“Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—HEBREWS 6:12.
1, 2. What challenge did Jephthah and his daughter face?
A YOUNG woman ran to meet her father. She was very happy to see him come back safely from fighting a battle. His great victory made her sing and dance with joy. But what her father next did and said must have surprised her. He ripped his clothes apart and cried out: “Oh no, my daughter! You have broken my heart.” He then told her that he had made a promise to Jehovah that would forever change her life. His promise meant that she would never be able to marry or have any children. But immediately she made a beautiful reply, encouraging her father to keep his promise to Jehovah. Her answer showed that she fully trusted that whatever Jehovah asked from her would be good. (Judges 11:34-37) When her father saw her faith, he was very proud of her because he knew that her willingness would make Jehovah happy.
2 Jephthah and his daughter fully trusted in Jehovah and his way of doing things. They were faithful, even when it was not so easy for them. They wanted to have Jehovah’s approval, and that was worth any sacrifice.
3. Why can the example of Jephthah and his daughter be helpful for us today?
3 It is not always easy to stay faithful to Jehovah. We need to “put up a hard fight for the faith.” (Jude 3) To help us do so, let us learn how Jephthah and his daughter endured challenges in their lives. How did they stay faithful to Jehovah?
STAYING FAITHFUL DESPITE WORLDLY INFLUENCES
4, 5. (a) What command did Jehovah give the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land? (b) According to Psalm 106, what happened to the Israelites because of their disobedience?
4 Every day, Jephthah and his daughter would have been reminded of the results of the Israelites’ disobedience to Jehovah. Nearly 300 years earlier, Jehovah had commanded the Israelites to kill all false worshippers in the Promised Land, but they did not obey. (Deuteronomy 7:1-4) Many of the Israelites started to imitate the Canaanites, who worshipped false gods and lived immoral lives.—Read Psalm 106:34-39.
5 Because of the Israelites’ disobedience, Jehovah did not protect them from their enemies. (Judges 2:1-3, 11-15; Psalm 106:40-43) It must have been very hard for families who loved Jehovah to stay faithful during those difficult years. However, the Bible mentions that there were faithful ones, such as Jephthah and his daughter as well as Elkanah, Hannah, and Samuel. They were determined to make Jehovah happy.—1 Samuel 1:20-28; 2:26.
6. What worldly influences exist today, and what must we do?
6 In our time, people think and act like the Canaanites. Their lives are focused on sex, violence, and money. But Jehovah gives us clear warnings. He wants to protect us just as he wanted to protect the Israelites from such bad influences. Will we learn from their mistakes? (1 Corinthians 10:6-11) We must do all we can to avoid the world’s thinking. (Romans 12:2) Will we try our best to do so?
JEPHTHAH REMAINED FAITHFUL DESPITE DISAPPOINTMENTS
7. (a) What did Jephthah’s own people do to him? (b) How did Jephthah react?
7 In Jephthah’s day, the Israelites were oppressed by both the Philistines and the Ammonites because the Israelites had disobeyed Jehovah. (Judges 10:7, 8) In addition to the enemy nations, Jephthah also had challenges with his own brothers and the leaders of Israel. Because his brothers were jealous and hated him, they forced him to leave the land that legally belonged to him. (Judges 11:1-3) Jephthah refused to allow their cruel behavior to affect his attitude. How do we know that? Because when the elders of the nation begged him to help them, he did so right away. (Judges 11:4-11) What may have motivated Jephthah to react the way he did?
8, 9. (a) What principles in the Mosaic Law may have helped Jephthah? (b) What was of greatest importance to Jephthah?
8 Jephthah was a mighty warrior, and he knew Israel’s history and the Mosaic Law very well. The way Jehovah treated His people taught him God’s standards of right and wrong. (Judges 11:12-27) Jephthah used that knowledge in his life when he made decisions. He knew exactly how Jehovah felt about anger and revenge and how God wants His people to love one another. In addition, the Law taught him how to treat others, even those who hated him.—Read Exodus 23:5; Leviticus 19:17, 18.
9 Joseph’s example likely helped Jephthah. He must have learned how Joseph showed his brothers mercy even though they hated him. (Genesis 37:4; 45:4, 5) Thinking about this example may have helped Jephthah to react in a way that pleased Jehovah. What his brothers did really hurt Jephthah. But fighting for Jehovah’s name and his people was more important than Jephthah’s personal feelings. (Judges 11:9) He was determined to be faithful to Jehovah. This attitude resulted in Jehovah’s blessing, both for himself and for the Israelites.—Hebrews 11:32, 33.
We should not allow our hurt feelings to prevent us from serving Jehovah
10. How can we allow divine principles to help us act as Christians today?
10 Will we learn from Jephthah’s example? What will we do if our Christian brothers disappoint us or if we feel that they do not treat us well? We should not allow our hurt feelings to prevent us from serving Jehovah. Never stop going to Christian meetings or spending time with the congregation. Let us imitate Jephthah and obey Jehovah. This will help us overcome difficult situations so that we too can be a good example.—Romans 12:20, 21; Colossians 3:13.
