Skeptics and critics alike quote Judges 11:28-40 to be an example of human sacrifice in the Bible. This article is the refutation of that claim.

Here is our passage, Judges 11:29-40:

29 Then Yahweh’s Spirit came on Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed over to the children of Ammon. 30 Jephthah vowed a vow to Yahweh, and said, “If you will indeed deliver the children of Ammon into my hand, 31 then it shall be, that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be Yahweh’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah passed over to the children of Ammon to fight against them; and Yahweh delivered them into his hand. 33 He struck them from Aroer until you come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and to Abelcheramim, with a very great slaughter. So the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. 34 Jephthah came to Mizpah to his house; and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are one of those who trouble me; for I have opened my mouth to Yahweh, and I can’t go back.” 36 She said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to Yahweh; do to me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth, because Yahweh has taken vengeance for you on your enemies, even on the children of Ammon.” 37 She said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me. Leave me alone two months, that I may depart and go down on the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my companions. 38 He said, “Go.” He sent her away for two months: and she departed, she and her companions, and mourned her virginity on the mountains. 39 At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed. She was a virgin. It was a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to celebrate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

Here are questions to be answered to refute the claim that he indeed offered his daughter as a burnt sacrifice:

1 What is a vow? Are vows inspired by God?

2 Does Yahweh God accept human sacrifice?

3 Was Jephthah a priest, thus is eligible to offer sacrifice to God? (Only priests are qualified to offer burnt offerings according to the Law)

4 What does God say about burnt sacrifice?

So let’s go ahead and answer all these questions:

1 What is a vow? Are vows inspired by God?

A vow is a solemn promise or engagement. Vows are not inspired by God; people make vows when they want God’s intervention in the things they want to accomplish without failure. If one makes a vow to God, He expects that individual to keep his promise when He does His part:

When you vow a vow to God, don’t defer to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay that which you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay. –Ecclesiastes 5:4-5

According to v.5 of this passage, vows are not inspired by God. It is a personal commitment, that’s why he said, “It is better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay.” If it was inspired by God, what option does one actually have?

2 Does Yahweh God accept human sacrifice?

I wouldn’t want to waste my time to refute this claim at all if these sceptics and critics can quote us one verse from the Bible that God actually condones human sacrifice but what we see is this:

12:31 You shall not do so to Yahweh your God; for every abomination to Yahweh, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods18:10 There shall not be found with you anyone who makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices sorcery, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10 (c.f.  Deut. 20:1-9)

They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I didn’t command, nor did it come into my mind.Jeremiah 7:31

37 Yes, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. 38 They shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan. The land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus were they defiled with their works, and prostituted themselves in their deeds. 40 Therefore Yahweh burned with anger against his people. He abhorred his inheritance. Psalm 106:37-40

Based on these verses, we see that human sacrifice is an abomination to God, He hates it. So how sceptics come to conclusion that He accepted Japheth’s daughter as a burnt sacrifice is beyond me.

3 Was Jephthah a priest? (Only priests are qualified to offer burnt offerings according to the Law)

No, Jephthah was not a priest and according to the Law of Moses (Numbers 2:5-10; 18:7-8) only the priests are allowed to offer sacrificial offerings to God:

5 He shall kill the bull before Yahweh. Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall present the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the door of the Tent of Meeting.6 He shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay wood in order on the fire; 8 and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall lay the pieces, the head, and the fat in order on the wood that is on the fire which is on the altar; 9 but its innards and its legs he shall wash with water. The priest shall burn all of it on the altar, for a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, of a pleasant aroma to Yahweh. – Leviticus 1:5-9 (c.f. Numbers 2:5-10; 18:7-8)

God disapproves any offering that wasn’t presented by the priests. Here is one example:

Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering to me here, and the peace offerings.” He offered the burnt offering. 10 It came to pass that as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you didn’t come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines assembled themselves together at Michmash; 12 therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down on me to Gilgal, and I haven’t entreated the favor of Yahweh.’ I forced myself therefore, and offered the burnt offering. 13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Yahweh your God, which he commanded you; for now Yahweh would have established your kingdom on Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom will not continue. Yahweh has sought for himself a man after his own heart, and Yahweh has appointed him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept that which Yahweh commanded you.” – 1Samuel 13:9-14

What’s my point you may ask?

The point is that Jephthah couldn’t have done the sacrificial ceremony (burnt offering) by himself. He had to bring it to the priests (Deuteronomy 12:5-7, 11-14; 17:1-9…) for it to be accepted by God. I don’t see these priests who are well aware of God’s law that forbids human sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10; 20:1-9), would go ahead and slaughter Jephthah’s daughter as sacrifice to Him.

Furthermore, the burnt offering is to be eaten by the priests; unless these skeptics and critics can find any biblical verse that supports cannibalism:

But to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there, you shall seek his habitation, and there you shall come. 6 There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the wave offering of your hand, your vows, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. There you shall eat before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, in which Yahweh your God has blessed you...27 You shall offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on Yahweh your God’s altar; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on Yahweh your God’s altar; and you shall eat the flesh. Deuteronomy 12:6-7, 27

4 What does God say about burnt sacrifice?

1:3 If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer A MALE without defect…22:17 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 22:18 Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Whatsoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that will offer his oblation for all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings, which they will offer unto the LORD for a burnt offering; 22:19 Ye shall OFFER at your own will A MALE without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats. Leviticus 1:3, 22:17-19

Throughout the Torah, God said, the burnt offering that they should offer is male cattle.


So, sacrificing Jephthah’s daughter as a burnt sacrifice is not only an abomination to God (Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10), but also inappropriate because she is not ‘male’ cattle (Leviticus 1:3, 22:17-19). Furthermore, I don’t see any priest who would go ahead with the ceremony knowing fully well that it’s an abomination to God (Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10), let alone eating her flesh (Deuteronomy 12:6-7, 27).

The only rational conclusion to this story is that Jephthah offered his daughter to God as Nazarite. She will never get married, that’s why Jephthah was so sad because he knew that he will never have posterity since she was the only child he had.

Furthermore, what if it was a donkey that first met him? They think he would have offered that donkey to God? I don’t think so, because that would have been an abomination to God as well (Exodus 13:13).

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