Today we started a six-week But-Kickers seminar with a look at what happens when your life is shaken up by something you had nothing to do with. Perhaps you were not even present when the pivotal event occurred, yet you find yourself knee-deep in tragedy with no way out. Feel free to join us here if you can’t make the seminars in person.
Our discussion starts with the story of a soldier and judge named Jephthah, and his daughter. You can meet them in Judges, chapters 11 and 12. And honestly, you’ll have to read this story to believe it.
In Jephthah’s zeal to eliminate the Ammonites, the enemies of Israel, he makes a vow to God saying, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 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.” (Judges 11:29)
God enables Jephthah to defeat the Ammonites, and upon his return home, Jephthah’s daughter, his only child, is the first one out of the house to greet him in a typical, parade-like homecoming for a victorious soldier. He is devastated, but his daughter says nothing more to her father than that he should keep his vow, and that she wants to go away with her friends for two months to mourn her unexpected future.
After two months, Jephthah completes his vow.
Some controversy surrounds this passage as to whether Jephthah’s daughter was offered as a burnt offering, or whether her life would be marked by perpetual virginity and childlessness.
There’s plenty of support for both sides, but guess what? For the purposes of this story, it does not matter. A sudden, critical change in a young girl’s future is thrust upon her. She has nothing to do with the how and the why of it, yet she is left to pay the price for someone else’s decision.
As people who know God to be present everywhere, knowledgeable of all things, and powerful and caring enough to intervene, must grapple with the stuff of this story, and come to some understanding of what we can glean from it.
Let’s continue our discussion with any questions that occurred to you in going through this story.