The Foolish Father | A Bible Class on Jephthah’s Vow (Judges 11:29-40)

Foolish Father

Foolish Father | A Bible Class on Jephthah’s Vow (Judges 11:29-40)

Before we get to Jephthah and his tragic vow, there are some things that we need to review.

First, we need to remind ourselves of the tragic “cycle” found in Judges.

Sin –> Suffering (Serve a foreign king) –> Crying out to God –> Deliverance –> Rest /Peace–> Repeating of the Cycle

Second, we need to remind ourselves of Jephthah’s tragic life.

He was the son of a harlot, but he raised by his father (11:1-2). When his half-brothers were grown, they drove Jephthah out (11:2-3). However, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, Jephthah was made a commander (11:4-11). As a commander, Jephthah sent word to the king of Ammon in a feeble attempt to avoid war (11:12-28).

As war with the Ammonites became unavoidable, Jephthah made a vow. “It will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will deliver it up as a burnt offering” (v 31).

Vows in the Old Testament were important. Numbers 30:1-2. Deuteronomy 23:21-23.

Why would Jephthah make this vow? Was it wrong for him to make this vow? Why would it be important for Jephthah to carry out his vow?

Is it wrong for us to make vows? What are some vows that we make or have made? Is it necessary to carry out those vows? Why or why not? Some Scripture to think about: Matthew 5:33-37. Ephesians 4:25-29.

The Lord delivered the people of Ammon into Jephthah’s hands (v 32). If Jephthah was a skilled warrior, why did the Lord need to deliver the Ammonites into his hand? Could this say anything about how we need to view “victories” we might have in life? What could this say about “defeats” we suffer? Do we, in general, see the hand of God like we ought?

Jephthah subdued the people of Ammon “with a very great slaughter” (v 33). Why would God allow a people to be defeated “with a very great slaughter”? Is it ever right to kill?

When Jephthah return to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him (vv 34-35). Why would God allow his daughter to be the first to come out and meet him? What do you think went through Jephthah’s heart when his daughter showed up?

The author of Judges informs us that besides this daughter Jephthah “had neither son nor daughter” (v 34). Why might the author feel it was important to inform us that this was Jephthah’s only daughter? How was it looked on in Jephthah’s society not to have a son? Some hints (Gen 16:2; 30:1; 1 Sam 1:5-11). If it was dishonorable not to have a male child, how dishonorable it will be for Jephthah to have no daughter or grandchildren!

Jephthah tore his clothes. What did the tearing of clothes represent? Job 1:20-21. Matthew 26:65.

Why would Jephthah encounter deeper grief? He tells his daughter, “I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.” Why could Jephthah not go back on his word? Why couldn’t Jephthah offer an animal to the Lord instead of his daughter? Why would Jephthah need to offer his daughter?

Jephthah’s daughter declares that Jephthah should do what had gone out of his mouth. Why would she willingly become a human sacrifice?

She asked to go two months and wander on the mountains with her friends that they might bewail her virginity. Why would she want to bewail her virginity? I really don’t think the point was to bewail the fact that she had never had sexual relations. I really think the point was to bewail the fact that she had never had and would never bear children.

Why might she have wanted her friends to go with her? Are there times that we need friends? How might we be better friends to those who are struggling?

At the end of two months, she returned and Jephthah “carried out his vow with her which he had vowed.” It is my personal conviction that Jephthah offered his daughter as a burnt offering. The text says “he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed.”

This would not at all mean that God approved of the sacrifice. God never approved of child sacrifice. “You shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord” (Lev 18:21). Psalm 106:36-40. Scripture often tells us of things God did not approve without comment (e.g., Abraham’s lying).

However, many folks deny that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter. Leviticus 27:1-8 gives provision for people to redeem people when they’ve made a vow.

Dr. Dave Miller of Apologetics Press gives four reasons Jephthah redeemed his daughter and did not sacrifice her.

  1. The period of mourning was not that Jephthah’s daughter was about to die but that she would never marry.
  2. The text goes out of its way to state that Jephthah had no other children; this would mean the extinction of Jephthah’s bloodline.
  3. The sacrifice is treated as unfortunate, not because the girl died, but because she never became a mother.
  4. We are told of Jephthah’s sorrow (11:35) immediately after we’re told he had no other children (11:34). He was upset his daughter would have no children.

Four days each year the daughters of Israel would lament the daughter of Jephthah. Why would the daughters of Israel wish to lament’s Jephthah’s daughter? What are some things we should commemorate?

What are some lessons we should learn from Jephthah?

This Bible class was originally taught by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.

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