The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Was Jephthah's daughter killed as a human sacrifice?

Judges 11:29 - 40 describes Jephthah’s vow to sacrifice to God the first thing to come out of his house. The first ‘thing’ happened to be his daughter. The Bible doesn’t say Jephthah killed her, but a lot of people infer this. What do you think?

I think the implication that he did after two months keep his vow (a major requirement in Judaism) and sacrifice her is awfully clear. My impression is that a central motivation in any effort to avoid this reading is a desire to avoid the unreasonable reality that the OT presents many problematic practices and actions, without any note of condemning their barbarity.

I think the whole account serves to show just how much Gods violent judgments against his own creation grieve him to his heart, and are not part of his original intensions for us. What picture brings home this sobering thought, more than a man grieved to his core having now to sacrifice his own daughter. Also, whilst it grieved her father Jephthah to the core, her acceptance and grace is beyond my human reasoning, just like that of God, as a father sacrificing his son and his sons acceptance and grace in doing so, is also beyond my human reasoning. In fact many things recorded in the bible are beyond my human reasoning, but it’s not to say they didn’t happen :smirk:

They’re also inconsistent with any sense of reason that I have, as are many things recorded in the Qu’ran and the Book of Mormon.

I don’t think she was sacrificed, i think she was committed to the Lord. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends because i will never marry” 11.36

Never marrying & remaining a virgin because she was committed to the Lord was the sacrifice, not a physical sacrifice.

“After the two months she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.” 11.38


Excellent Steve !!! I’ve just gone back and re-read this passage with your thoughts in
view, and it seems to fit perfectly !!! I’ve really seen this passage in a completely different light now. Not only do I want to believe that view, I can believe that view, because I can see it right there in Gods word. I just love it when something like this kind of learning comes along :+1:t2:

Pure blood, esp. virgins, was seen as an ideal sacrifice in that era. What had he vowed to “do” to her?

What does the site, Got Questions have to say?

Answer: In Judges 11:30-31, Jephthah, a judge of Israel, made a foolish vow that if God gave him victory in the upcoming battle, he would sacrifice whatever first came out of his door when he came home. Jephthah was victorious in the battle against the Ammonites (Judges 11:32-33). When Jephthah returned home after the battle, his daughter came to greet him (Judges 11:34). Jephthah was devastated and stated that he had made a vow to the Lord that he could not break (Judges 11:35). Jephthah’s daughter asked for a two month “reprieve,” and Jephthah granted her request (Judges 11:36-38). The passage then states that Jephthah “did to her as he had vowed” (Judges 11:39).

The Bible does not explicitly state that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering. Since his daughter was mourning the fact that she would never marry instead of mourning that she was about to die (Judges 11:36-37), this possibly indicates that Jephthah gave her to the tabernacle as a servant instead of sacrificing her. However, again, Judges 11:39 does seem to indicate that he did follow through with the sacrifice: “He did to her as he had vowed.”

Whatever the case, God had specifically forbidden offering human sacrifices, so it was absolutely not God’s desire for Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter (Leviticus 20:1-5). Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; and 32:35 clearly indicate that the idea of human sacrifice has “never even entered God’s mind.” The account of Jephthah and his daughter serves as an example for us to not make foolish vows or oaths. It should also serve as a warning to make sure any vow we make is something that is not in violation of God’s Word.

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This does not indicate he sacrificed her, only that he kept his vow which was to commit her to the Lord. She would not have wanted two months to roam the hills with her friends if she going to be killed and in fact she references that she wouldn’t be able to marry. Why would that be in the front of her mind if she was to be killed? Doesn’t add up, the language doesn’t lend itself to a human sacrifice.

Since his daughter was mourning the fact that she would never marry instead of mourning that she was about to die (Judges 11:36-37), this possibly indicates that Jephthah gave her to the tabernacle as a servant instead of sacrificing her.

Possibly indicates?? It explicitly says “never marry” instead of get killed.

Which verse “explicitly” says “never marry” is “instead of” being killed as a sacrifice?

I found the analysis of “Got Questions” reasonable.

