This was a passage that really struck a cord with me. Upon reading it, I immediately grabbed my notebook and wrote it down to do some more research. In the passage Jephthah is about to do battle with the Ammonites and says: “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.”
After the Lord granted his wish, and gave them into his hands. 34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lordthat I cannot break.”
His daughter encourages him to keep his word and a further passage reads: 39 After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
The entire passage can be read at: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges%2011:29-40
Obviously after reading, the first thought in almost anyone’s mind would be, why would God have him sacrifice his daughter to him?
Apparently there is some argument that she may not have been sacrificed (killed). This site: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1081-what-about-jephthahs-vow states as one of many possible reasons: “On the other hand, a number of prominent scholars (e.g., Edersheim, Archer, Geisler, etc.) believe that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering; rather, it is argued that he devoted her, as a virgin, to the service of Jehovah for the remainder of her life.” They give a number of theories backing up this claim.
Another excellent website also supporting the view: http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/RA/k/584/Jephthahs-Vow-Did-He-Didnt-He.htm that he did not kill her, but gave her into a life of service to God. After reading multiple sites, this theory seems to be the most likely in m mind. Two lines listed on this site really resonated with me, “Spinsterhood was almost unknown as well—a woman’s whole life revolved around marriage, family and children. Thus, as it states specifically, Jephthah’s daughter mourned with her friends over her virginity, not her impending death. She knew she would not die, but remain a virgin for the rest of her life.” and “In verse 39 the writer repeats, “She knew no man” immediately after he writes that Jephthah performed the vow. If he had truly sacrificed her, would it not have been better to write, “And she died”? But she did not die! She lived out her life without knowing a man! This is why the maidens of Israel praised her so much! She gave up—sacrificed—the one thing that they prized most highly: their ability to have children.”
Many conservative Jewish scholars still believe that he actually killed her. There is a lot of evidence stating that he likely did not though. The culture at the time vehemently abhorred human sacrifice, and God himself had rules against it. Both sites listed above go into much more detail regarding this passage. Feel free to tell me what you think after reading the passages and these site’s in the comments below!