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Difficulties in the Bible: 12. The Sacrifice of Jephtha's Daughter

By Reuben Archer Torrey

      The story of Jephthah's daughter as recorded in the Bible has presented a great difficulty to many superficial students of the Bible, as well as to many critics of it. How can we possibly justify Jephthah's burning of his daughter as a sacrifice to Jehovah?

      In the first place, we are nowhere told that Jephthah did burn his daughter. We are told that Jephthah vowed, "Whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering" (Judges 11:31).

      The word translated "burnt-offering" does not necessarily involve the idea of burning. There is no record that Jephthah's daughter was actually slain and burned. The passage that relates what actually was done with her is somewhat obscure, and many think that she was devoted by her father as an offering to God by her living a life of perpetual virginity (Judges 11:37-39).

      But even supposing that she was actually slain and burned, as some Bible students believe (though the Bible does not actually say so), even in this case we are under no necessity of defending Jephthah's action any more than we are of defending any other wrong action of all the imperfect instruments that God, in His wondrous grace and condescension, has seen fit to use to defend or help His people. The Bible itself nowhere defends Jephthah's action. If Jephthah really did slay his daughter, he simply made a rash vow without any command or other warrant from God for so doing; and having made this rash vow, he went further in his wrongdoing and carried that rash vow into execution.

      So the whole story instead of being a warrant for human sacrifice is intended to be a lesson on the exceeding foolishness of hasty vows made in the energy of the flesh.

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See Also:
   Difficulties in the Bible Introduction
   Difficulties in the Bible: 1. A General Statement of the Case
   Difficulties in the Bible: 2. Classes of Difficulties
   Difficulties in the Bible: 3. How Shall We Deal with the Difficulties of the Bible?
   Difficulties in the Bible: 4. Genesis One-Historical and Scientific?
   Difficulties in the Bible: 5. The Antiquity of Man According to the Bible and According to Science
   Difficulties in the Bible: 6. Where Did Cain Get His Wife?
   Difficulties in the Bible: 7. Jehovah's Command to Abraham to Offer Up Isaac as a Burnt Offering
   Difficulties in the Bible: 8. God Hardening Pharaoh's Heart
   Difficulties in the Bible: 9. The Slaughter of the Canaanites by God's Command
   Difficulties in the Bible: 10. Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still
   Difficulties in the Bible: 11. Deborah's Praise of Jael, the "Murderess"
   Difficulties in the Bible: 12. The Sacrifice of Jephtha's Daughter
   Difficulties in the Bible: 13. "Impure" Bible Stories
   Difficulties in the Bible: 14. David's Sin
   Difficulties in the Bible: 15. The Imprecatory Psalms
   Difficulties in the Bible: 16. Does the God of Truth and Love Send Lying Spirits and Evil Spirits to Men?
   Difficulties in the Bible: 17. Jonah and the Whale
   Difficulties in the Bible: 18. Some Important "Contradictions" in the Bible
   Difficulties in the Bible: 19. "Mistakes" in the Bible
   Difficulties in the Bible: 20. The Two Genealogies of Jesus, the Christ
   Difficulties in the Bible: 21. Was Jesus Really Three Days and Three Nights in the Heart of the Earth?
   Difficulties in the Bible: 22. How Could Jesus Commend the Action of the Unrighteous Steward?
   Difficulties in the Bible: 23. Were Jesus and Paul Mistaken as to the Time of Our Lord's Return?
   Difficulties in the Bible: 24. Did Jesus Go into the Abode of the Dead and Preach to the Spirits in Prison? Is There Another Probation After Death?


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