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Some hold the view that in Jephthah vow with the lord (Judges 11:30-39), he merely sacrificed his daughter as a servant in the tabernacle instead. However, wouldn't the laws of such things also include Leviticus 27:2-4, which would allow Jephthah to gain his daughter back with a few shekels? I ask this cause I really can't understand how the reading of the Leviticus laws go. Does one who vow pay as well as give the person they vow or just the amount one can pay to get the person back?

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    Hi there - have you read this Q&A: "Leviticus 27 - fee for service or redemption price?" It might already answer your question, too.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jun 13, 2017 at 18:19
  • I think Leviticus 27:2-4 is not talking about redemption at all, it is about someone who vows to dedicate money, the value of a certain person, to the temple. The bible enumerates the value of each person in the beginning of the chapter. It has no bearing on your question regarding Jephthah.
    – bach
    Jun 13, 2017 at 18:25

5 Answers 5

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When a man makes a vow to give something to the Lord or takes an oath to abstain from something, he must not break his promise, but must do everything that he said he would. (Numbers 30:2 GNT)

Reading the whole chapter will know that Jephthah has NO WAY to take back his word (as a man and as a leader). This story reminds us to be utterly careful with our words and not speak carelessly.

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  • Hosea6:6 - For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Sep 17, 2022 at 10:39
  • Jeremiah 19:5 - They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: Sep 17, 2022 at 10:40
  • the event was unfortunate and left as a lesson for the later generation.
    – VNPython
    Sep 20, 2022 at 6:47
  • @vnpython your "No WAY" assertion is incorrect. Lev 5:4 - "if someone unwittingly vows to do something evil, when he realizes he has done wrong he must confess it and bring a suitable animal as a sin offering." The equivalent value in exchange for a teenage girl would amount to ten shekels (Lev. 27:5).
    – Praesagus
    Mar 13 at 16:28
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In my opinion, obviously, Jephthah’s offering was absurd, and in no way ordained by God’s law.

Deuteronomy 18:10 (ESV)

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering.

However, when someone made a rash vow such as this, they could be redeemed.

Leviticus 5:4–6 (ESV)

4 or if anyone utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these; 5 when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, 6 he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

Even though Jephthah says in Judges 11:35 (ESV): “I cannot take back my vow.” If he had known the Mosaic law, he would’ve been aware that Sacrificing his daughter would’ve been like sacrificing a pig to the LORD, thus being very disrespectful in his eyes. Jephthah very well should’ve done what Leviticus 5:4-6 said, because he made a rash vow and not a good vow. If he had made a reasonable one, he would not have been able to take it back. (Numbers 30:2)

As with many stories in Judges, the readers are left to decide and discuss the moral decisions of the characters. I personally believe that Jephthah went through with the sacrifice, but as a lesson for modern-day readers to not have a warped theological understanding of scripture, so we do not do these awful things.

(And yes, from the evidence above, it’s clear that Jephthah had the ability to get his daughter back.)

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Jephthah didn't merely sacrificed his daughter as a servant in the tabernacle.

Judges 11:29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31whatever 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.”

He was heartbroken in

34 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. 35When 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.”

Further, his daughter knew her time was short:

36“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. 37But 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.”

She too was heartbroken:

38“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.

Finally, the event was a big deal. It was celebrated annually:

39After 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 40that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

On the other hand, When Hannah promised to give her son as a servant in the tabernacle, it was explicit.

1 Samuel 1:11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

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  • could you clarify what you refer to when you say "as a servant in the tabernacle" here? Aug 18, 2022 at 12:05
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He could have had his daughter back at anytime, had he understood God better...


  • "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required"

  • "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

  • "Thou shalt not kill."

  • "If ye love me, keep my commandments"

  • "And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."

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  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics.SE. With the exception of one of the scriptures that you quoted, none of them would Jephthah have heard since they were spoken/written after his time. Also, when you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Jul 19, 2022 at 1:09
  • Jephthah did not really need to have acces to the scriptures, he just needed to know God.
    – Bnpg
    Jul 19, 2022 at 23:51
  • Moreover, how did Jephtah can read inspired parts of the Scripture that weren't written in his epoch (2nd, 4th, and 5th Bible passages quoted)? Jun 14, 2023 at 13:21
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Leviticus declares human sacrifice to be among the most horrible sins imaginable.

-Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Are we to imagine that the Lord's name is less profaned if the child is offered to Him rather than Molech? The way out for Jephthah was not an appeal to a legal loophole but an abject admission that he had made a rash vow which would violate the most basic divinely-inspired moral law if it were carried out. Would God truly punish him for not murdering his daughter? And what punishment would be worse than watching her burn? As Jeremiah 32:35 says about human sacrifice: "I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination."

Also, from a source-critical perspective we can theorize that the story of Jephthah is older than the legislation detailed in the Pentateuch. In this view, although the events in Leviticus come first, the laws given in Leviticus are from a later period than the stories recounted in Judges. So trying to understand Jephthah's dilemma from the standpoint of the Levitical law would be putting the cart before the horse.

Be that as it may, there is no such thing in the Torah as a legally binding vow between a man and God to kill one's daughter in exchange for God granting military victory. Leviticus is therefore irrelevant. As the story of Abraham and Isaac shows, God has no actual use for human sacrifice. Jephthah may have believed that God gave him victory because of his vow, but we we need not accept this idea.

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