WILLING SACRIFICES REVEAL OUR FAITH
11, 12. What vow did Jephthah make, and what did this involve?
11 Jephthah knew that he needed God’s help to free Israel from the Ammonites. He promised Jehovah that if He gave him the victory, he would offer as “a burnt offering” to Him the first person who came out of his house when he returned from the battle. (Judges 11:30, 31) What did that mean?
12 Jehovah hates the sacrificing of humans, so we know that Jephthah was not going to make a literal sacrifice. (Deuteronomy 18:9, 10) Under the Mosaic Law, a burnt offering was a special gift that someone gave completely to Jehovah. So Jephthah meant that the person he would give to Jehovah would serve at the tabernacle for the rest of his or her life. Jehovah listened to Jephthah and helped him to win a total victory. (Judges 11:32, 33) But whom would Jephthah give to Jehovah?
13, 14. What do Jephthah’s words recorded at Judges 11:35 reveal about his faith?
13 Think about the scene mentioned at the beginning of this article. When Jephthah came back from the battle, the first person who came out to meet him was his beloved daughter, his only child! Would Jephthah be faithful to his promise? Would he give his own daughter to Jehovah to serve at the tabernacle for the rest of her life?
14 Again, the principles in God’s Law must have helped Jephthah to make the right choice. Maybe he remembered the words of Exodus 23:19, which told God’s people to be willing to give their best to Jehovah. The Law also said that when a person makes a vow to Jehovah, “he must not violate his word. He should do everything he vowed he would do.” (Numbers 30:2) Like faithful Hannah, who probably lived during his time, Jephthah had to keep his promise, even though he knew what it meant for his daughter and himself. Because his daughter would serve at the tabernacle, she would never have children. So there would be no one to inherit Jephthah’s name and land. (Judges 11:34) Even so, Jephthah faithfully said: “I have opened my mouth to Jehovah, and I am unable to turn back.” (Judges 11:35) Jehovah accepted Jephthah’s great sacrifice and blessed him. Would you have been as faithful as Jephthah was?
15. What vow have many of us made, and how can we prove faithful?
15 When we dedicated our lives to Jehovah, we vowed that we would do his will no matter what. We knew that it would not always be easy to keep that promise. But how do we react when we are asked to do something that we do not like? If we overcome our feelings and willingly obey our God, we prove that we are faithful to our promise. Our sacrifices may be painful, but Jehovah’s blessings are always greater. (Malachi 3:10) But what about Jephthah’s daughter? How did she react to her father’s promise?
16. How did Jephthah’s daughter react to her father’s promise? (See opening picture.)
16 Jephthah’s vow was different from Hannah’s. She vowed to give her son Samuel to serve at the tabernacle as a Nazirite. (1 Samuel 1:11) A Nazirite was allowed to marry and have a family. But Jephthah’s daughter was given as a complete “burnt offering,” so she would not have the joy of being a wife and a mother. (Judges 11:37-40) Think about it! She could probably have married the best man in the land because her father was the leader in Israel. But now she would become a humble servant at the tabernacle. How did this young woman respond? She showed that Jehovah’s service came first by saying to her father: “Do to me as you have promised.” (Judges 11:36) She sacrificed her natural desires for a husband and children in order to serve Jehovah. How can we imitate her self-sacrificing attitude?
Jephthah’s daughter sacrificed her natural desires for a husband and children in order to serve Jehovah
17. (a) How can we imitate the faith of Jephthah and his daughter? (b) How do the words at Hebrews 6:10-12 encourage you to be self-sacrificing?
17 Thousands of young Christian men and women are willing to sacrifice getting married or are choosing not to have children, at least for now. Why? Because they want to concentrate on serving Jehovah more. Also, many of our older ones sacrifice spending time with their children or grandchildren. Instead, they give their time and energy to Jehovah. Some of them work on construction projects or attend the School for Kingdom Evangelizers and move to a congregation that has a greater need for publishers. Others make plans to increase their service to Jehovah during the Memorial season. He will never forget the loving sacrifices of all these faithful ones. (Read Hebrews 6:10-12.) What about you? Would you be able to make sacrifices to serve Jehovah more fully?
WHAT LESSONS HAVE WE LEARNED?
18, 19. What have we learned from the Bible account about Jephthah and his daughter, and how can we imitate them?
18 What helped Jephthah overcome his many challenges? He let Jehovah guide his choices in life. He chose not to be influenced by the people around him. And he remained faithful even when others disappointed him. Jehovah blessed Jephthah and his daughter for their willing sacrifices, and He used both of them to promote true worship. Even when others stopped doing the right thing, Jephthah and his daughter remained faithful to Jehovah.
19 The Bible says: “Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12) Let us imitate Jephthah and his daughter, knowing that when we remain faithful, Jehovah will bless us.