Judges 11:30, 31, 34-40
And Jephthah vowed a vow to the LORD, and said, If you shall without fail deliver the children of Ammon into my hands,…
What it involved has been much disputed. But the wording of the vow certainly admits of an interpretation consistent with the highest humanity. The object is expressed neutrally, as being more comprehensive; but there is a distinction introduced into the consequent member of the sentence which shows that regard is had to a dual possibility, viz., of the object being either personal or otherwise. If the former, he or she was to be "Jehovah's," an expression unnecessary if it was to be made a burnt offering, and which could only mean "dedicated to perpetual virginity or priesthood." If the latter, he would "offer it for a burnt offering." It bears out this that his daughter asks for two months "to bewail her virginity." The inference is imperative. It was not death, but perpetual virginity, to which she was devoted. In this vow we observe -
I. THE SPIRIT OF CONSECRATION IT EVINCED. Its meaning was evident. Jehovah was the true Judge and Deliverer of Israel. His, therefore, should be the glory when Israel returned in victory. There was to be no diverting of honour from him to Jephthah. A sacrifice, therefore, should be made before all men to acknowledge this. But as Jephthah is the person most in danger of being tempted to forget God's claim, he himself gives anticipatively of his own, and of his own, especially, which might be considered as specially for his honour. It was a "blank form" to be filled up by Providence as it would.
II. THE UNEXPECTED FORM THE SACRIFICE ASSUMED. How it astonishes men when God takes them at their word! Not that they do not mean what they say, but they do not realise all it implies. God ever does this that he may educate the heart in loving sacrifice, and reveal the grandeur and absoluteness of his own claim upon us.
III. THE GRACE THAT INVESTED IT from -
1. The mutual love of parent and child. They both sorrow because she is an only child, and they are all in all to one another. It was a keen, real sacrifice.
2. The unquestioning and cheerful obedience of the child. Like Isaac and Christ.
3. The unwavering fidelity of Jephthah to his vow. It was the wisest course, and the one that proved best the fidelity and infinite love of God. There was sorrow, but who will say that there was not a compensating blessedness in the act, and a "more exceeding weight of glory" in the ages to come? This is what God expects. Have we ever vowed to him? If so, have we paid our vows? Negligence in this matter will explain much that distresses and perplexes us. Honesty towards God - how few practise it! Yet this is the true proof of him (Malachi 3:10).
IV. HOW AN ABSOLUTE PERSONAL SACRIFICE MAY BECOME A NATIONAL IDEAL AND ATONEMENT. The circumstances were such that all Israel sympathised with the act of self-devotion. It fell in with the national mood and carried it to heroic pitch. The "custom in Israel" shows how profoundly the spirit of the people had been touched. The maiden offered to Jehovah is adopted as the offering of her people, a vicarious sacrifice of their repentance and faith. So does the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, become the world's atonement (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,