In Judges 11:1-2, we read that Jephthah “was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.” Now, let’s read verses 4-6, “And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.” Although once rejected, Jephthah became the captain of the army of Gilead to defend them against the Ammonites.

Jephthah, who had been rejected by his own people, and therefore lived among heathen people surrounded by “vain men” (verse 3), certainly had developed heathen and vain ways. We read in verses 9-10, “And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head? And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.” He bargains that if he is successful in leading their army in victory over the Ammonites, they would make him their leader. To this, they all agree.

I encourage you to read verses 14-28 to see how Jephthah reached out to the king of the children of Ammon, even reasoning with him concerning Israel’s rightful land. Jephthah’s diplomacy did not work, so he prepares his army for war. We read in verse 29 that “the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah.” So, he went forward in the wisdom and strength of the Lord to defeat their enemy. However, Jephthah makes an incredibly foolish vow to the Lord. Verses 30-31 tell us, “And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that WHATSOEVER COMETH FORTH OF THE DOORS OF MY HOUSE to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I WILL OFFER IT UP FOR A BURNT OFFERING.” Even as Jephthah bargained with the elders of Gilead to be their leader, he tries to bargain with the Lord for victory. Dear reader, let me ask you…have you ever fallen into this same kind of trap? Have you ever prayed to the Lord saying, “Lord if you will to THAT for me, I will do THIS for you?” Oh, that we might learn to simply trust the Lord and His grace to meet our needs!

The Lord gave the victory to Jephthah, and we tragically read in verses 34-35, “And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, HIS DAUGHTER CAME OUT TO MEET HIM with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.” Jephthah sadly told his daughter that he could not go back on his promise to the Lord. She even agreed with him by saying in verse 36, “My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth…”

How horrible is this scene. How tragic the results of this vow. We read in verses 38-39, “And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who DID WITH HER ACCORDING TO HIS VOW which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel.” Although many believe that Jephthah’s vow was fulfilled by his daughter remaining a virgin all the rest of her life, I must insist on what the Word tells us. Jephthah “did with her according to his vow.” He sacrificed her to the Lord.

Did the Lord accept this sacrifice? Absolutely not! The only HUMAN sacrifice the Lord has ever desired and accepted was that of His only begotten Son. Ephesians 5:2 tells us that Christ “hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”

Why did not the Lord stop Jephthah from killing his daughter like he stopped Abraham from killing his son? Simply put, the Lord had told Abraham to offer his son (Genesis 22:2). He did not tell Jephthah to offer his daughter, so we do not see the Lord stepping in to stop Jephthah from taking the life of his daughter. However, as terrible as his act was, Jephthah was faithful to fulfill the vow he made to the Lord. We read of him positively in Faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11:32, “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of JEPHTHAE; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.” (298.10)