Sharon Wilharm Bible Storyteller

The Tragedy of Jephthah’s Daughter

The book of Judges is filled with tragic stories of sin. So often, women were innocent victims of the sins of their fathers, husbands, or family members. Jephthah’s daughter is one of those women.

Jephthah was the son of a harlot who was used by God to deliver the Israelites from their enemies. Though he ruled as a judge, his understanding of God’s character was limited. Before heading out to battle, he made a vow to God that if God would give him victory, “then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” (Judges 11:31 ESV)

Jephthah won the battle, and as he returned home, his precious daughter, his only child, rain out to meet him with timbrels and dancing. This was the tradition, for the women to greet their men with celebration for their victory. Did Jephthah not keep that in mind when he made his reckless vow? Didn’t it occur to him that he’d be greeted by his daughter or wife? Apparently not.

When Jephthah saw his daughter, he tore his clothes and blamed his innocent daughter for his situation.

“Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” (Judges 11:35 ESV)

Jephthah came from a pagan environment that encouraged human sacrifice. But the true God forbade it. Because of Jephthah’s foolishness in following pagan practices, his innocent daughter paid the ultimate price.

Read about Jephthah’s daughter in Scripture: Judges 11:29-35

The tragedy of Jephthah's daughter

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