Did Jephthah Offer His Daughter As A Burnt Offering To Fulfill His Vow in Judges 11.30-31?

This is one of the most misunderstood portions of Scripture in the Tanak, Gospels and Epistles, so let’s get to the heart of the matter. Jephthah (Hebrew “Yiftach” meaning “he will open or release”) did not offer his daughter as a burnt offering, and here is why. In Judges 11.31 where it says, “it shall be the Lord’s and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” needs to be understood. The “and” there can mean “or” which would then mean, “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, but she was dedicated to the Lord.

In the Mishkan, and later in the Temple, women or men could dedicate themselves to the service there. Samuel was dedicated in this way by his mother in 1 Sam 1.22-28 to serve there. Eli was a high priest and he had two sons who would lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting in 1 Sam 2.22. In Luke 2.37 we learn of Anna who never left the Temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. So Jephthah dedicated her to serve in the Mishkan as a “spiritual olah” who was totally dedicated to Yehovah. She never married and remained totally focused on God. So here are nine reason why she was not sacrificed.

First of all, in the Torah, you cannot sacrifice a person. The misunderstanding of these verses comes from a translation of the Hebrew letter “Vav” there to “and” and not “or.” By using “or” it changes the whole meaning. Secondly, you cannot offer to God something that was forbidden, like a deer, camel and especially a person. Third, sacrificing children was an abomination to Yehovah in Lev 20.1-3. Fourth, there is no precedent for such a thing. Fifth, no father by his own authority could put an offending offspring to death in Deut 21.18-21, much less an innocent one.

Sixth, there seems to have been a class of women devoted to the Yehovah and would serve the needs of the Mishkan and later the Temple (1 Sam 2.22, Exo 38.8, Luke 2.37). Seven, the word in verse 40 for “commemorate” in the NASB is “l’tanot” in Hebrew meaning “to celebrate.” They would not be celebrating the death of a young girl sacrificed by her father. Eight, Jephthah’s sorrow is due to the fact he would have no descendants, she was his only child (Judges 11.34-36). And lastly, it is possible she could have been redeemed from his vow by money, based on Lev 27.1-5, although the Scriptures are silent about whether or not this was done.

As a result of the above, Jephthah’s daughter was not killed as a korban olah, but there are those who are taught this and believe she was. But, as we have seen, this is based on a misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of the Torah and the Hebrew language.

Posted in All Teachings, Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Festivals of the Lord, The Tanak, Tying into the New Testament

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