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Judges 11:29-40

The Joy of Sacrifice: Giving when it hurts

The Bible Teaching Commentary

Paul J. Bucknell

Purpose: Devotional thoughts from Judges 11:29-40. God wants us to love Him with all our hearts, souls and minds. So why do we cringe when reading this story about Jephthah and his daughter?

Japhthah and his daughter

“Now the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon” (Judges 11:29-32).

Japhthah, with great purpose to avenge his enemies and work closely with the Lord, vowed the first thing out of his door. Perhaps he was thinking of some animal, dog or sheep, that normally bursts through the door to greet him when returning home. But alas it was his daughter this time, his one and only child.

In the west we have a very difficult time with this passage. As I thought this through passage, however, I found this section rather refreshing. (Excuse me, but I am only focusing on the devotional aspect here rather than the moral which steals our attention).

Are we not all servants of our God? Do we not all state that He is the most important thing in life? Sure. Why is it that we are willing to speak so glowingly of martyrs who give their life in service but refrain from honoring God with our lives to fulfill a vow?

God is worth our very best. Let us give it to Him, whether it be through our life or death. Let us give our all to the Lord. Is this not what Paul did in Philippians 1:21-24?

"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake" (Philippians 1:21-24).

The amount of time of our life remaining on earth is the only issue here. Whether we live or die, we serve the Lord. If it be short, then let it be short. If long, then let it be long.

Let us join Japhthah in his initial zeal to wholeheartedly serve the Lord and Jephthah's daughter who so willingly sacrificed her virginity to the Lord. Let us use our lives for His glorious purposes by sacrificing our lives for Him and His purposes. All that we have is His (Japhthah's spirit). All our life is the Lord's (his daughter's spirit). Let it also be our own as it was with Jesus and Paul the apostle.

A prayer of dedication

Lord, I am willing to give you my all. You want my life as a living sacrifice on your altar. I am here Lord. Let me use what I have and all my remaining days and hours to bring forth praise to your awesome Name. If you want to end my life early, then it is yours. If you wish that I continue on for the sake of others, I am here. Only let me not waste my hours with my own purposes but be consumed in your great purposes.

Short commentary on Judges 11:29-40

It is hard to clearly understand whether Japhthah's daughter was really sacrificed or not. The tension is between our moral restraints (which are good) that tells us that this is not something God would ask and the working through the details of the passage as to what it really says.

Whatever it was, Japhthah and his daughter saw a sense of sacrifice and were willing to give what was vowed. She stated it as giving up her virginity. This allows us to think that she was willing to forsake a normal life and live unto the Lord. But we need to be honest that she might say the same thing if she sacrificed her life.

One of the greatest purposes for a woman is to bear children. As a woman who was not able to have children through her life, whether it be short or long, would be her focus of grief.

This short discussion serves only as an introduction to the issue rather than solving it once for all, but let our studies not hinder us from the joy of giving which the Spirit of God filled both Japhthah and his daughter with.

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Book of Judges Index

General Judges Articles

Making the Right Life Decisions (Judges 2:1-5)
Judges 2:1: Intro/A. The Gracious Promises of God
Judges 2:2: B. Exacting Requirements of the Covenant
Judges 2:3: C. The Severe Response of God
Judges 2:4-5: D. The Superficial Response of the People
Judges 2:1-5: Bible Study Questions

Judges 11:29-40 The Joy of Sacrifice
Striving for Moral Purity - The Big Race : Overcoming Sensual Lusts
Judges 13-16 Playing around with God
Playing around with God (Judges 13-16)
Judges 13-14_A. Listening to God
Responding to Authority
Judges 14-16_B. Consequences of Life
Disciplining His Children
Judges 14-16 C. Desires not Restrained
Dealing with Lust
Judges 13-16 Bible Study Questions

Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted: (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988

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