WHAT IF GOD
HAD SAVED JEPHTHAH’ S DAUGHTER’S LIFE?
One of the most heart-rending and
perplexing stories in the Bible is the story of Jephthah and his daughter.
Jephthah was the son of Gilead and a harlot. His brothers, sons of Gilead’s
wife, drove Jephthah out so as not to share their inheritance with him: “Then
fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded
together with and went out raiding with him” (Judges 11: 3).
Some time later, the children of Ammon
made war against Israel, and so the elders of Israel went to seek out to
convince him to come back and lead the army against the Ammonites. Jephthah
accepted the offer and became the leader of the army. Before the confrontation
between the two armies took place, Jephthah made the now infamous vow: “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 be the Lord’s and I will offer it up as a
God delivered Israel
and gave them a great victory and “the people of Ammon were subdued before the
children of Israel” (Judges 11:33). Ecstatic Jephthah returned home “with
timbrel and dancing” but, unfortunately, the first person to welcome him was his
only daughter. Jephthah was devastated by what he saw and “tore his clothes”
and said to his daughter: “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You
are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I
cannot go back on it” (Judges 11: 35).
reacted with a total spirit of submission. She simply asked her father that she
be allowed to wander on the mountains for two months to bewail her virginity
(Judges 11:38). At the end of the two months, “she returned to her father and he
carried out his vow with her which he had vowed” (Judges 11:39).
While all this was
transpiring, God watched the whole story and did not intervene. This is
perplexing. After all, had He not intervened with Abraham and Isaac? Is God not
averse to human sacrifices? Did God not cleanse the land of Canaan of its
inhabitants because, in large part, they “passed their children through the
fire;” that is, they sacrificed their children to their gods? How could that
same God allow Jephthah to kill his own daughter?
Let’s go back to
Jephthah’s original mistake. Jephthah vowed to God that he would sacrifice
“anything” that would come out to welcome him, upon his return. By that he also
included humans—most probably his servants. Could it be that that was the reason
God allowed him to go through his excruciating experience? Jephthah’s
callousness may have deserved a sobering consequence. His callousness and
cruelty toward others ended up rebounding onto himself.
What if God had
intervened? What if God had sent an angel to stop him from his horrific act,
like He did with Abraham?
If He had intervened, we would
have been reassured as to God’s seeming kindness and forgiveness, but what would
have happened to Jephthah? What would have happened within Israel? What effect
would it have had on the multitudes that would have read or heard about it later
We can speculate that
if Jephthah would not have been consequenced, he might have remained hasty and
foolish. Israel would have had a written record that God overlooks foolishness
all too easily. Oaths are promises made before God, and they must not be made
hastily. The book of Deuteronomy emphasizes the seriousness of making vows to
God: “When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it;
for the Lord your God surely will require it of you, and it would be sin to you”
If God had intervened the
seriousness of the event would have been emphasized. The fact that oaths must
not be taken lightly would not have been stressed, nor the reality that
foolishness has a way of bringing about disastrous consequences. Therefore what
appears to have been an incomprehensible act of callousness on God’s part once
again shows much wisdom and justice on His part, as do all of His actions.
IS GOD CRUEL? -- An In-Depth Analysis of God's Apparent
Acts of Cruelty in the Bible
CLICK ON TOPICS BELOW FOR A
Sodom and Gomorrah
Destruction of Canaanites
David's Punishment for the Census
Removal of Foreign Wives
Ananiah and Sapphira
Catastrophes of Last Days
LITERATURE FROM UCG.ORG
(No Follow up)
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
IS GOD CRUEL?