I was reading through Judges yesterday and I came across Judges 11:39-40, where Jephthah makes a promise unto God that if he is successful in warfare he will sacrifice the first thing that comes from his house...... which turned out to be his daughter, does God condone or order the sacrifice or his daughter? I would greatly appreciate an answer.

34 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.

35 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.

36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.

37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.

38 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.

39 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,


5 Answers 5


According to the Law of Moses, any child who is dedicated to the Lord must be redeemed with the sacrifice of a lamb. If you will notice in the story, Jephthah's daughter was given the opportunity to lament her virginity. From that point on, she was dedicated to the Lord and would never marry or have children. This was why Jephthah was so sorrowful. She was his only child, and now, he would never have grandchildren.


He dedicated her to Gods service . She actually didn't die.

Judges 11:37 “And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.”

Judges 11:39 "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,"

Jephthah did not give the girl up in a burnt sacrifice, but as required by vow under the law in Leviticus 27. Jephthah dedicated his daughter to the Lord in perpetual virginity, a vow such as the nuns of the Catholic Church take today. This vow is Scriptural.

Leviticus 27:30 "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's it is holy unto the Lord"

Leviticus 27:31 "And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.

Leviticus 27:32 "And concerning the tithe of the hear, of of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord."

Leviticus 27:33 "He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.' "

The vow of Jephthah was a commitment to the Lord as a tithe to God, and when any part of that vow is changed then both the original vow and what it was changed to, then both become holy to the Lord and must be fulfilled. The burnt offering sacrifice could not be offered because it went against God's law, but that vow was changed to give his daughter over completely to God, for that is what an burnt offering does. The burnt offering burns the sacrifice so completely that it is of no good or use to man. What is the Lord's, belongs to the Lord, and Jephthah has given his daughter over to God for His complete service. If she is to have children, then her children and her husband become her commitment, however all of her service is now to do the will of God. It is the taking of vows to celibacy. This part is done by the daughter of Jephthah, and not by him.

Judges 11:40 "That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for days in a year."

The daughters of Israel went yearly to see the daughter of Jephthah to praise her for the work that she was doing. She was dedicated to God work, and she became a servant of God for His work in the house of God. Notice that her name is not given, because she has lost her personal identity, and is known only by the service that she gives. The sexual part of her life is completely set aside, and her commitment is to fulfill the vow that her father had taken. She did not hold back for her personal gain the rest of her life. She'd have No children and Jephthah would have no grandchildren.

Resource: Roger Christopherson's and The Shepherds Chapel studies https://www.theseason.org/ot.htm


God neither condoned nor ordered Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter. God had no choice but to stand aside, and Jephthah had to carry out what he had vowed.

JUDGES 11:31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

God had warned the Israelites not to make any vows … because if they did, they would be held accountable to honour it.

(DEUT 23:21-23* When you make a vow to the Lord your God you must not delay in fulfilling it, for otherwise he will surely hold you accountable as a sinner.

Because they were under the Law. And - There is no mercy under Law, there is no Grace … The ‘angel’/Lord would not be able to tolerate violations

EXODUS 23:21 Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions;

Concerning vows, we see the seriousness of making them here …

ECCL 3:4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. 6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin

A vow is made against the flesh, and the flesh has to ‘pay’ the price. If Jephthah had of not carried out the deed, then himself and his family, down to the third and fourth generation would have paid the price.


Does God condone or command that Jephthah sacrifice his daughter? (Judges 11:34-39)

Assume that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter.

Deuteronomy 18:

10a Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire,

What Jephthah did was against Deuteronomy 18:10. God would not have condoned or commanded Jephthah to sin.


Jephthah's story is an example of a rash vow. The text says nothing about God's approval of it. However there is a disturbing factor here:

Argument for "YES"

At the time he made the vow, Jephthah was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the text implies that God blessed him with victory as a result of his vow.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manas′seh, and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If thou wilt give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer him up for a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them; and the Lord gave them into his hand. (Judges 11:29-32)

Although I do not personally believe that God condoned the vow or blessed Jephthah with victory because it, that seems to be the clear sense of the text. This view is supported by the report that Jephthah's daughter became an object of national honor:

it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year. (11:40)

Argument for No

The argument against the above proposition is based on the fact that God did not condone human sacrifice even when it was offered to Himself. God indeed blessed Jephthah with victory but not because of his vow. Rabbinical commentators point out that that the vow was not valid, and in any case, Jephthah could have redeemed his daughter.

The Rabbis concluded that Jephthah was an ignorant man, else he would have known that a vow of that kind is not valid; according to R. Johanan, Jephthah had merely to pay a certain sum to the sacred treasury of the Temple in order to be freed from the vow; according to R. Simeon ben Laḳish, he was free even without such a payment (Gen. R. l.c.; comp. Lev. R. xxxvii. 3).

So, "no" God did not condone the vow, and more important, He did not condone Jephthah's fulfillment of it, which was a crime.

A Solution

We can find a possible solution for the problem with reference to source criticism: According to the documentary hypothesis, the Torah was not composed until after the time of Jephthah. Human sacrifice was practiced among the Canaanites and possibly among the Israelites as well, if they were unaware of the Torah, especially the story of the Binding of Isaac. Thus, even as late as the time of Jeremiah, the prophets were still attempting to educate God's people that God had never intended human sacrifice to be offered to Him or any other deity.

They built the high places of Ba′al in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:35)

In the end we are left with another chicken-and-egg question. Had Jephthah simply forgotten the story of Abraham and Isaac and other basic teachings against human sacrifice? Or does his story harken back to a time before the teachings of the Torah were not well known, and some early Israelite leaders still believed that God would want a vow like Jephthah's to be carried out?

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