JEPHTHAH. He is not a commonly known Bible character, but one that I studied many years ago and came back to this week. Since it’s Father’s Day on Sunday in the country where I live, I’ve been studying some of the fathers mentioned in the Bible
You can read about Jephthah in the Book of Judges 11 & 12. He was an outcast, the son of a prostitute. His father was Gilead. His father’s legitimate sons drove him away. “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.”
Jephthah fled from his brothers. He became a mighty warrior and a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him.
Later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah and asked him to be their commander, so they could fight the Ammonites.
They had driven Jephthah away, but now that they were in trouble they turned to him. The elders of Gilead promised him that if he would fight the Ammonites, he would be head over all of them.
So Jephthah became commander over them. And this is when he made a very foolish promise, a vow to God.
“If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
He should have known better! Who would come out to meet him when he returned triumphant? Who usually runs to meet the Dad when he comes home? Especially if he has been at war?!
Jephthah had only one child!
He went to fight the Ammonites, and won the victory. He devastated twenty towns and subdued Ammon. When Jephthah returned to his home, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.
Jephthah had made a promise in haste. I guess he was so caught up in his new position as commander of those who once drove him away, that the only thing he could think about was winning the victory.
When he saw his only daughter, dancing out of the house to greet him, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”
King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 5:4-6, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.”
Jephthah daughter knew that he had to fulfill his promise. But she asked him to grant her one request. She wanted two months to roam the hills and weep with her friends, because she would never marry.
“After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.”
That’s all the story we have about Jephthah and his foolish promise. But he is listed in Hebrews 11, among the men and women of faith. Foolish as we are many times, God is loving and gracious. We read in 1 Peter 4:8, that “love covers over a multitude of sins.” Peter writes about our love to each other, that we should love each other deeply, because love forgives even the most foolish promise.
When our girls grew up we had to be very careful not to make promises. Because of our oldest daughters fight with cystic fibrosis we could never anticipate what would happen next. Our plans changed constantly. It was especially hard for her younger sister, because usually whatever plans we made had to be changed at the last minute.
Now I have to be careful with my grandchildren, not to make big promises. Next week my Brianna will come for her one-on-one visit with grandmother (mormor). She has told her mother all the big plans we have, half of which I’m not aware of! I hope I haven’t made any foolish promises!
Have a great day! Be careful with what you promise!