Did He or Didn’t He?

The story of Jephthah’s vow raises many questions. Judges 11:30-31 records that Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, saying, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

What prompted Jephthah to make the vow? He wanted a military victory at any cost and thought he could make a deal with God by “buying” His favor.

Did he realize what he was risking? What if his wife or daughter came running out to greet him? What would happen in that case? Would he actually offer a human sacrifice? I don’t know, but we can’t just dismiss the parts of the Bible that record repugnant acts.

Indeed, Jephthah’s daughter was the first to greet him. When he saw her, according to Judges 11:35, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.”

Why did he blame his daughter? Perhaps he had warned her not to come outside when he returned. Yet she didn’t plead for mercy, for she said (in Judges 11:36-37), “My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies. Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.”

Why didn’t she mourn her impending death instead of her virginity? Some commentators point out that her father did the unthinkable because of his vow. If so, he was a murderer. Other scholars conclude that, because of the injunction against human sacrifice, Jephthah gave her up for service to the LORD, in which she would remain a virgin for the rest of her life.

At the end of two months, says Judges 11:39, she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man.

For a more thorough discussion, see

From April readings for Days 16, 17, and 18
Judges 9, 10-12, and 13-15
Psalms 86, 87, and 88
Mark 6:30-44, 6:45-56, and 7:1-23
I Corinthians 11:1-16, 11:17-34, and 12:1-13

2 thoughts on “Did He or Didn’t He?

  1. Hi Norma,
    This is a quick “thank you” for your “Everything Bible” posts! I find them to be very thoughtful and engaging…with lots of variety. Sometimes a song, sometimes a quiz, sometimes some history. I always look forward to reading them. No pat answers…room to question what the heck is going on without abandoning a solid faith.
    Please do not abandon non-fiction writing as you follow your “novel” dream.

    1. Thank you for reading my posts, Diane! I’m glad we can delve into the Bible and follow our natural curiosity “without abandoning a solid faith.” Your phrase reminds me of the hymn:
      On Christ the solid rock I stand.
      All other ground is sinking sand.
      Happy Resurrection Sunday!

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