Arthur and I are big believers in storytelling the Bible and we’ve been working on that recently. When I was asked to speak to a church group in Songea, I gave storytelling Jephthah’s daughter a go. In the next post I’ll give some of the group’s responses, but first, here’s the story plus a little teaching coda on the end, translated from the Swahili into English.
For a hundred years after the death of Jephthah’s daughter, the women of Israel would gather on the mountains to remember her and to mourn for her. We don’t know the name of Jephthah’s daughter but we do know her story.
One day, Jephthah’s daughter was doing the house work – fetching water, sweeping, washing clothes, that kind of thing. But this was no ordinary day.
Word about her father had reached the village. He had defeated the Ammonites. They were Israel’s enemies and Jephthah was Israel’s leader and the hero of the battle. The warriors were on their way!
Now, when warriors are returning, what do the women do? They cook special food, they play drums and tambourines, and they go out to meet the returning heroes.
Jephthah’s daughter was his only child, and we know nothing about her mother, so it was her special responsibility to welcome her father home.
So she went out to meet her father, expecting this to be the start of a great party.
But when she reached her father, he tore his clothes and cried out.
Are you surprised? I bet Jephthah’s daughter was! Why this strange behaviour?
Jephthah told his daughter that before the battle with the Ammonites, he had made a vow that whatever came out of his house to meet him after returning from battle, he would sacrifice as a burnt offering to the Lord.
Now, why did he make this vow? To make God give him the victory.
God had already promised victory to Jephthah and had even given him his Holy Spirit as a sign of that, but the promise of God and the Holy Spirit were not enough for Jephthah. He wanted more, so he gave God his daughter in order to receive victory.
He knew it would be his daughter who came to meet him! That’s the normal thing with returning warriors. When he said, ‘whatever comes out of my house to meet me’, he knew he was speaking about his daughter.
But why did he think that God would be pleased with the sacrifice of his daughter?
Because he did not know God. He treated him like the other gods of the past, who were pleased with human sacrifice.
But God is not like other gods. He is not one among many, but God Alone, the God of love.
But Jephthah treated God wrongly because he did not know him.
And he did not repent. He even blamed his daughter!
He said she was the source of his problem. But who made the vow? It was Jephthah! It was his unfaithful, paganistic vow that caused this problem.
To cap off his unfaithfulness, he did not confess his sin or appeal to God. Instead, he took his daughter and did as he had vowed.
Before she was sacrificed, Jephthah’s daughter went up on the mountains to mourn with the other women and this is why the women of Israel went up to the mountains to remember her.
Today we remember Jephthah’s daughter as well. We remember as we hear this story, and we see her in our community.
We see her in the women who are mistreated by men, and by men who mistreat women because they do not know God, though they think they do.
God has put this story in the Bible to remind us that his will is for the good of women.
Remember the act of the Apostle Paul who did know God.
When he saw a slave girl who was being exploited by others, he set her free.
He was also filled with the Holy Spirit but he used it well, in accordance with the will of God. He used the strength and power of the Holy Spirit for the good of this woman.
Lord Jesus, teach us to love our women as you do, Amen.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.