Posts tagged ‘Jephthah’s daughter’

October 21st, 2012

Jephthah’s Moral Dilemma and Deontology

by Max Andrews

In the book of Judges, Jephthah serves as the ninth judge, or deliverer, who makes a bold vow to God (See Judges 11.29-40).  Jephthah makes a conditional deal with God; if he gets something, then and only then will he do something for God in return.  Upon his decision to barter with God, his tragic vow turns into a moral dilemma where he must either sacrifice his daughter or break his vow.  Each option carries with it further consequences.  Given Jephthah’s moral dilemma, he must choose an available option with varying costs.  Once his choice to sacrifice his daughter has been completed, he still stands in a morally condemning state.  Upon examining the ethics of the situation via historical context, textual interpretation, and the theological significances, may one see the dilemma and all the possible consequences, how it could have been avoided, and how it applies to believers today.

The Ammonites oppressed the Israelite tribes east of the Jordan River for an eighteen-year period (Judg. 10.8).  This may help qualify the date for the events.  The conquest of the Transjordan occurred in 1406, forty years after the exodus, so Jephthah’s communication to the Ammonites must be dated close to 1106.  Since the oppression lasted for eighteen years, that puts the oppression beginning at 1124.[1]