Q. We were doing a bible study on book of judges 11 about Jephthah’s daughter. This caused a debate. Some said that it could have been her virginity that was taken or some other sacrifice, not necessarily Jephthah killing his daughter. In a recent post you said it was an abomination to the Lord to do that so therefore unlawful. Could you please clarify what actually happened. Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter?
A. Up until the middle ages it was universally believed that Jephthah did in fact sacrifice his daughter. Even though God was opposed to human sacrifice (Deut. 18:10) the law required people to keep their vows because it was a sin not to (Deut. 23:21).
In the middle ages a view emerged that Jephthah only dedicated his daughter to life long service to the Lord. The primary support for this view is that human sacrifice was forbidden and the daughter’s sadness over the fact that she would never marry (Judges 11:37).
There is no indication that God approved of Jephthah’s vow, or that He required Jephthah to keep it. The passage does say that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and gave him the victory over the Amorites.
I believe Jephthah did sacrifice his daughter, and the plain sense reading of Judges 11 favors this position. Judges 11:31 says that was his vow and Judges 11:39 says he did what he had vowed to do.
To me the whole episode shows the consequences of making ill conceived vows to the Lord in return for some favor or blessing. Jesus warned us not to make vows at all, but to simply do what we say we’ll do. He said anything beyond that comes from the evil one (Matt. 5:33-37) .