Judges 11:34-40

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 9, 2017 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, ‘Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.'
'My father,' she replied, 'you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request,' she said. 'Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.'
'You may go,' he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.” (Judges 11:34-40)

Last week, we read about the vow Jephthah made regarding the battle with the Ammonites. “And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31). Since God granted Israel victory in the battle, Jephthah had vowed to kill whatever (or whoever) comes out to meet him when he returned home.

Jephthah was blinded by the desire for victory, and we can pretty safely assume that he never thought it would be a close family member who he would have to sacrifice. But, his own daughter, his only child, was the one to walk through that door first. She had completely unknowingly brought disaster to her father and their family.

Because of this vow that Jephthah had made, likely foolishly, both the Ammonites and Jephthah’s family will experience bitter distress. Many Ammonites lost their lives in the battle, and now Jephthah had unintentionally vowed to kill his own daughter! This was a tricky dilemma, because it’s a sin to break a vow to God (Numbers 30:2), but in this situation it was actually a greater sin to fulfill it by killing a person (Exodus 20:13).

Amazingly, Jephthah’s daughter seems ok with what has to happen. Her father has to keep the vow that he made. We see a similar situation much earlier in Scripture, where Abraham needs to follow God’s command by sacrificing his only son, Isaac (Genesis 22). Isaac was a willing victim, though fortunately God stopped Abraham before he actually killed his son.

Later on in the New Testament, we see that Jesus is a willing victim for all of us. Because mankind sinned, the penalty of death needed to be paid for all of us. The only person who could pay that penalty fully was Jesus Christ. He willingly allowed Himself to be the ultimate victim, to be killed in a very violent death, so that we could be saved.

Jephthah needing to sacrifice his daughter, however, was not to save anyone from their sins. It was the result of a foolish statement that he had made in the heat of the moment. Jephthah desiring victory in one battle caused his daughter to lose her life! Jephthah did end up killing his daughter, as best as we can tell from the Bible. He felt that he had to do it because of his vow.

It would have been better to simply trust God for the outcome of the battle and not make this vow in the first place. An innocent life would have been spared, had Jephthah committed to fully relying on God, rather than trying to bargain with God and influence it himself.

Have you done this in your life? Have you made a rash decision or said things in the heat of emotion that you now regret? Our actions always have consequences (that’s God’s natural law), and our foolish actions almost always come with negative consequences. If we put our trust fully in God, then we will be following His course for our life. We wouldn’t have to worry about making stupid decisions if we’re walking in step with God and living the life that He calls us to live. Be careful about what you do and say, but always trust in God fully.

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