the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, Judges 11:29-31. In his messages to the king of Ammon, Judges 11:12-27, he shows restraint and having a good awareness of the Scriptures. 

So, what was Jephthah saying? Some suggest his vow had two parts, so that “and” could be read as “or,” as it could be in Exodus 21:17. Jephthah’s words would be understood as either death for animals or service for persons. However, one coming from his house had to be a person and, perhaps, he thought it would be a servant. He would consecrate whoever that person was, Leviticus 27:2.

In his commentary, Adam Clarke gave the best explanation. He wrote that in verse 31, “I will offer it a burnt offering,” could be translated, “I will offer Him (i.e., the Lord) a burnt offering.” He would give whoever comes from the door of his house to the Lord, AND offer to the Lord a burnt offering, Psalm 66:13.

As for the daughter, her wish to be alone two months with her companions in the solitude of the mountains, points to her grief that she would be barren. Verse 39 says, “she knew no man.” It would be heartless to say this if she died on an altar, but this is stated in consequence of Jephthah rightly fulfilling his vow.

Instead of ‘lament,’ some versions, have, ‘celebrate’ or ‘talk with,’ Judges 11:40. The same word is “repeat” or “recount” in Judges 5:11. It is as if the women acknowledged her bravery, willingness, and submission. It may mean they went to the daughter of Jephthah four times each year to comfort her. 

Jephthah dutifully fulfilled his vow. He did not offer up his daughter as a human sacrifice but devoted her to serve the Lord.

May 28 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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