Tag Archive: Judges 11



“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” -Matthew 5:37

While giving His Sermon on The Mount, Jesus tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. Like most of the words of Christ, and indeed all God breathed scripture, there is deep meaning here that must be explored.

A vow to God is no small thing, as is evident in the story of Jephthah and his daughter in the book of Judges (Chapter 11). Jephthah made the vow that if he was victorious in battle against the Ammonites, then he would sacrifice the first thing to come out of his door when he arrived back at home.

I don’t know what in the world he was thinking, for it seems odd that he didn’t consider the possibility of any of his family walking out to greet him when he came home, but be that as it may, his daughter was the first thing to walk out of the door. The scriptures tell of Jephthah and his daughters mourning concerning what was to come to pass, and although the scriptures don’t go into detail concerning the sacrifice, it can be concluded that it did in fact occur.

This admittedly horrific tale is often used by non-believers to throw a wrench in our faith in a perfect loving God, but we have to remember that nowhere in this tale is it said that God approved of Jephthah’s actions. Rather, when we look at the scriptures, this event must have been extremely displeasing to the Lord, for time and time again, the word tells us God discourages human sacrifice. The Pagan’s often did it by tragically throwing children into a fiery pit to worship Molech, but God tells us He wants no part of such offerings. In fact, the Ammonites were worshippers of Molech making a veiled connection between both the Judges account and the commands in Leviticus, which could very well suggest God’s distaste for the act (See my note on Leviticus 20:3, “On Molech’s Taste For Human Sacrifice and God’s Distaste”).

So why is it included in scripture then? Simply, it is intended as a warning to those that make a vow before God, how much that promise, or vow, must be honored by the person making it. Jephthah was an example that showed the degree of seriousness a vow to God is.

Again, Christ tells us to make no oaths, for beyond that comes from evil. Why evil? Let us take a look at the nature of oaths and vows. When someone says, “I promise,” what is it they mean? They mean that no matter what circumstance might arise to keep them from accomplishing and fulfilling that vow, that they will follow through. There becomes a few issues with this point alone.

When making a vow, the outside situations that may arise while in pursuit of fulfilling that vow are unknown to us. We have no idea of knowing, for instance, if some disaster or misfortune will hinder our obedience in completing that promise. As is mentioned earlier, this doesn’t excuse the vow being broken, rather we need to realize it is still binding no matter what issues may arise. This being said, it reaches no absurdity to conclude that with God’s infinite wisdom, though He makes vows, no contradiction or hypocrisy exists, for He has an omniscience that is not present in man.

Furthermore, one should reflect on who it is that makes vows and promises. Though not an absolute, I would suggest that the more promises a person makes, the more untrustworthy they are. For such people it is intended to add to their “yes” the extra confidence that their vow will be followed through with and accomplished. This, of course, suggests that the person making the vow has been less then trustworthy in the past, or their word alone would have been taken with complete confidence to begin with. Yet, people should have confidence in a person anyway that their yes will mean yes, and their no mean no, without any added attribution.

A person who doesn’t do what they say is untrustworthy and an untrustworthy person is under the influence of evil, for evil begets lies and deceit. Indeed, essentially, a broken vow is the same as a lie. Be trustworthy. Do not behave in such a way that you need to make vows just for people to believe you, but live in a way that people can rely on you just by what you say. That in their darkest days they may ask you to help carry their burdens like our Lord Jesus commands (See my note on Galatians 6:2, “On The Greatest Burden and The Greatest Love”).

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“I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molech, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.” -Leviticus 20:3

Molech was a pagan semitic god who was worshipped by the detestable act of child sacrifice. The alters were in the semblance of a bull or calf, a sacrificial animal itself, with a pit before it, or in the belly of the man made edifice. Within these pits, large fires would be built and children were tossed in as an offering to the god.

In this verse, we not only see God’s disgust in the worship of other gods, but also the abhorrent nature of human sacrifice. The Book of Judges, Chapter 11, contains the infamous account of Jephthah, who after making a vow to the Lord concerning the defeat of the Ammonites sacrificed his daughter to God. Atheists and non-believers,  like to distract Christians by citing this account, but nowhere does it say that God approved of Jephthah’s sacrifice of his only offspring. In fact, God’s displeasure could implicitly be contained in the account, for the Ammonites, whom Jephthah was fighting, were devout worshippers of Molech. Thus, it represents a veiled connection between the Judges account and God’s statement against such practices in Leviticus.

"Jephthah," by John Everett Millais. oil on canvas, c. 1867

Human sacrifice wasn’t a rare practice and every continent and almost every indigenous people seems to have engaged in it at one time or another, from the civilizations of Central America, to even the Native Americans. Yet, again, verses like this one, and those like it, show that God does not desire such offerings. Why did God include it in His word then? The account was provided to show the importance of oaths to the Lord (See my note on Matthew 5:37, “On Promises and Vows”).

Abraham, in Genesis Chapter 22, was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, which Abraham being a man of faith and obedience, was prepared to carry out. Yet, at the last minute an angel called from heaven and instructed him not to lay a hand on the boy. In verse 13 we find that a ram was caught by its horns in a thicket, provided by God, to take the place of Abraham’s son.

"The Sacrifice of Isaac," by Domenichino. oil on canvas, c. 1627-1628

The correlation between this account of Abraham and what was later to occur with Jesus Christ is apparent. As the ram was caught by its horns in a thicket, likewise Christ had a thicket of thorns placed upon His head, piercing deep into His flesh, as His eventual crucifixion approached. Though Christ was human, He was not a mere human, and He was provided by God, from the beginning, to take our place, to endure the punishment, and to pay the just wages for our sin, just as the ram had replaced Isaac. In short, we deserve to be nailed upon that cross, but Christ paid for sin in full on our account that salvation might be credited to us by faith and through grace.

May Christ be forever praised. Amen.

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