Saturday, December 31, 2016

Jephthah's Daughter


Women of Israel's Heroic Age
Jephthah's Daughter

Jephthah's Daughter: "The Woman Who Was Sacrificed for an Oath"

Key Scripture: Judges 11:30-39

Her Name Means: She is unnamed.

Her Character: She was both meek in spirit and patient in suffering.

Her Strengths: She understood his dilemma and promised to cooperate.

Her Sorrow: She knew that the life she had envisioned as a wife and mother was gone.

Her Joy: The nameless girl was Jephthah's only child. His precious child was ever beside him.

Pre-Story: Jephthah, appears in the Book of Judges as a judge over Israel for a period of six years. He lived in Gilead and was a member either of the tribe of Manasseh or of the tribe of Gad. Jephthah vowed to God that if the Lord would grant him victory over the evil Ammonites, the first person that came out to meet him upon his return home, would be Jehovah’s, to be offered as a burnt sacrifice.

Her Story: She is only known as “Jephthah’s daughter.” She was born in exile and reared amid the wild scenes of a harsh desert life. She had never known any protection but her fathers tent.

Jephthah was described in (Judges 11:1) "As a mighty man of valour." A believer in one God. He was one of Israel's judges who made a vow to God in exchange for a victory against the Ammonites. "Whoever comes 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." (Judges 11:31.)

So God gave him the Ammonites and twenty more cities. When Jephthah came home to Mizpah, there was his daughter hurrying out to meet him, dancing to the rhythm of tambourines. She was his only child." (Judges 11:34) He could not take back his vow. "And when he saw her, he rent his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! you have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me; for I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow." (Judges 11:35)


Her answer was most heroic. There were no resentful or rebellious tones in it. She shed no tears, nor shook with despair after her father with a crushed heart spoke of his vow. There was the quiet acceptance of the tragic fact that she was to be the burnt offering her father had promised. She understood his dilemma and promised to cooperate.

To a Hebrew maiden the bitterest pang was to die unwedded and childless, "So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” (Judges 11:36-37.)

Jephthah honored her one final request so she may bewail her virginity. "So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. The heartbroken father willingly granted his noble daughter’s request, doubtless with the secret hope that somehow she might never return, and he be spared the terrible sight of seeing his daughter, his only daughter, sacrificed upon the altar.

True to her promise, the sorrowing maiden returned from her weeping place upon the mountains. She came back for the execution of her father’s vow, “Who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed.” (Judges 11:39.) Doubtless among the mountains her heart gathered strength and courage for her sacrifice in the valleys. Jephthah kept his vow.

She died a virgin. Her tragic death gave rise to a custom in Israel. Every year Israelite women commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days (Judges 11:34-40).

Post Thoughts: The great question is, What did Jephthah actually do to his daughter on her return? Jephthah goes on to judge Israel for six years afterwards. It is hard to see how the people would have stood for him leading them after this horrific event, however, the Israelites of the day prove quite willing to put to death their fellow Israelites.

Whatever the case, God had specifically forbidden offering human sacrifices, so God never would have wanted Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter (Leviticus 20:15 - Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5, 32-35.) This clearly indicate that the idea of human sacrifice has "Never even entered God's mind."

Bible scholars disagree over what is precisely meant by this “burnt offering.” But in spite of the reasons advanced against a human sacrifice, the Scripture is heavily on the side of Jephthah’s vow being fulfilled as it was made. It is clear that God did not intervene to prevent this “sacrifice” as He had done with Abraham and Isaac. 

Her Place in God's Divine Plan: This most commendable maiden will ever remain as the incarnation of willing sacrifice. If there is a quality for which a woman is supreme, it is sacrifice, and in this virtue the obedient daughter of Jephthah gave what was nobler than gifts—she offered herself. 

Her Challenges Along the Way: Jephthah's daughter was an example of noble submission. She felt that her blood would be a good price to pay for divine vengeance over the enemies of Israel.

Her Victories: This daughter encouraged Jephthah to keep his vow at her expense. Do we once again have a woman as the true hero? She urged her father to be faithful to God, even if it cost her life to do so. Despite the seemingly tragedy of this daughter of Israel, she lives on, even today, as the embodiment of a courageous young woman who was both meek and patient in suffering.

Lesson We Can Learn from Her Legacy: Another thought...the sobering truth is that a man’s worth is measured by his faithfulness to keep his word. For he is made in the image of the One whose word is true and unchangeable. This account should serve as a reminder of the various warnings in Scripture about oaths. (James 5:12)  states, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.” These words echo the Lord’s teaching during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:33-37). Jephthah serves as an example for us not to make foolish vows or oaths.

Genealogy:
Grandfather - Gilead
Father - Jephthah
She never married or had children


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Jo