The story of Jephthah’s daughter as recorded in the Bible has presented a great difficulty to many superficial students of the Bible, as well as to many critics of it. How can we possibly justify Jephthah’s burning of his daughter as a sacrifice to Jehovah?

In the first place, we are nowhere told that Jephthah did burn his daughter. We are told that Jephthah vowed, “Whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering” (Judges 11:31).

The word translated “burnt-offering” does not necessarily involve the idea of burning. There is no record that Jephthah’s daughter was actually slain and burned. The passage that relates what actually was done with her is somewhat obscure, and many think that she was devoted by her father as an offering to God by her living a life of perpetual virginity (Judges 11:37–39).

But even supposing that she was actually slain and burned, as some Bible students believe (though the Bible does not actually say so), even in this case we are under no necessity of defending Jephthah’s action any more than we are of defending any other wrong action of all the imperfect instruments that God, in His wondrous grace and condescension, has seen fit to use to defend or help His people. The Bible itself nowhere defends Jephthah’s action. If Jephthah really did slay his daughter, he simply made a rash vow without any command or other warrant from God for so doing; and having made this rash vow, he went further in his wrongdoing and carried that rash vow into execution.

So the whole story instead of being a warrant for human sacrifice is intended to be a lesson on the exceeding foolishness of hasty vows made in the energy of the flesh.

Torrey, R. (1998). Difficulties in the Bible : Alleged errors and contradictions. Willow Grove: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing.

  1. stan says:

    I am sure it was not a human sacrifice, but that his daughter must sacrifice her right to procreate, which is a kind of death.Yet, I have always had a conjecture about his vow, that there was “method to his madness.” It has to do with what we’re told about Jephthath in the first verse 1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot;. . . So, perhaps his mother’s unsavory life made him want his daughter never to be with a man. So, his vow was rather clever, being seemingly left up to chance, yet it was made with the presumption that the first one to greet him would actually be his daughter, for it would be most likely she who, looking anxiously for his return home, would run to meet him first. Since he could not actually put her to death, her virginity would suffice to fulfill the vow.


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