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Which verse states that his vow was only “to commit her to the Lord”?
Vs. 31 specifies that his vow was, "I will sacrifice (the relevant person) as a burnt offering.”
Vs. 35 reinforces that this is why he found “the vow I cannot break” so “devastating,” and thus his daughter warned him that vowing a burnt sacrifice meant he had to do it “just as he had promised.”

Many Hebrew scholars believe Jephthah meant an animal to be the burnt offering as he said “whatever” walks through the door not “whoever” shall be the burnt offering and that once his daughter walked out he asked her to commit herself to the Lord and she later lamented that she would always be a virgin which is the same thing as “never marry” and was what happened when a daughter was commissioned to the Lord which was usually work involving the Tabernacle.

I’m not seeing any verse state that he said that at all, or that getting “two months to roam the hills” with friends was a way of accepting the ‘devastation’ of then becoming a virgin.

As I said, my own impression is that such creative eisgesis only exists because many readers were uncomfortable with what the text specifies about the vow being kept consisting of making his daughter into a “burnt offering.”

There is no verse saying it, it’s an inference based on the only reason she would lament becoming a life long virgin, which is service to the Lord. Again if Jepthah meant a human sacrifice he wouldn’t have said “whatever” walked through the door , plus she was not sacrificed, Jepthah was a pious man and if he meant for his daughter to be sacrificed she would have been. The word “whatever” is found in the Tanach by Stone which is a favorite of orthodox jews.
BTW she does weep for her virginity in verse 37 at the end.

Calling an ‘inference’ “explicit” is an oxymoron. Where does OT say that remaining a virgin is pleasing “service to the Lord”? It never even says that what she lamented is not being able to lose her virginity. I think it suggests that she wept because only being given an extension to live two months meant that she would never marry, and only had a short time with her friends, before Jephthah did what was “devastating:” “just what he had promised,” i.e. sacrifice the first creature he saw as a “burnt offering,” exactly what Abraham is portrayed as believing that God could call him to do to his child.

Sometimes it’s good to seek a second or third opinion, in ALL matters. :crazy_face:

This article is by a Jewish Rabbi with a Ph.D. Let me state his conclusion:

Jephthah is a tragic figure. His problematic origins make the restoring of his status in society crucial to him. Yet, his story ends with no chance of his handing his improved status on to his progeny, since his own vow forces his daughter into permanent celibacy as a woman consecrated to the Lord.

Her story is double-edged. She is clearly troubled by giving up her future as a mother. She cries about it for two months, as do her friends, and all the women of Israel do so for four days every year until she dies. Nevertheless, Jephthah’s daughter is also the symbol of what may have been a unique experiment in women’s spirituality, ‘belonging to the Lord’ as expressed in the opening words of Jephthah’s vow. Moreover, when her father seems ambivalent about whether to go through with the vow, it is she who takes responsibility for her faith and pushes him to do what he swore. As such, perhaps she is not only a woman to be pitied, but one to be admired as well.

And let me quote this, as it applies to the next article:

The flexibility of the vav conjunctive linking the two statements would allow it to be read here as ‘and’, so that ‘belonging to the Lord’ meant the burnt offering mentioned immediately after. But the ‘ vav ’ could also be read as ‘or’, so that whatever or whoever came out would be dedicated to God, and, only should it prove appropriate, would be sacrificed. This latter suggestion runs the risk of sounding like apologetics, designed to give Jephthah a certain amount of leeway, but the ambiguity is present in the text.

And we have an interesting point regarding translation at:

The old point of view that the girl was slaughtered still, has defenders today. However one must consider the fact that the Hebrew word ‘wuh’ does not always have the meaning ‘and’, but in fact may also mean ‘or’ (Lexicon: Koehler/Baumgartner 1953, s.v. 6). E.g.: this man OR his wife (Genesis 26:11); his father OR his mother (Exodus 21:17); whose word will stand, Mine OR theirs? (Jeremiah 44:28). More examples can be cited.

The correct translation must therefore be: “… it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, OR I will offer it up as a burnt offering." The fact that old exegetes didn’t see this due to limited knowledge of the Hebrew language, may be understandable. But that the mistranslation (using ‘and’) is to be found in many Bibles today is a real shame.

We have to do with a serious mistranslation, but the Hebrew Bible doesn’t reveal any contradiction or discrepancy in this segment.

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Interesting :+1:t2: