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Our sermon text for this coming Lord’s Day is Judges 10:6-11:40.  We’re going to look at the life of another of God’s judges, which is a man named Jephthah.

Jephthah is best know for his “rash vow.”  If you are not already familiar with the story of Jephthah, he was a judge/savior that God used to deliver the Israelites from the Ammonites.  Jephthah was successful at this task, but what captures most people’s attention is the vow that Jephthah made to God concerning a sacrifice he would make.

In Judges 11:30-32, Jephthah says to God, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 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.”

So God gave the Ammonites into Jephthah’s hand and the first thing that came out of his house, upon his return, was his daughter!  So Jephthah begins to lament, “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” (v 35).

The daughter then proceeds to courageously tell Jephthah that he must keep the vow he made to God and therefore, “Let this thing be done for me” (v. 37).

The “thing” (v. 37) that must be done to the daughter, according to the way many people read this passage, is to offer her up as a “burnt offering” (v. 32).

Others read this passage differently.  They conclude that Jephthah’s daughter was not sacrificed upon an altar as a human sacrifice, but instead, was dedicated to the Lord’s service.  As such, she was to remain a perpetual virgin for the sake of God.

This passage is intriguing because, for whatever reason, God the Holy Spirit was not explicitly clear as to which view is the intended view.  So we must be careful in our analysis, paying attention to all the details.  You are encouraged to consult a variety of commentaries to see what some of the Christian scholars have said about Jephthah’s vow.

One this about this passage that is for sure is that it provides a good context for considering the moral importance and binding aspect of the vows we make.  It causes us to ask questions, such as:

1. If I vow to do something sinful, and then come to realize that to carry the vow through to its fulfillment would require me to sin, am I still obligated to fulfill that vow?

2. Is there ever a righteous way to not fulfill the vows we make?

3. Assuming that Jephthah did sacrifice his daughter, would this have pleased God?

4. Why couldn’t Jephthah had just said to God, “I made a mistake. Will you have grace upon me and not hold me to the vow I made?”