I was asked by ** if I would consider answering your questions regarding the story of Yiptach (Yeeptach) (Jephthah). Actually, Yiptach was my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather, twice-removed on my great step-sister’s side. And the family story goes: Yiptach was actually hoping his wife came out to greet him instead. (That was more for ** than you.) Sorry everybody; I couldn’t resist. I am in a good mood. LOL!
Anyhow, your struggles with this story are valid. The story is one of both tragedy and victory. However, to completely understand the story (every aspect of it) you have to consider the atmosphere behind it. I am sorry, but there seems to be no hidden secrets in the Hebrew that would bring better light on the story. It is what it is! Sadly, many have tried to excuse away Yiptah’s vow one way or the other; however, accepting the story for what it is does strengthen a person’s faith in Elohim.
During the days of Judges, YHWH used several men and women to bring Judgment upon the enemies of Israel, including Israel herself. Just within a couple of generations after Moshe and Yehoshua, Israel forgot about the mighty things of YHWH and began to serve other gods (Judges 2:1-5). Two of the main ones were Ba’al and ‘Ashtarot (Basically, Nimrod and Samiramis: The Sun God, and his wife the Queen of Heaven).
Anyhow, the children of Israel did horrific things that brought about tremendous judgment from YHWH. Eventually, they would cry out for help and Yah would deliver them by rising up mighty men of valor. Now, although many of them were men of valor, this did not mean that they had chocmah (wisdom). And, sadly, because foreign gods were being worshiped, it was common to see sacrifices of all kinds, including children, virgins, and unclean animals.
Now, although YHWH raised up Yiptach as a judge, it is possible that because he too had seen the ungodly practices of the pagans, didn’t consider his vow to be of any consequence. Most likely, he may have thought that he wouldn’t have to keep it; also he possibly wouldn’t make it back alive. Who knows? Either way, he made a vow that wasn’t uncommon in that day and age, but he should have reckoned that his vow of sacrifice was not what YVWH desired. However, it seems plausible that Yiptach considered an animal or possibly a slave would be the first to greet him outside of the house.
Instead his only child, his daughter, came out celebrating her father’s victory. Yiptah did what any father would have. But he feared the consequences of his God if he didn’t keep his vow. Most likely, he was familiar with the commandment to keep your vow (Numbers 30:1). Therefore, his reaction when he saw his daughter was one of remorse for the ill-advised vow. However, he couldn’t take it back. The tragedy of this vow is that Yiptach got prideful and made a foolish vow (Judges 11:29) because he was seeing success.
The part of this story that is absolutely amazing is that his daughter was another “Yitzchak” in spirit. She was willing to honor YHWH by laying her life down. She knew what was going to happen to her; she was no dummy, nor some bimbo that just shook her head and said, “Whatever daddy . . . I’ll do anything for you.” She recognized the severity of her fate by her father’s reaction. Notice that he didn’t tell her (11:35), but she knew; which is why she asked for two-month’s time to go and mourn over her virginity.
Regarding the Ruach HaKodesh: Well, during the days prior to the Renewed Covenant, the Ruach of Elohim seems to be present to allow men and women to do mighty exploits before YHWH. Shimshon, David, Yehoshua, Eliyah, etc. An exception seems to be with Shlomo when he apparently had wisdom over mighty acts. However, in verse 29, the Ruach seemed to be giving Yiptah victory over several armies and peoples, which is why he may have made such a foolish vow. As eluted to above, pride is always a temptation when YHWH brings victory. Today, the millions of temples of YHWH, which house the Ruach HaKodesh, make as ignorant decisions as many of the ancients. Because the Renewed Covenant has been placed upon our hearts, and we are the temple of the Ruach HaKodesh, we don’t have an excuse; although, I thank the Lord that his grace is sufficient.
Every day I hear people say, “The Lord told me this . . . or showed me this . . . and thus. . . .” However, the next day the Lord tells them something else, which is usually contradictory to what the “Lord” told them the previous day. Either we accept the consequences of our decisions and vows, or we don’t. However, let’s not be deceived: Yeshua ben YHWH will hold us to our decisions (Mattityahu 5:33-37).
Therefore, what can we take away from this story?
1. Honor YHWH by keeping your vows—regardless of how foolish.
2. When YHVH brings victory in your life, don’t get prideful and say things that you’ll regret.
3. Be willing to honor YHWH with your life.
4. Don’t involve others with your personal vows to YHWH, and if you do, then hope that they are willing to keep your part of the bargain.
5. And, best of all—don’t make vows. Just walk with YHWH and do what he does and says.
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