Skeptical Sunday School


The Story of Jephthah’s Daughter

Good morning, good heathens. Please turn with me in your Bible to the book of Judges, Chapter 11, Verses 29-40.

(courtesy of

29Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands,31whatever 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.”

32Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. 33He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

34When 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. 35When 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 Lord that I cannot break.”

36“My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lordhas avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

38“You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.

From this comes the Israelite tradition 40that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Are you as willing as Jephthah to sacrifice a child when asked by god? Are you as willing as his daughter to be a sacrifice for god? Think about this very hard because if not, Jesus teaches you are not worthy of him. Let is look at Matthew Chapter 10: 

37“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Pretty great guy, right? What loving god would command a person to murder and die for them? And let’s not forget, he did introduce the concept of eternal torture in hell. 

The Bible teaches that blood atonement is necessary for sin, god literally wants blood. Maybe that’s because Yaweh was originally the god of war, but that’s a topic for another day.

 God lays out this blood lust in Leviticus 17:11 below.

11For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

 It is not the death of the animal here that god wants, but the literal blood; the chapter goes on to explain that the Israelites can not eat the blood of animals because the life force dwells within the blood. That life force was needed by god in exchange for the sins of his tribe. Like many other religions at the time, human and animal sacrifice were common practice.

And who can forget the story of Abrham and Issac? Abraham never questioned god when he was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac and for that god promised to make his decendants as numerous as the stars (although with 100 billion stars in the Milky Way alone, I think god may have exxagerated a bit). 

So ask yourself, are you willing to lay down not just your own life but the lives of the ones you love? Would you take the lives of your children?  Would you murder your spouse? Blind faith is a Christian virtue, but when that faith commands you to sacrifice to an unseen god, how virtuous is it, really?

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