Jephthah’s Daughter’s Sacrifice

Grand Canyon From a Distance

Today, I want to continue talking about Jephthah in Judges 11:29-50 (HCSB). He asked for victory in battle by making a vow to the Lord that whatever came through the door to meet him would be offered as a burnt sacrifice. It just so happened to be his only child, a daughter. This passage may have been a reality that Esther had in mind when she offered herself before the King of Persia in order to plea for the lives of her people. The difference is that Esther was spared, but this passage specifically says that Jephthah carried out his vow and sacrificed his daughter, and it is commemorated with an annual ceremony. Esther was spared when she splayed herself before the king to plead for her people. Purim is celebrated in honor of her.

Both had a father or father-figure ask them to lay down their lives as a sacrifice. We never learn the name of Jephthah’s daughter, but it was a custom for them to honor her sacrifice for four days each year. This is Judges 11:29-50.

Now the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If You will indeed hand over to me the sons of Ammon, then whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me when I return safely from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord handed them over to him. He inflicted a very great defeat on them from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.

But Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, and behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. And she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. So when he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Oh, my daughter! You have brought me disaster, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.” So she said to him, “My father, you have given your word to the Lord; do to me just as you have said, since the Lord has brought you vengeance on your enemies, the sons of Ammon.” And she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me; allow me two months, so that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my friends.” Then he said, “Go.” So he let her go for two months; and she left with her friends, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity. And at the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her what he had vowed; and she had no relations with a man. And it became a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went annually to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days in the year.

We know Esther’s name, but not the name of Jephthah’s daughter. Esther was married, but Jephthah’s daughter was not. Both were asked by the father-figures in their lives to sacrifice their lives. Jephthah’s daughter was killed, but Esther was not. We are not in a position to understand the Heavenly Father’s reasoning or why he allows things to happen the way that He does.

Today, we can look to 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 for comfort in terrifying and treacherous times.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are partners in our sufferings, so also you are in our comfort.”

Christ already laid down His life to redeem us. We can seek Him for solace when we are suffering. If you call out to Christ, He will protect you when you feel alone and abandoned.

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