OceanSide church of Christ

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Jephthah’s Daughter

The story of Jephthah has been the source of many questions and debates among students of the Bible (Judges 11:29-40). Before Jephthah goes to war with the Ammonites he makes a rash vow to the Lord. His vow was to sacrifice the first thing that greets him when he returns victorious from battle. Apparently Jephthah assumed his ewe lamb or something similar would end up becoming that sacrifice. It was very common for a man in those days to have a ewe lamb living inside his home (cf. 2 Sam 12:3). However, this vow was not well thought out. When Jephthah returned home his daughter was the first to greet him.

God has never approved of children being sacrificed (Lev 20:1-5). However, the young girl encourages her father to go through with his vow. According to the Old Law she could not be redeemed due to the nature of his vow (Lev 27:28). Did he actually sacrifice his daughter? The answer is a resounding “no”. Since she could not be redeemed or sacrificed the only option would have been to turn her over to the service of God. This certainly is consistent with the Biblical account. In becoming a female in God’s service she was to remain a virgin. Therefore, his lineage would end with his daughter. Clearly our God did not allow Jepthah to sin in order to fulfill his vow. However, He did hold him accountable for his actions. Jephthah certainly learned a major life lesson from his mistake.