29At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and from there he led an army against the Ammonites. 30And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, 31I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
32So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory. 33He crushed the Ammonites, devastating about twenty towns from Aroer to an area near Minnith and as far away as Abel-keramim. In this way Israel defeated the Ammonites.
34When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. 35When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “Oh, my daughter!” he cried out. “You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.”
36And she said, “Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the Lord has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. 37But first let me do this one thing: Let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin.”
38“You may go,” Jephthah said. And he sent her away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children. 39When she returned home, her father kept the vow he had made, and she died a virgin.
So it has become a custom in Israel 40for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter.Judges 11:29-40, NLT
Most of the time when reading the Bible, I try to imagine what it is like being there. I try to put myself in the scene or even imagine myself as one of the people.
In this case, I am trying to imagine what was really going through Jephthah’s mind here. He had been mistreated and run off by his own family because his mother was a prostitute. As an adult, he had become a great warrior and his people had come to him to fight for them. After asking, as I know I would have, “You people mistreated me and ran me off and now you want me to fight for you because I am a good fighter and leader?” He relented and agreed to fight for the Israelites. Here is where I get curious about his thought process.
He didn’t have to make the offer he did above, especially knowing someone from his own family would likely be the first out of his own house to greet him. Was he hoping for a goat? A sheep? The family dog? I am just not sure why he didn’t just ask for God’s help without what could potentially be a devastating sacrifice. I am also wondering if there was something else that was dear to him, other than a living family member that he could have sacrificed.
I also try to get into God’s thoughts here as well, which none of us will ever understand. God knew before Jephthah made the vow, that it would be Jephthah’s daughter who would be the first to greet him. Why her? It was such a huge test of Jephthah and his daughter and they showed great character and love and obedience to God to follow through with the vow.
I cannot imagine Jephthah’s daughter’s pain while in the hills. Did she think of running away and not honoring the vow? (Likely) Did her friends try to talk her out of it? (Likely)
Sometimes, I wish I understood God’s plans and what he allows more. However, as I have aged, I have seen so many times in my own life where circumstances and events didn’t make sense at the time and years later, I could see them woven into a much more intricate plan. It is like we are all part of this marvelous and massive tapestry being woven and we, along with the people in our lives, are just one miniscule piece of it. Sometimes, we get to see glimpses of our part of the tapestry, and more times than not, we don’t. Yet, I am convinced it is all being woven according to God’s plan, whether I understand it or not.
Lord, I don’t always understand what You ask of people. I don’t always understand the evil I see, the heartbroken victims in this cruel world nor certain miracles and joys. However, I do know that it is all part of a much grander plan and all for Your glory. Lord, just give me discernment and peace when I see events that seem like injustice or that seem so unfair and let me be reminded that it is all working for Your glory, whether I understand it or not. Amen.