In Judges 11, what happened to Jephthah's Daughter?

Some folks at SI have been discussing Paul Henebury's review of Chisholm's new commentary on Judges, which I do not personally own (although I love Leon Wood's, which Henebury also respects).  The question came up about Jephthah's daughter from Judges 11.

Jephthah made a vow to sacrifice whatever came through his doorway first, (Judges 11:30-31), a foolish vow.  His daughter ended up being the first one through his door, Judges 11:34-40.  Was she sacrificed?  If so, how could this be, since God forbade human sacrifice (Deuteronomy 18:10)?  Or was Jephthah ignorant of God's Law?  Or was she dedicated as a virgin servant of the Lord at the Tabernacle?  Or something else?  What is your view?

Jephthah's daughter was probably offered as a burnt sacrifice because Jephthah was ignorant of the Torah
28% (7 votes)
Jephthah's daughter was probably offered as a burnt sacrifice because Jephthah thought his vow trumped the Torah
16% (4 votes)
Jephthah's daughter was probably offered in the sense of being turned over to tabernalce minsitry, like Samuel only not a priest
40% (10 votes)
0% (0 votes)
No opinion or on the fence
16% (4 votes)
Total votes: 25
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Ed Vasicek's picture

Here is a common Jewish interpretation as to what happened from Rashi (the most respected Jewish commentator on the Old Testament):


and it was a statute: They decreed that no one should do this anymore (i.e., they publicized that no one should offer a human being), because had Jephthah gone to Phinehas or vice versa, he would have nullified his (i.e., Jephthah’s) vow (i.e., he would have instructed him what the law is in such an instance). However, they were particular about their honor, and as a result she was destroyed. Consequently, they were punished; Phinehas, by the Divine presence leaving him as it is stated in (I) Chron. (9:20) “Previously God was with him,” so we see subsequently God was not with him; and Jephthah was afflicted with boils and dismemberment as it is stated, (below 12:7) “And he was buried in the cities [pl.] of Gilead.” (His limbs were buried in the various cities.) We can also interpret “And it was a statute in Israel” as connected to the following verse.


From Wikipedia:

Shlomo Yitzchaki (Hebrew: רבי שלמה יצחקי‎; 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi (Hebrew: רש"י


"The Midrash Detective"

wkessel1's picture

I am not sure why he did it, but it does seem that the Bible is fairly straight forward by saying he "did with her according to his vow that he had made."  The vow he made was very specific to offer the object up as a burnt offering.  If he did anything else could the Bible say that he did according to vow that he made and still be true?