Gather ’round kiddies! Can you say “Jeph-thah?”

Some stories they just don’t teach in Sunday School.

I am still reading through Judges and today I came across a story that, in my extensive 23 year long life as a Christian, have NEVER heard before.  The tag line above the section (ESV) is “Jephthah’s Tragic Vow” (Judges 11).  What I expected was another war story (Judges is huge on war and conquest and kings and armies etc etc.)  What I didn’t expect was this:

30And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31then whatevercomes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

Jephthah did win that battle.  And who should come out of that door?

His daughter. With a tambourine, dancing in happiness for her father’s victory and return.

This made me think of the story of these guys:

Abraham and Isaac.  What is different here is that this was a test from God.  God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac.   Human sacrifice is not okay in the Bible (click the picture above for a good blog post about the story of Abraham and Isaac.)

What is different about Jephthas’ story is that the daughter is not saved.  She is granted two months to go up to the mountain with her friends and lament her virginity before she dies (dieing a virgin is made into the biggest tragedy of her death.  It makes sense with my limited knowledge of how women were validated in those times.  Hey, maybe she really wanted to be a mommy.)

God does not intervene in this story.

I’ve read some commentary and the consensus seems to be that Jephthah made a stupid vow that came back to bite him.  Still others say that Jephthah was trying to bargain with God instead of trusting in his provision.  Is this an example of a holy screw-up?  Are people who are blessed by God allowed to screw up? Jesus later says that we aren’t supposed to make oaths… is this what Jephthah’s daughter’s death is supposed to teach us?

Either way, the girl was burned to death.

You don’t learn these things in Sunday school.

I would love to hear people’s thoughts.


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