Yiftach swore that the first thing to come out of his house upon his arrival would become a sacrifice. Unfortunately, that was his daughter. Why he didn't get it annulled and why he went through with it (according to some) is discussed here.

Now, why did Yiftach need to get annulled in the first place?

  1. We hold Ein Bereirah in respect to halachos d'Oraisa (Beitzah 38a). Since Shevuos are d'Oraisa, and his daughter's exit from his house is retroactively defining his shevuah, it should make his first shevuah invalid.
  2. Even if we held Yeish Bereirah, the Mishnah in Shevuos (29a) classified a shevuah to do something assur as a shevuas shav. These types of oaths are not binding (as evidenced by one vain oath being that of doing something impossible). So why would he have had to fulfill his shevuah?
  • Wouldn't you consider translating the numerous Hebrew terms in your question? Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 7:54

1 Answer 1


While this is true, Yiftach failed to ask Pinchas (who was the gadol hador) the question as to what to do. He insisted that Pinchas should come to him. Pinchas in his pride, insisted that Yiftach come to him.

As a result, Yiftach in his arrogance refused to accept that he could have the oath annulled or declared invalid. This caused everyone involved to be punished.

In his ignorance, he refused to believe that it could have been totally invalid to begin with and he would not listen to anyone who he considered "beneath" him. His daughter could not defy him as he used his power as the leader to force whatever was done to her to occur.

According to those who say that she was not killed, just like Levi was dedicated to Hashem (they were also the tribe in Mitzrayim that were the equivalent of priests), Yiftach's daughter was consecrated to Hashem.


Yiftach is an example of the many people who have very high principles but lack the detailed knowledge of the Torah to know how properly to apply them in practice. Yiftach IMAGINED he was bound by his vow, and his high-minded determination to carry out what he thought was his obligation brought him to an unparalleled perversity. Even Abraham was not commanded to KILL Isaac, and indeed according to the commentators, Yiftach did not actually KILL his daughter. Rather, she was condemned to remain unmarried in a state of permanent HISBODEDUS (isolation) and divine service except for the few days of the year when her maiden friends would come to comfort her (see Metzudos David on v 37 and RaDaK on v 40).

The Midrash brings out the absurdity and criminality of Yiftach's condemning his only child to a life of celibacy, thereby destroying the continuity of his own line. Not only was Yiftach criticized but so too were all the rabbis and scholars of his time and even Pinchas the High Priest (who according to tradition was still alive despite the passage of over 300 years since he entered the Land with Joshua).

Through a mixture of high principles and pride, Yiftach would not go to Pinchas to nullify his vow, although the HALACHAH specifically permits this. Likewise Pinchas would not go to Yiftach to nullify the vow, reasoning that his own status as Priest required that Yiftach should come to him. Between the two of them, the poor girl "died". Pinchas was punished with the withdrawal from him of holy spirit (Chronicles I, 9:20 - "HaShem was with him PREVIOUSLY"). Yiftach was punished with an illness akin to leprosy in the modern sense of the term, which caused his limbs to drop off one by one while he was still alive. For this reason "he was buried IN THE CITIES of Gil'ad" (ch 12 v 7) i.e. in several different places.

Indeed the fact that the daughter failed to get a declarartion from the Sanhedrin is treated as a punishment for Yiftach.

Haftorah: Yiftach Declared a Vow to Hashem

She said to him: But Yaakov Avinu, who vowed, "Whatever you will give me, I shall tithe to You" (Bereishit 28: 22) and G-d gave him twelve sons -- did he sacrifice one of them to G-d? Moreover, Chana, who said, "She made a vow and said, Hashem ... if you take note of the suffering of your maidservant ... then I shall give him to Hashem all the days of his life" (Shmuel I 1:11) -- did she sacrifice her son before G-d? She [Yiftach's daughter] said all of these things to him, but he did not listen to her. When she saw that he didn't listen to her, she said to him, allow me to go down to the Beit Din, perhaps they will find an opening for your vow.

She went to them, but they did not find an opening for Yiftach to release his vow, on account of the sin that he slaughtered of the tribe of Ephraim. About him it says, "A pauper who robs the destitute is like a torrential rain, which leaves no food." (Mishlei 28:3) "A pauper who robs the destitute" -- this refers to Yiftach who was a pauper in Torah, like the stump of a sycamore tree, who would rob the destitute, as is says, "[The men of Gilad] would say to him: Now say 'shibolet,' but he said, 'sibolet' -- for he could not enunciate properly, and he would slaughter them." Therefore, "like a torrential rain, which leaves no food" -- he had one who could release his vow, but "leaves no food" -- G-d hid the halacha from them, so that they would not find an opening to release him of his vow.

  • This doesn't address the question whatsoever. The question wasn't why he refused to get it annulled, but rather why he actually went through with it, however you interpret the text, since the oath was invalid. His daughter, who clearly knew more than he did according to the pieces in the Tanchuma you quoted, should have refused, whether you hold she was actually killed or not.
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 18:47
  • @DonielF I rewrote the answer to emphasize that it was arrogance that caused him to refuse to get the correct psak. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 19:12
  • Again, this doesn't exactly answer the question. I didn't ask why he refused to have it annulled; I asked why he went through with it, and why his daughter went through with it. Why didn't she take the pesukim from Vayikra and Vayeitzei and pose them to Beis Din as she did to her father? I asked why he needed it annulled in the first place, and you answer me with a shpiel about how he couldn't have it annulled.
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 19:19
  • @DonielF I answered that even if he did not need to have it annulled, his ignorance was such that he felt that he had to go through with it. According to those who say he treated her like a nun, (l'havdil) his daughter could not bring herself to refuse him. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 20:09
  • Aderabbah, your sources seem to imply the opposite, that his daughter tried to refuse him but ultimately gave in. Why?
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 20:14

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