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by Wayne Blank
"And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel." (Judges 11:33 KJV)
Abel-keramim was the Ammonite village where Jephthah, who "judged Israel six years" (Judges 12:7 KJV; see also The Judges), achieved a victory over the Ammonites who had been oppressing Israel. The victory was however marred by tragedy after Jephthah made a vow to The Lord to offer as a burnt offering "whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me when I return."
Notice that Jephthah didn't say whosever, but whatsoever, "cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me when I return." Ancient houses often had an attached "barn," so he was obviously speaking of an animal to "offer up for a burnt offering." It was nevertheless not a good choice of words; he should have been more specific when making a sacred vow to The Lord.
"Then the Spirit of The Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto The Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be The Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering." (Judges 11:29-31 KJV)
The Lord gave Jephthah the victory that he bargained for:
"So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and The Lord delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel." (Judges 11:32-33 KJV)
When Jephthah returned home, he discovered that he should have been more specific in his choice of words. Perhaps his daughter was tending to the animals when her father returned, the reason that the animals were all inside. Or perhaps she was in the house part of the house. But either way, the daughter tragically ran out to meet her victorious father.
"And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto The Lord, and I cannot go back.
Fact Finder: How would Abraham have understood what Jephthah experienced in that sacrifice? How would Isaac have understood what Jephthah's daughter experienced in that sacrifice?