Jephthah’s Unwise Vow

And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”  (Judges 11:30-31 NLT)

It is undoubtedly true that we should never vow to God without fulfilling it, Ecclesiastes 5:4 NLT. Still, it is also true that we should never vow to God without fully understanding its consequences.

The sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter is one of the saddest and hardest stories to understand in the Bible. Commentators have disagreed on why he did it and the exact nature of the sacrifice, whether it was just being banished to being a virgin or a literal sacrifice of his daughter. Whatever the case, it is generally agreed upon that it was an unwise vow.

Jephthah’s reaction when his daughter is the first to come out of his house when he arrives from battle indicates that he had not thought through the consequences of his vow. Passion for God is a good thing, but passion without wisdom can get you into trouble. When making a commitment to God, we should always first count the cost.

Commentators disagree on whether Jephthah did the right thing in sacrificing his daughter. If it was a literal sacrifice, he violated the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” Others argue that he gave up his most prized possession to honor God. I am unsure, but when I read this story, I think of what my mother told me, two wrongs never make a right.

The hero in this story is Jephthah’s daughter, who willingly gave herself as the sacrifice–nameless but not without great honor before God.

The image is used with permission from Microsoft.

Ken Barnes is the author of “Broken Vessels,” published in February 2021, and “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places” published by YWAM Publishing in 2011.

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