Day Seven: Jephthah
Written by David Palmer
The entire account of Jephthah is covered in the space of two chapters, from Judges 10:6 to 12:7. Jephthah is the guy who made that strange vow to the Lord that leads to one of the most shocking moments in the whole Bible.
Jephthah was an Israelite and a mighty warrior, but without good reason, his own people had expelled him from their clan. At this time Israel was deep into the worship of false gods, and so they were being hammered by the Philistines and the Ammonites. The Israelites finally cried out to God, and he had compassion on them.
So the elders of Gilead went to Jephthah and asked him to lead them into battle against the Ammonites. It appears that Jephthah was able to forgive them for their earlier rejection of him, and agreed to risk everything and lead Israel in battle against their oppressors.
“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. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever 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.” Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands.
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. When 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.”
“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.”
Judges 11:29-32, 34-36
If you can get past the shock of how this story plays out, it seems that Jephthah and his daughter both believed that faithfulness to God comes before everything, even life itself.
This story causes me to really examine the limits of my faithfulness to God. And to ask Him to stretch those limits.