Judges 11:29-40 (JDV)
Judges 11:29 The Breath of Yahveh came on Jephthah, who traveled through Gilead and Manasseh, and then through Mizpah of Gilead. He crossed over to the Ammonites from Mizpah of Gilead.
Judges 11:30 Jephthah made this vow to Yahveh: “If you in fact hand over the Ammonites to me,
Judges 11:31 whoever comes out the doors of my house to greet me when I return safely from the Ammonites will belong to Yahveh, and I will offer that person as a burnt offering.”
Judges 11:32 Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and Yahveh handed them over to him.
Judges 11:33 He struck down twenty of their cities with a great slaughter from Aroer all the way to the entrance of Minnith and to Abel-keramim. So the Ammonites were subdued before the Israelites.
Judges 11:34 When Jephthah went to his home in Mizpah, he noticed his daughter, coming out to meet him with tambourines and dancing! She was his only child; he had no other son or daughter besides her.
Judges 11:35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “No! Not my daughter! You have devastated me! You have brought great misery on me. I have given my word to Yahveh and cannot take it back.”
Judges 11:36 Then she said to him, “My father, you have given your word to Yahveh. Do to me as you have said, because Yahveh has brought vengeance on your enemies, the Ammonites.”
Judges 11:37 She also said to her father, “Let me do this one thing: Let me wander two months through the mountains with my friends and mourn my virginity.”
Judges 11:38 “Go,” he said. And he sent her away two months. So she left with her friends and mourned her virginity as she wandered through the mountains.
Judges 11:39 At the end of two months, she returned to her father, and he kept the vow he had made about her. And she had never been intimate with a man. Now it became a custom in Israel
Judges 11:40 that four days each year the young women of Israel would commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.
Jephthah vowed to offer up the person who came to greet him as a “burnt offering” — but the entire text makes it clear that his vow was not to destroy that person, but to devote that person to God. The person turned out to be Jephthah’s only child. She was the only chance Jephthah had of a legacy. She was to remain a virgin through her life. Jephthah’s legacy had to be something else besides his lineage.
Perhaps Jephthah’s vow was rash, but his determination to stay true to that vow manifested a trust in God himself. Our hope of a legacy beyond this life is not best placed in our lineage. It is best placed in our faith in an ever-living God.