25 May. Judges 11:30-31,34-40

25 May. Jephthah sacrifices his own daughter

“Jephthah made a promise to the LORD, saying, ‘If you will hand over the Ammonites to me, I will give you as a burnt offering the first thing that comes out of my house to meet me when I return from the victory. It will be the LORD’s. Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD handed them over to him…’”

“When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, his daughter was the first one to come out to meet him, playing a tambourine and dancing. She was his only child; he had no other sons or daughters."

“When Jephthah saw his daughter he tore his clothes to show his sorrow. He said, ‘My daughter! You have made me so sad because I made a promise to the LORD, and I cannot break it!’”

“Then his daughter said, ‘Father, you made a promise to the LORD. So do to me just what you promised, because the LORD helped you defeat your enemies, the Ammonites.’ She also said, ‘Let me do one thing. Let me be alone for two months to go to the mountains. Since I will never marry, let me and my friends go and cry together.’”

“Jephthah said, ‘Go.’ So he sent her away for two months. She and her friends stayed in the mountains and cried for her because she would never marry. After two months she returned to her father, and Jephthah did to her what he had promised. Jephthah’s daughter never had a husband.”

“From this came a custom in Israel that every year the young women of Israel would go out for four days. To remember the daughter of Jephthah from Gilead.”

          (Judges 11:30-31 & 34-40)



Did anyone ever teach you this Bible story when you were a child in Sunday School? Have you ever heard it read in a family service at church? We hope not! This story is not only horrific, but it illustrates precisely why people who say Christians should “follow Old Testament teachings” need to think again.

The story of Jephthah sums up several aspects of Old Testament Judaism which should rightly offend us today – and which would also have offended Jesus two thousand years ago.

Firstly it clearly shows the absurd assumption that God will only bless someone if they promise to offer him a burnt offering.

Secondly, it illustrates the horror of a religion where anyone would willingly offer their own daughter as a child sacrifice.

Thirdly it clearly shows the account was written by a man, as it’s written from an untenable male viewpoint – it’s the father’s unwillingness to lose face and admit his error (expecting one of his animals to come out of his house first) that causes him to carry on with the sacrifice. The only feeling the girl has, apparently, is that she won’t ever be subject to a husband; and, apparently, she readily agrees to her own death!

Fourthly, the story shows why the legalistic rules and regulations of the Pharisees and Sadducees needed challenging when God sent his Son to earth. Judaism had become a religion of unquestioning slavery to rules and regulations that were often inappropriate. People’s actions were rarely motivated by love any more. And God, who is love incarnate, decided that things had to change.

That’s how Jesus came to earth two thousand years ago, and why, as followers of Jesus, we don’t have to “believe everything that the Old Testament says” any longer.

The photo (by ארנון) shows a view of the Jordan Valley and the Gilead Mountains overlooking Arnon Hill.

You can read more about Jephthah @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/28-the-israelites-face-continuing-opposition/jephthah-defeats-the-ammonites-/

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