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The Vow of Jephthah
Bible Passage Judges 11:29-40
This content is part of a series Bright Morning Reflections, in topic 2023 & books 2 Kings, Deuteronomy, Judges, Leviticus.

The Vow of Jephthah

  • Rev. Bright Mawuena Nfodzo
Date preached April 24, 2023

29 The Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah, so he swept through Gilead and the territory of Manasseh, then swept through Mizpah in Gilead, and from Mizpah in Gilead he proceeded toward where the Ammonites were encamped.

30 Jephthah made this solemn vow to the LORD: “If you truly give the Ammonites into my control,

31 then if I return from the Ammonites without incident, whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me will become the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

32 Then Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites and attacked them. The LORD gave them into his control.

33 He attacked them from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith—twenty cities in all—even as far as Abel-keramim. As a result, the Ammonites were subdued right in front of the Israelis.

34 When Jephthah arrived at his home in Mizpah—surprise!—it was his daughter who came out to meet him, playing tambourines and dancing. She was his one and only child. Except for her, he had no other son or daughter.

35 When he saw her, he ripped his clothes and cried out, “Oh no! My daughter! You have terribly burdened me! You’ve joined those who are causing me trouble, because I’ve given my word to the LORD, and I cannot go back on it.

36 She told him, “My father, you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me according to what has come out of your own mouth, considering that the LORD has paid back your enemies, the Ammonites.”

37 Then she continued talking with her father, “Do this for me: leave me alone by myself for two months. I’ll go up to the mountains and cry there because I’ll never marry. My friends and I will go.”

38 So he said, “Go!” He sent her away for two months. She left with her friends and cried there on the mountains because she would never marry.

39 Later, after the two months were concluded, she returned to her father, and he fulfilled what he had solemnly vowed—and she never married. That’s how the custom arose in Israel

40 that for four days out of every year the Israeli women would go to mourn the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite in commemoration.


After 18 years of oppression from the Ammonites, the Israelites cried to God for help. In His mercy God saved them, though not until they got rid of their foreign gods and began to worship Him again (10-16).

The leaders of the eastern tribes were desperate in their search for someone to lead Israel in battle against the Ammonites (17-18). The man they chose was Jephthah, the son of a prostitute, who had been cast out of his family and become the leader of a gang of bandits (Judges 11:1-6). Jephthah was tough, bitter and uncompromising, and he accepted the tribal leaders’ invitation only after they agreed that he would remain their leader after the war was over.

Although God gave Jephthah His special help, Jephthah was still only a slightly reformed bandit. He knew little of the character of God, and thought that by making a vow to sacrifice a person as a burnt offering to God, he could buy God’s help and so ensure victory. Human sacrifice was against God’s law (see Lev 18:21; Deut 12:31), but the people had forgotten that law and followed the religions of the neighbouring nations (see Judges 10:6; compare 2 Kings 3:26-27). Having made his vow, Jephthah went to battle and won a great victory (verse 29-33).

On his return from battle, Jephthah found that the person whom he had to offer according to his vow was his only daughter. Nevertheless, he kept his vow and sacrificed her (verse 34-40).

🔷 We must study the word of God to know God and relate well with Him

🔷 We must carefully promise God because whatever we promise must be fulfilled

🔷 We must obey God first, before any sacrifice

💥 Pray that your sacrifice should not be against God’s plan
💥 Ask God to reveal Himself to you more through His word

We can please God by obeying Him, but not the amount of sacrifice we offer to Him. We must remain faithful to Him and yearn to find Him in His word, importantly, before we think about sacrifices to Him.

In series Bright Morning Reflections