Jepthah (meaning “set free”) was one of the many judges of Israel during the 1100s B.C. He was a great man of the Old Testament. This is his story …
He was born in a place called Gilead. He was kicked out of the family by his half brothers when his father died because of a scandal involving Jepthah’s dad (Gilead)* and his mom. But during Gilead’s life he desired that it be kept quiet and that Jepthah be both accepted and treated as a member of his family. However that changed when Gilead died. Jepthah was not only denied a share of the family inheritance but kicked out of the family.
Later in life, when Israel was being attacked/oppressed by the Ammonites, the Judges (Jepthah’s half brothers) of Israel were discussing what they could do to relieve Israel from the oppression of the Ammonites. They then came to Jepthah to request help from him and his army. Jepthah than asked the modern all-important question: What do I get for helping?. The judges of Israel then said that they would give Jepthah any amount of anything he wanted. Jepthah then requested that he be made a judge over all Gilead in return for r driving the Ammonites from Israel.
Before marching on the Ammonites with his army, Jepthah made a vow to God. He vowed that “if you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes from the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”(Judges 11:30-31)
Jepthah then marched on the Ammonites and won!! When he returned to his house in triumph, Odeana, Jepthah’s daughter and only child came out to greet him.
There is some debate about whether or not Jepthah sacrificed Odeana. He may have given here to the church instead of burning her. He would have done this because human sacrifice was not right in God’s eyes. Jepthah could have realized this and given her to the church.