Have you ever had a difficult friend, one no one else seemed to like? Or were you more among the popular crowd, eschewing those rejected by the top tier of your “society”? We choose fellows based on widely varied criteria, but, in every case, that criteria also excludes some sorts of people. Would our criteria exclude God, if we believe what He says about Himself?
Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out 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.” (Judges 11:30-31 NASB)
When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. (Judges 11:34 NASB)
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 the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year. (Judges 11:39-40 NASB)
Jephthah’s vow has been debated for centuries, and there’s no new perspective to be found here. But, perhaps there’s a side you’ve not considered, personally. First off, as you read this, keep in mind that this same Yahweh, to whom Jephthah vows, requires a “tithe” based on “the tenth animal under the rod”, wherein the rule says that animal cannot be substituted (Leviticus 27:32-33). In other words, God’s choice of the animal cannot be changed by people.
Secondly, keep in mind that this same Yahweh commands His people to destroy people, utterly, considering them “holy” to Him. Jericho was considered holy, and every man, woman, child, animal, and all property were destroyed, and no plunder taken. That sounds vaguely “sacrificial”, and humans are included.
Balance those two things with the first part of Leviticus 27, where when persons are the subject of a “difficult vow” (NASB), they can be redeemed for a set value. But, the passage continues valuing animals, differentiating between clean and unclean animals, and so on. So, consider, as you think through this, are the persons valued part of the “household” in the sense of “owned” or slaves/servants of that household? Or would they truly be “family” or children?
On that note, the firstborn belongs to Yahweh, but can be (and is expected to be) redeemed for a price (Exodus 34:19-29). But, look at Leviticus 27:26-29 (especially 28 and 29) for additional guidelines. These verses specifically refer to the “Hereem” or ban where everything so dedicated is destroyed. But the context supports this concept within the teaching of a vow. Or does it? I suppose that’s the critical question.
Bringing these considerations to this story of Jephthah also has to include the acceptance that he was considered among the faithful of Israel, traditionally. In Hebrews 11, he’s listed among those the Hebrews would consider an example of great faith. Why do that if the popular belief was that he broke the law, and profaned a holy practice?
Now, if you’ve considered that, then also consider that the “rod tithe” means that God chooses what is given as an offering. Next consider that this is consistent with what Jephthah does, he lets Yahweh choose what is offered. Some can already see where this goes. Consider next that this same Yahweh inspired this passage, so, this is what He wants us to know about Himself. He reveals something of His character to us in this passage. Let it be said, Yahweh wants us to know He chose Jephthah’s daughter to be offered as a whole burnt offering by her father. And there it is in print. The challenge has been laid down; will we worship and walk before God as He is, not some image we create in our minds?
Okay, now you can go back and read Luke 14:26 and 27. Revisit John 6:60 through 69. The challenge is to honestly love God. The alternative is a false intimacy with our Creator and Master, an intimacy with a mask we put on His face.
On that note, what’s your view through the knothole this morning?