Judges 11:34, Human Sacrifice to Yahweh

When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter.

//One of the more troubling, and thus passionate, debates among scholars is whether or not Israelites at one time sacrificed children to their god, Yahweh. The practice is roundly condemned by the prophet Jeremiah, and the book of Numbers indicates that a person guilty of human sacrifice is to be stoned. Yet verses in the Bible seem to indicate it was an acceptable practice at one time. I addressed this in a two-part series some time ago:

http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2013/08/exodus-2229-30-did-god-command-child-sacrifice-part-i-of-ii.html

http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2013/08/micah-67-did-god-command-child-sacrifice-part-ii-of-ii.html

However, outside the story of Abraham and Isaac, we find no examples of it happening, except this one in today’s verse. Jephthah, victorious in battle, vows to give God the first thing that meets him as he returns home. It turns out to be his only daughter.

This story is significant because Jephthah knows God expects him to complete his vow. He knows that his daughter is an acceptable sacrifice to God, though he wishes dearly it were not the case (see v. 35). Even his daughter recognizes that God expects her to be sacrificed (v. 36).

So in verse 39, Jephthah carries out his vow, and offers his daughter as a burnt offering to God.

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1 Comment

  1. I know before Josiah became King that the Israelites practiced Child sacrifices but that was because they left the cult of yahweh. It’s difficult at times for us to completely understand the Israelites during the time of the old testament since most of the information we know is only about the religion of yahweh and nothing else. It was not the only practice of the Jews at that time. Most people never realize this. I read one book that was excellent, ” The Hebrew Goddess” written by Patei. It talked about a cult of Hebrews who continued to worship a goddess and even diefied shekinah into somewhat of a goddess…but I detour from the original. Sorry. I do believe that even though the yahwehists forbade human sacrifices we find many instances where the Jews at times burnt many temples to other g-ds, and destroyed many idols in their land. We can only assume from this that the jewish people were divided in their religious practices just as we are our day. There does seem to be ample evidence that says so.

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