“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” Hebrews 11: 32-34
Do you remember this story? Jephthah made a deal with God before he went into battle. He said, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (Judges 11: 30-31). God granted Jephthah’s plea, and he won a great victory over his enemies. Jephthah was a man of his word, and he returned home to keep the bargain that he made with God. Unfortunately, the first person to come bounding out of his front door was his beloved daughter, his only child!
Can you picture this homecoming? A favorite memory of many parents is the joy of returning home from work and seeing their children bound out of the door in happy greeting. However, in Jephthah’s case, he was horrified. He cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break” (Judges 11: 35). Jephthah made this deal with God, but he blamed his daughter for causing him pain! How can Jephthah be considered a “Hero of Faith”?
“My father,” his daughter replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised… But grant me this one request. Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends because I will never marry” (Judges 11: 36-37).
Jephthah’s daughter is the “Hero of Faith,” but we don’t even know her name. However, her words show an amazing faith. Jephthah’s daughter kept her promise. She wandered the hills with her friends, and she returned. “After two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed” (Judges 11: 39).
How can this man who killed his daughter be considered a “Hero of Faith?” This is a Bible story that is truly perplexing. However, this is not a new biblical concept. Abraham, another “Hero of Faith,” almost sacrificed his son Isaac to the Lord, but God stopped him right before the heart wrenching deed. In the case of Jephthah and his daughter, there was no reprieve.
Jephthah’s penchant for bargaining and “wheeling and dealing” is not unusual in today’s world. Television reality shows such as “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” and “Deal or No Deal” emphasize personal acumen in making bargains to promote and elevate oneself. All place success in the hands of humans. However, success is fleeting. Jephthah found that out the hard way. His bargaining cost him the precious life of his daughter.
Jephthah’s audacity in bargaining with God for a victory showed his human failings and personal weaknesses, but his faith in God was obvious when he was willing to keep his promise with the sacrifice of his own daughter. God understood Jephthah’s pain in the sacrifice of his only child, because God the Father also experienced the sacrifice of His only Son. With Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, there are no bargains to be made. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice that we may have the free gift of eternal life with Him.