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Biblical Fathers: Jephthah

It's Father's Day on Sunday, and this week Bible Society is focusing on some biblical fathers. Some of them get it right, some don't – but they all tell us something about the challenges of fatherhood today.

3. Jephthah

There aren't many sermons preached on Jephthah (Judges 11) – it's such a tragic story. He's the son of a prostitute, despised and rejected by his legitimate brothers. He becomes an outlaw, but when the Ammonites gain the upper hand against Israel the people's elders ask him to come to their rescue. On the eve of a crucial battle, he vows to God that if he wins, he will sacrifice to him the first thing that comes out of his house to meet him on his return (verse 31). It's his daughter – and he keeps his promise. 

God doesn't require us to keep promises that should never have been made. So what was in Jephthah’s mind? Perhaps it was the need to save face. He was a hard man, the leader of other hard men. He needed to show he could be ruthless – and his daughter paid the price. 

So this sad story says two things to us. First, that we should put God first, and not mind about what other people think of us. But second, that our families should not pay the price for our ambition, or our desire to be respected or feared. We might not literally sacrifice our children on an altar with a knife, but we might sacrifice our family life in the drive for success or achievement.

Author: Bible Society, 17 June 2020 (Last updated: 19 June 2020)

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