“If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” – Judges 11:30, 31
I read this story again today and it filled me with sadness. Jephthah was a mighty man of valor but was driven out of his home by his step-brothers because his mother was a harlot. He went to the land of Tob where he fell into the company of worthless men he went raiding with.
When the nation of Amnon made war against Israel, the elders of the Israelite people went to Jephthah for help. He reminded them of how they had treated him and wanted to know why they were now seeking his help. They promised him that if he would fight for them, they would make him their head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. Jephthah agreed. He went with them and they made him their head and commander. Before he went to war, Jephthah gave the king of Ammon the opportunity to call a truce but he refused to listen.
God’s Spirit was upon Jephthah as he advanced toward the people of Ammon. It was at this time that he made a vow to the Lord. The Lord delivered the people of Ammon into his hands. When he returned home after his great victory, his daughter came to meet him, happy to see him and and he was devastated. He had made a vow to the Lord that whatever came out of his house to meet him when he returned from fighting the Ammonites, will be the Lord’s. It never occurred to him that his daughter, his only child, would be the one to come out to meet him.
When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”
So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.” Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.” She had accepted her fate.
For two months she and her friends bewailed her virginity on the mountains. And at the end of the two months, she returned to her father and he honored his vow to the Lord. She never knew a man. She remained a virgin until she died. Jephthah never had any grandchildren.
How sad it must have been for this young girl who like most girls dreamed of one day falling in love and getting married. She would never know the joy of being a wife and a mother. If a man showed any interest in her she would have to reject him. How it must have been hard to see her friends get married and have children. She may have held some of those children in her arms, knowing that she would never be able to have any of her own. It is said that it became a custom in Israel for the daughters of Israel to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days each year.
I can’t imagine how her father must have felt, seeing his only child live the rest of her life a spinster because of a foolish vow he had made. The vow as not even necessary. The Spirit of the Lord was with him. God would have given him the victory anyway. What should have been a celebration for father and daughter turned into a tragedy. His victory came at a great cost because of a vow he had made in order to guarantee that victory.
Be careful when you made a vow to the Lord or anyone. Consider what you are doing first. Make sure you can live with your decision. Don’t make promises that you may regret keeping.
If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth – Numbers 30:2.