I was reading through Hebrews and the author lists Jephtha as a sort of hero of the faith. But when I looked into him, because I had never heard of him before, what I read was pretty disturbing. He sacrificed his daughter to God and then was killed for doing so. So why is listed amongst heroes of the faith?
That’s a good question. Below some points, which led me to a personal meditation on this case.
And a thought concerning his daughter:
Its an interesting case. Let us wait for what the rest of our spiritual brothers and sisters have to say or comment.
Jephthah did NOT offer his daughter as a burnt offering. Instead, he offered his daughter for the service of God
A good question.
I don’t have a concrete answer but here are some thoughts…
So in Judges 11 it says he was a mighty warrior but was despised by hus brothers as he was birn of a prostitute. It goes on to say “So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.” (Judges 11:3) Jepthah is definitely a bit of an outcast and scoundrel here…
At this point the Ammonites are about to attack the people of Gilead, and the Gileads need a leader to take them into battle. Nobody steps up even with the promise of being head of the Gileads if they do. So the leaders come to Jephtah as ,though he is a scoundrel he is the only person brave enough to lead the Gileads into battle against the Ammonites. At first he challenges them asking why they come to him now when they cast him out, but they plead and he takes the position.
I think this is an example of God using someone who is lost in a destructive culture and bad ways to do good.
The reason he sacrifices his daughter (I know there is debate here but hear me out), is because as he goes into battle he vows to sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his door when he returns if God helps him defeat the Ammonites. Clearly this is an incredibly foolish and unnecessary thing to say as in the previous verse it says that God was already with him, so he needn’t have made the vow. The fact he made the vow I think has nothing to do with what God wants. Jephthah lived in an era where the culture around him all sacrificed their children and did many horrible things, so I think it was the influence of this destructive way of life, not God which prompted his vow.
Anyway yes he is a shady character but I think the reason he is mentioned in Hebrews as a hero is because he stepped up to oppose the Ammonites and was brave enough to fight when no one else was. He took responsibility and stood up for his people. He fought for God’s word, and no maybe he wasn’t particularly smart when he made the vow, it was a typical an normal thing done at the time.
I hope this helps in some way…
Interested to hear other people’s perspectives,
@Ren Great question. Here is an article from the Gospel Coalition providing 6 reasons to consider the possibility that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter, but rather offered her in full time service to the Lord. I have included and excerpt below. The Lord grant you wisdom and peace in this matter.
The willing fulfillment of this vow by Jephthah’s daughter (11:36) appears to contradict the literal interpretation of a child sacrifice. Not only were such sacrifices clearly forbidden and abominated in Scripture (Deut. 12:31; 18:9–12; cf. 2 Kings 3:27; 23:10; Is. 57:5), but the concern of the text is never death, but always virginity. In 11:37, Jephthah’s daughter requests a two-month leave in order to lament her virginity. Then, in 11:38, the text records that while with her friends, she wept over the fact of her virginity. Then again, in 11:39, it is recorded that Jephthah fulfilled his vow to the LORD, and the text clearly describes how this vow was fulfilled—“that is, she did not know a man.” It appears, therefore, that Jephthah’s vow consisted of offering a member of his house to the full-time service of the LORD, and thus not to the normal duties of a household, such a marriage and having children. Service of this type in not unknown in the Old Testament (Ex. 38:8; 1 Sam. 2:22; cf.1 Sam. 1:11, 22–28).