The book of Hebrews has a whole chapter about Old Testament men (and women) who achieved great things by faith.
One of them had his daughter killed–as a human sacrifice.
What are we to make of this?
Hebrews on Jephthah
Hebrews 11 celebrates various Old Testament figures who had faith in God and did amazing things. Toward the end of the chapter, we read:
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions . . . [Heb. 11:32-33].
It continues in the same vein.
The point is: These men, together with some notable women the chapter also mentions, did amazing things as a result of their faith.
One of the people mentioned in this passage is Jephthah.
The Stage Is Set
The stage for Jephthah’s first appearance is set in Judges 10, where we read about how the Israelites have been worshipping foreign gods and, as a result, they have become oppressed by a group of foreigners: the Ammonites.
The Israelites repent, and God is moved to have mercy on them.
So God will make sure that they are delivered from the persecution, but what historical form will this deliverance take?
The leaders of Gilead (part of the territory of Israel) start consulting about how they can free themselves from the Ammonite oppression.
Specifically, they decide that if they can find a man to lead the fight against the Ammonites, they’re willing to let him be the leader of Gilead.
Turning the corner into chapter 11, we meet Jephthah:
 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. Gilead was the father of Jephthah.
 And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they thrust Jephthah out, and said to him, “You shall not inherit in our father’s house; for you are the son of another woman.”
 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers, and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows collected round Jephthah, and went raiding with him.
So already, Jephthah has had a hard life. Think about his family situation!
He’s the son of a prostitute, but his father took him (as a boy) to dwell in his own house anyway, with the sons of his wife.
Ouch! Think about how painful that must have been for everyone involved!
Then when his half-brothers are grown up, the legitimate sons drive Jephthah out so that he can’t inherit anything (meaning: he leaves penniless or close to it).
Jephthah then descends into a life of banditry.
So: Hard life. Social and familial outcast. Enters a life of crime.
But he does have one thing that people need . . .