True to God’s pattern of choosing unlikely people, the Judge Jephthah was not highly regarded in his community. His mother was a prostitute, so his father’s sons sent him away from their home. He eventually got a ‘gang of scoundrels’ to follow him. Evidently, he had some skill because in their fight against the ammonites (Judges 10), the Gileadites asked for his help.
He accepted their offer of rulership of Gilead and began correspondence with the King of Ammon. The King of Ammon claimed that the Israelites had taken his land. Jephthah countered that they had take no land from Moab or Ammon, but that the land they had near him was taking from the Amorites. He also said that God had given them the land, saying “Now since the Lord, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess.”
It was good war practice – seek to make peace with your attacker. If they refuse, fight back. The King of the Ammonites did not listen, so Jephthah attacked him. He made a vow to God that if he won the war, he would sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever first came out of his house when he returned home. He won the war and the unfortunate human being was his only child and daughter. (What was he expecting to come out of the house, anyway? An animal?”)
Jephthah was sad, but he did what he had sworn to do, as the passage says.
- Retelling of the Daughter of Jepthah @ the UN Church Center (ecumenicalwomen.org)
- Top 10 worst Bible passages (answeringchristian.wordpress.com)