Read Judges 11:29-40
Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say
Jephthah was one of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11. Without exposition into the reason of his inclusion, the Hebrews writer simply said, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah…” (Hebrews 11:32). Of these judges and other Biblical figures, inspiration says that they had “obtained a good testimony through faith” (Hebrews 11:39). Does this mean they were perfect? An examination of the Biblical record shows just the opposite!
Without thinking through the implications, Jephthah made a rash vow to God. “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 by the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31).
Indeed, God used Jephthah to conquer the people of Ammon. And what came out of Jephthah’s house to meet him upon his return home? “When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter” (Judges 11:34).
What a sad state of affairs! Jephthah had promised to offer her to the Lord, not knowing she would be the one to meet him! Commentators are divided over the issue of whether he actually offered her as a burnt offering or simply dedicated her to the service of the Lord. For an explanation of the latter understanding, read James Burton Coffman’s thoughts on the matter in his commentary on the book of Judges.
The point is this: Jephthah realized he needed to follow through with his vow. “For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it” (Judges 11:35). When one says they will do something, whether a promise or not, they should follow through with it even if it is not to their benefit.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says it best: “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed—better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).