Women in the Bible: Jephthah’s Daughter

We don’t know the name of Jephthah’s daughter, but we do lament what happened to her, all the while applauding the honorable way she accepted her fate, showing her faith and confidence in God in the process. Here’s her brief story:

When the elders of Gilead ask Jephthah to lead them into battle against their enemies, he makes a rash vow to God that, upon his successful return, he will sacrifice the first thing he sees as a burnt offering to God.

He is victorious. However, to his dismay, the first thing he sees when he arrives home is his daughter, his only child, who dances in celebration. He laments his foolish promise to God.

Yet, to her credit, Jephthah’s daughter doesn’t protest her father’s carelessness with her life. Instead she confirms he must act. Her only request is a two month delay to mourn her fate with her friends. Then Jephthah does has he vowed.

What is unclear is if Jephthah literally sacrifices his daughter, something Moses prohibited, or if her life is redeemed for service to God, similar to Hannah’s giving of Samuel to serve God in the temple. Regardless of what happened, it’s clear Jephthah’s daughter will not enjoy the future she expected, but she willingly accepts the consequences of her father’s promise to God. We commend her for her pious attitude, all the while being reminded to take care in what we say.

[The account of Jephthah’s daughter is in Judges 11:30-40.]

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