Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jephthah’s Daughter

Yesterday we looked at Jephthah’s early life and his brothers’ tossing him out of the family – only to come to him later for help. Today, we’ll see what a tragic mistake he made on his own. Take a look at the graphic showing Jephthah being greeted by his daughter. I cropped yesterday's graphic from this. He doesn’t look happy to see her, does he? He has good reason for looking stricken.

There had been successful battles, but a big one was coming. Jephthah sought the Lord’s help:

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. (Judges 11:29-31 KJV)

I cannot imagine what Jephthah thought would greet him – a hound, a horse, a pet goat or lamb – it could have been any number of things that came to mind. But, he came up with the vow on his own. This was not God’s requirement given to him in exchange for the battle. There were tragic consequences when he returned victorious:

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. (Judges 11:34 KJV)

He kept his vow.

And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. (Judges 11:35-36 KJV)

Did you notice that he blamed her? “Thou has brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me.” How we all do shift blame to someone else. His words brought them to this place, not hers.

The Law tells us:

And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:12 KJV)

Perhaps this very story was on Jesus’ mind when He taught us:

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Matthew 5:33-37 KJV)

Jephthah made a thoughtless vow that brought evil upon himself and his daughter. Look to the center of the graphic where the artist shows the sacrifice being made.

Some scholars would point to Judges 11:37-38 that she was simply sent away. Unfortunately, the remaining verses tell us that he kept his vow, which should help us keep Matthew 5:37 in mind that we not create evil even while serving God’s purpose.

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