The book of Judges tells us the sad story of Jephthah (Yiftach), who vowed he would sacrifice anything coming out of his house, and it turned out to be his daughter. [Judges 11]

Not only does God not stop Jephthah at the last minute, as He did for Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac, but the Midrash says that God was displeased only because Jephthah allowed for the possibility that an unsuitable sacrifice might be made!

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to [Jephthah]: “Then if a camel or an ass or a dog had come forth from your house, you would have offered it up [to Me] for a burnt-offering?” What did the Lord do? He… prepared his daughter for him. [Genesis R. 60:3]

Does it mean God made sure it was Jephthah's daughter who would come out first? If so, why? What do ALL the Sources tell us about God's involvement in this entire matter?

1 Answer 1


"All the sources" is hard.

With the binding of Isaac, it was God doing the commanding. Here it's Jephthah -- who has some serious power issues going on -- opting to put himself into a pickle. No guarantee God is going to intervene to get you out of it!

(Or as one very crude pop representation put it:

GOD : You can't kneel down in the middle of a highway and live to talk about it, son.

The Talmud's moral of the story is something totally different -- that he could and should have gone to the High Priest to at least see if his hands were truly tied; in fact, vows made under mistaken premises can be annulled by a panel, or a single "great rabbi" (the high priest at the time qualified as the latter). Jephthah said -- I'm the political leader! I'm the military leader! If not for me we'd have lost! The big-scholar-priest guy should come to me! And the high priest said -- I'm the religious authority, and he put himself into this pickle! He should come to me! And neither of them budged or dared compromise lest they nick their massive egos, and therefore bad things happened.

Consulting with a rabbi was an option he chose not to take here. (Not unlike the famous story where the guy wants God to save him and drowns, and God says I sent you a rowboat, speedboat, and helicopter!)

  • Yes, I know, but it does not explain God's reaction in the Midrash, that He engineering the fact it was the daughter who came out first. If God had completely refrained from any involvement, I would understand better. Jun 15, 2021 at 18:15
  • A.) And Jephthah decided to play Russian roulette ... God says "don't blame me for the consequence!" B.) Even more importantly -- his daughter's emergence didn't need to get anyone killed. It just would have left Jephthah feeling sheepish and stressed till he overcame his ego and consulted an expert.
    – Shalom
    Jun 15, 2021 at 19:32
  • It seeme to me that this answer does not in fact include ALL sources Jun 16, 2021 at 0:58

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