Spectacular faith

July 10, 2010

Aside from the account of his accomplishments in Judges 11-12, Jephthah is mentioned two other times in scripture. He is listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:

Heb 11:32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets,
Heb 11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,
Heb 11:34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Heb 11:35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.
Heb 11:36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.
Heb 11:37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—
Heb 11:38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Heb 11:39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Heb 11:40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

And he is cited by Samuel as one of the deliverers of Israel sent by their faithful God:

1Sa 12:6 Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your forefathers up out of Egypt.
1Sa 12:7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your fathers.
1Sa 12:8 “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the LORD for help, and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your forefathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place.
1Sa 12:9 “But they forgot the LORD their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them.
1Sa 12:10 They cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’
1Sa 12:11 Then the LORD sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely.

Jephthah was clearly a great example of faithfulness. Let’s look more closely at why that is so.

Jdg 11:1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute.
Jdg 11:2 Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.”
Jdg 11:3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him.

Jephthah was born to a prostitute, and was driven from his family. More than that, he was by Law forbidden from the assembly of Israel:

Deu 23:2 No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation.

Yet God chose such an outcast to send as a deliverer of Israel.

Jdg 11:4 Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel,
Jdg 11:5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.
Jdg 11:6 “Come,” they said, “be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.”
Jdg 11:7 Jephthah said to them, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?”
Jdg 11:8 The elders of Gilead said to him, “Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head over all who live in Gilead.”
Jdg 11:9 Jephthah answered, “Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me—will I really be your head?”
Jdg 11:10 The elders of Gilead replied, “The LORD is our witness; we will certainly do as you say.”
Jdg 11:11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.

Jephthah tried to reason with the enemy king, but to no avail.

Jdg 11:28 The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.
Jdg 11:29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites.
Jdg 11:30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands,
Jdg 11:31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

Jephthah was filled with the Holy Spirit as he made his frightening vow to the Lord. The Keil & Delitzsch commentary notes:

Jephthah no doubt intended to impose a very difficult vow upon himself. And that would not have been the case if he had merely been thinking of a sacrificial animal. Even without any vow, he would have offered, not one, but many sacrifices after obtaining a victory.
(Note: “What kind of vow would it be if some great prince or general should say, ‘O God, if Thou wilt give me this victory, the first calf that meets me shall be Thine!’)
In his eagerness to smite the foe, and to thank God for it, Jephthah could not think of any particular object to name, which he could regard as great enough to dedicate to God; he therefore left it to accident, i.e., to the guidance of God, to determine the sacrifice.

Jephthah was fully devoted to carrying out the mission God had given him. And he knew he could only do it with God’s power. So he begged God to grant him success, and he made the dramatic vow.

Jdg 11:32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands.
Jdg 11:33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
Jdg 11:34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.
Jdg 11:35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”

The LORD chose to test Jephthah with the most difficult of sacrifices. This was not the first time God had called upon a faithful man to sacrifice an only child. But this time, God would not intervene to stop the sacrifice.

Jdg 11:36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites.
Jdg 11:37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”
Jdg 11:38 “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry.
Jdg 11:39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed.

The faith of Jephthah’s daughter is equally as impressive as that of the mighty warrior. She immediately recognized that her father must keep the heart-wrenching vow. What faith, and what loyalty! What examples of great faithfulness! Truly the great faith of the father had been passed down to the daughter.  No wonder Jephthah is commended as a hero of faith!

Today many Christians recoil at the fact that Jephthah kept his vow.  I think they recoil because they know they would never have kept such a vow themselves.  Truthfully, most of us fail to keep the many, much lesser vows we have made.   Too often we deem our inconvenient circumstances to be sufficient justification for breaking our word.  We should not make rash vows. But when we do make a promise, God expects us to keep it. Our faithfulness is so far short of that of Jephthah and of his daughter. When Jesus returns, will he find faith on the earth?


  1. Come now, Alan! Jephthah didn’t make a human sacrifice of his daughter, going against what God strongly commanded Israel not to do. That is a diabolical suggestion, and certainly untrue. The Scripture doesn’t say that at all. Indeed, it says otherwise:

    Judges 11:37-39 MKJV
    (37) And she said to her father, Let this thing be done for me. Let me alone two months, so that I may go up and down upon the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.
    (38) And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months. And she went with her companions and wept for her virginity upon the mountains.
    (39) And it happened at the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her his vow which he had vowed. And she knew no man.

    The daughter remained a virgin the rest of her life – that was the sacrifice. If she were going to be physically sacrificed, the virginity wouldn’t have been an issue at all. What, you are going to be sacrificed by your father and you want to spend two months preparing for the slaying by wailing for your virginity? Think, man! You paint God and His faithful followers as monsters and madmen. If that’s what you are doing, you don’t know Him at all, and by acting as if you do, you bring shame to His Holy Name.

  2. Paul, I understand your perspective. But the passage says he did to her as he had vowed. That’s unambiguous. It’s no different from what God commanded Abraham to do to Isaac, except that God didn’t intervene in Jephtah’s case.

    You paint God and His faithful followers as monsters and madmen. If that’s what you are doing, you don’t know Him at all, and by acting as if you do, you bring shame to His Holy Name.

    Unfortunately Christians often are not very good at respecting those who honestly disagree with them. I’m not painting God nor his followers as monsters and madmen. If that’s the conclusion you draw about God, it’s in your mind, not mine.

  3. God Bless you lead you with His Love & anointing.

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