Judges 11.1-40 gives us the account of Yiftach (“he will open”) and his character, and of the elders who will call him to be a leader against the Ammonites. We will also deal with his controversial vow in Judges 11.31. Yiftach was from Gilead (where Elijah was from) and a valiant warrior. He was the son of a harlot and Gilead (“heap of witness”) his father.
Gilead’s wife bore him sons and she will be a type of unbelieving Israel, and when they got older they drove Yiftach out, and Joseph and Yeshua were rejected by their brethren (Gen 37.1-36; Mark 3.21; John 5.43, 7.5, 8.41). They told Yiftach that he will not have an inheritance in “our father’s house” and this is exactly what happened to Joseph and Yeshua. So, Yiftach fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob (“good”). The exact place is not known but it seems it was not far from Ammon because they hired soldiers from there (2 Sam 10.6). Tov alludes to the “good land” and place the believers are in. The poor and downtrodden gathered themselves to Yiftach because they had no hope, so they joined him. This what happened with Yeshua (Matt 15.22; Mark 2.15; Luke 7.39, 15.1).
When the sons of Ammon (“seed of the people”) came to fight against Israel, it alludes to the coming Birth-pains. The elders of Gilead went to Yiftach in the land of Tov and asked him to join them as their chief against the Ammonites. Of course Yiftach asks them, “Did you not hate me and drive me from my father’s house? So why have you come to me now when you are in trouble?” They accept him as their head and Yiftach goes with them. In the same way, Israel will call upon Yeshua in the birth-pains but before Yeshua can deliver them, they must accept him (Ezek 39.22; Hos 5.15; Matt 23.39).
Yiftach sends messengers to the king of Ammon and asks them what the problem is. Why do they want a war? Ammon answered and said that when Israel came up from Egypt they took their land, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and the Jordan. They wanted those lands returned. This is much like the argument today with the Arabs and Palestinians. Yiftach again sent messengers denying their charge and giving the true story of what happened, and how Yehovah himself gave Israel the land that was in question (Judges 11.14-27). But the king of Ammon disregarded the message from Yiftach. Now, Israel was forbidden to make war on Ammon in Deut 2.19, however, they could defend themselves.
Then the Ruach ha Kodesh came upon Yiftach and he passed through Gilead (“heap of witness”-Golgotha) and Manasseh (“to forget”), then he passed through Mizpah (“watchtower”) and on to to take on the sons of Ammon (“seed of the people”). In the same way, we don’t need to cling to the “old rugged cross” but move on, forgetting our past. Only then can we be watchful enough to take on the “seed of the people” in the world when they come, and they will come.
Now we come to one of the most controversial sections of Scripture, but not so much once we understand what really happened. Yiftach makes a vow and says, “If you will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it will be that whatever comes out the of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” We will come back to this verse later.
So, Yiftach crossed over and defeated Ammon, which is what Yeshua will do to his enemies, and when he returns, his daughter came out of the doors of the house to meet him. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have made me very low (depressed) and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to Yehovah and I cannot take it back.” So she answers, “My father, you have given your word to Yehovah; do to me as you have said, since Yehovah has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.” She went on to say, “Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.”
Then Yiftach said, “Go.” So, he sent her away for two months and she left with her friends and wept on the mountains because she was going to remain a virgin. At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made, and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate (“l’tanot” meaning “celebrate”) the daughter of Yiftach the Gileadite four days in the year. By sending her to the service of the Mishkan, it shows just how serious Yiftach and his daughter took the vow.
As we have said, this is one of the most misunderstood portions of Scripture in the Tanak, Gospels and Epistles. So, let’s break this down and take a look at what is being communicated here. Yiftach did not offer his daughter as burnt offering (Korban Olah) and here is why. First of all, it says in Judges 11.31, “it shall be the Lord’s and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” In Hebrew, the “and” in that verse can mean “or” meaning, “it shall be the Lord’s or I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” He did not offer her as a burnt offering because that would violate the Torah in Lev 20.2-3.
In the Mishkan we know that women participated in the construction of many items (Exo 35.25-26), and there were certain women who dedicated themselves to service there (Exo 38.8; 1 Sam 2.22). Samuel was dedicated to the Lord to serve there in 1 Sam 1.22-28 and in Luke 2.37 we learn of Anna who never left the Temple, serving night and day with fasting and prayer. Yiftach dedicated her to serve in the Mishkan as a “spiritual olah” who was totally dedicated to Yehovah, with her own free will and given with joy. These people never married and remained totally focused on Yehovah.
In the Torah you cannot sacrifice a person. The misunderstanding comes from a translation of the Hebrew letter “vav” as “and” and not “or.” BY using “or” it changes the whole meaning. Secondly, you cannot offer a korban to God something that was not permitted, like a deer, camel or especially a person. Third, sacrificing children was an abomination to Yehovah (Lev 20.1-3). Fourth, there is no precedent for such a thing anyway.
Fifth, no father by his own authority could put an offending child to death (Deut 21.18-21), much less an innocent one. Sixth, we have have already gone over the class of women who were devoted to Yehovah, the Mishkan and later the Temple services. Seven, the word in Judges 11.40 for “lament” in KJV and “commemorate” in NASB is “l’tanot” in Hebrew and it means “to celebrate.” Eight, Yiftach’s sorrow is due to the fact that he will have no descendants (Judges 11.34-36) because she was his only child. And in conclusion, it is possible she could have been redeemed from his vow by money based on Lev 27.1-5. So, she was not killed as a Korban Olah, but there are those who believe she was, and that is based on the lack of a Torah-based understanding of the Scriptures.
We will pick up in Judges 12.1-15 in Part 11.