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Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter?

by Stephen Davey

Theresa from Virginia asked: “Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter in Judges 11?


In Judges 11, Jephthah made a vow to sacrifice the first thing that came from his house, and it ended up being his daughter who came out. He probably assumed that the first thing he would see would be an animal of some sort. But he made that hasty vow, and if he went through with it, it would be murder.

Obviously, if he murders his daughter, he would face the judgment of God. But the dilemma then revolved around this question: What if someone does not keep a vow they made to God?

As the story unfolds, we find that he did not murder her. The daughter asked if she could go to the mountains and weep for two months. A clue to what happened is in verse 34 where she adds “because of my virginity.” She isn't weeping because she’s about to die. She's weeping because she’ll never be married and must remain a virgin. Verse 39 tells us that she came back, and has no relations with a man. 

What happened is that Jephthah found a way to “sacrifice” his daughter without killing her. 

The Bible commands that we keep our vows, but he made an ungodly vow. What he should have done is repent of his foolish and hasty vow. Saul did the same thing. He vowed that anyone who ate before the enemy was destroyed would be killed. His son Jonathan ate some honey. The vow was foolish. These men should have admitted their foolishness, repented of it, and moved on. God does not want us to follow our sin and foolishness with more sin and foolishness. He wants us to end it as soon as we become aware of it. 

Thanks for your question,


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