Jephthah’s vow to “give his daughter to God” has been subject of debate for thousands of years. Although, through the middle ages the argument was resolved by saying that Jephthah did not keep the vow to sacrifice his daughter as an offering to God, Martin Luther was probably right when he said, “we’d like to think that Jephthah did not offer his daughter as a sacrifice to God, but the text is clear that he did.”

The commentators also discuss at great length what it meant to “sacrifice” one’s child to God. Some suggest it meant they would serve God for life. In Jephthah’s case she would live in service of the Temple and remain a virgin for life. Others argue that the promise was a true ‘Isaac’ type sacrifice, on an altar with fire. I prefer the first case scenario but the point is, whatever it was, Jephthah kept his promise. It wasn’t an easy promise to keep. There was great pain involved for him and for his daughter.

Joseph Wood Crutch wrote an article once that discussed the difference between honor and morality. He especially compared them to the current moral trends in 20th century America. He said honor can be simply defined as doing what you said you were going to do regardless of circumstances. Morality, he suggests, has become “doing what is right under the circumstances.”  At first glance that appears correct, but to Crutch, the moral decision of the moment more often than not contradicted what had been promised. The new morality then is defined as “doing what is right under the circumstances regardless of what you said you were going to do.”

Jephthah would have made a fine Marine, whose motto is, “Death before dishonor.”