We don’t know the name of Jephthah’s daughter. But we lament what happened to her. We applaud the steadfast confidence in how she accepts her fate, revealing her deep faith in God.
The elders of Gilead ask Jephthah to lead them into battle against their enemies. He agrees, but then makes a rash vow. He says that upon his successful return he will give an offering to God. Jephthah pledges to sacrifice the first thing that comes through the door of his house as a burnt offering to thank God for his victory. Jephthah assumes it will be an animal.
He is indeed victorious.
However, to his dismay, the first thing that walks through the door when he returns home is his daughter, his only child. She dances in celebration for his success. He laments the foolish promise he made to God but feels obligated to fulfill it.
Jephthah’s daughter doesn’t complain about her father’s careless pledge. Instead, she confirms he must follow through. Her only request is a two-month reprieve to mourn her fate with her friends. Then Jephthah does as he vowed.
What is unclear is if Jephthah physically sacrifices his daughter, something Moses prohibited, or if her life is redeemed for service to God, like Hannah’s giving of Samuel to serve God in the temple. Regardless, it’s clear that Jephthah’s daughter will not enjoy the future she expected, for she willingly accepts the consequences of her father’s impulsive promise to God. We commend her for her pious attitude, all the while being reminded to be careful with what we promise.
When faced with circumstances beyond our control, do we challenge the injustice or accept it with God-honoring dignity?
[Discover more about Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11:30–40.]
Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.