555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

72. Did Jephthah Really Offer Up His Daughter Asa Sacrifice?

Both the Authorized and Revised Versions leave the question in doubt, and commentators have been divided in opinion as to whether she was sacrified or doomed to live the life of a recluse. Human sacrifices are an abomination unto the Lord. A new reading or translation which several notable scholars have urged as the correct one is: "It shall surely be the Lord's or I will offer up to him a burnt offering." Hebrew scholars declare this to be the more accurate rendering. (See Judges n 30, 31, 39.) It changes the aspect of the case and makes Jephthah to say practically that if the first living thing that came forth from his house to meet him was one that would be unacceptable, then a burnt offering of an acceptable character would be substituted. This would lead to the conclusion that the daughter was not sacrificed, but condemned to a Mfe of perpetual virginity and a burnt offering offered up in her stead. Several eminent writers, including Joseph Kinchi, Ben Gerson and Bechai (Jewish authorities) and a number of Christian authors, held that instead of being sacrificed she was shut up in a house specially prepared by her father and visited there by the daughters of Israel four days in a year as long as she lived. In support of this theory it is pointed out that the Hebrew term employed to express Jephthah's vow is the word neder, which means a "consecration" and not che-rem, which means "destruction."