Question: The Bible records some of the most horrible deeds ever perpetrated by men. There is, for example, Jephthah’s vow to sacrifice his daughter to Jehovah, a vow that he then fulfilled. How can one reconcile a “God of love” with the acceptance of human sacrifices?
Response: This tragic story is told to us in Judges:11:30–40. Once again, of course, we see the honesty of the Bible in presenting not only the sin but the folly of its major characters. Let it not be forgotten, however, that the Bible never condones the sins that it faithfully records. God was no more pleased with Jephthah’s rash vow and deed than with Solomon’s idolatry or David’s adultery with Bathsheba.
The vow itself was not only reckless but insane. He offered to sacrifice to the Lord as a “burnt offering” whatever first came out of the doors of his house to meet him when he returned victorious from battle. Did he even imagine that his daughter, the apple of his eye, his only child, might come out first? Surely not! Yet how could he have overlooked that possibility? Did he expect a sheep or a chicken or his favorite dog to be the first to come out to greet him?
Whatever his warped or confused thinking may have been, the vow was Jephthah’s doing, not God’s, and the latter is not to be blamed for it. Furthermore, it is not at all clear that Jephthah actually killed his daughter and offered her as a sacrificial burnt offering to God. Then why did she go about for two months mourning her virginity? Could that have meant that her father dedicated her to the service of the Lord as a virgin? We can’t be certain.
It does say that after this period of mourning, Jephthah “did with her according to his vow which he had vowed” (verse 39). If, in fact, he actually offered her up as a human sacrifice, such an offering would have been an abomination to God and would not have been accepted by Him. In fact, it would have brought God’s wrath upon him.
Jephthah’s vow and act was not inspired of God, was not according to God’s will, and certainly cannot be blamed upon God. Yet the Bible candidly records such follies and sins. That fact, rather than reflecting badly upon the Bible, is actually one further evidence of its authenticity and honesty.
—An excerpt from In Defense of the Faith (pp. 145-46) by Dave Hunt