I have recently been reminded by a friend that one of the stumbling blocks in studying the Old Testament is the names. So, for the remainder of our current series:
When you see Jephthah, think Jeff. (which is probably what his friends called him anyway)
Jephthah has offered God a pact that seems to be the very antithesis of the faith for which he is known in the New Testament. If God will just get him through this crisis, then he will sacrifice whatever comes out of the house upon his return. Seriously!? What is he expecting to come out of the house? A hedgehog?
Jephthah should not have offered God any frivolous vows in exchange for His help. This is not what the nature of worship should be. Worshiping, as well as whatever sacrifice we wish to offer the Lord, must be from the heart. And we are commanded to worship, even if His help does not seem to be coming our way. He is God; and we are not.
As Job said, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him,” Job 13:15.
There is also admonition in Deuteronomy 23:21-23, which says on the other hand, that although no vow is required of you, if you do make a vow, keep it. “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised.”
This should be the nature of our word and our vows with people. Whatever comes out of our mouths, we must be committed to stand by it and behind it!
Ok, so the first bit of foolishness is that he made the vow in the first place; especially one so specific. If he felt he had to secure God’s blessing with a vow he should have said something more like, “Lord, when this is done and you have given us the victory I will go to the temple and make a sacrifice of thanksgiving to You.” That would have been acceptable as long as he ultimately kept his vow.
Anyway, no vow was necessary. Perhaps he did this out of some sense of insecurity or a moment of doubt. But I think this Israeli Judge is feeling something a little different. You know, the way we sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we stop thinking, even though our mouths are still moving. We get sucked in and we start to believe our own hype. We have the world on a string, and we can do no wrong.
The first error is to have made a vow at all.
Let’s move on to the second mistake. The vow he chooses to make is very, very specific. He’s putting himself in a potentially tight spot.
Verses 34 and 35: “When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.”
This is one of many hard stories in the Old Testament. There is much commentary and controversy about what has transpired and why.
There is the school of commentators who think that when he saw his daughter come out, he sent her to spend her life in service in the tabernacle. Following this line of reasoning, their sadness, the father and daughter’s, is because she would never have children and continue his line, give the following arguments.
This is not what the scripture says, but...