The Victory and Despair of Jephthah

Another judge, who is prominently noted in the book of Judges is Jephthah. Jephthah, the son of a prostitute — which doesn’t say much for his dad — was exiled from his people. However, when they became oppressed by a foreign power, they turned to him, asking for his help.

Eventually he agreed to their petition, doing exactly what they asked.

In his zeal for victory, however, he made an ill-advised vow to God. He promised God that if he were granted success, he would sacrifice the first thing he saw when he returned home. Tragically, it was his daughter — his only child — who first greeted him upon his victorious homecoming.

Distraught over his rash promise, his daughter urged him to do exactly as he had pledged.

It is unclear to me if this was to be a literal sacrifice, as Abram almost did with Isaac, or a figurative sacrifice of giving her over to God’s service, as Samuel’s mother did with him.

Regardless, Jephthah‘s reckless pledge resulted in a painful and regrettable loss for the otherwise victorious Jephthah.

We can learn from Jephthah‘s foolhardy words, guarding carefully what we say and promise.

[Judges 10:6-12:7]