Summary: God forbids human sacrifice. Jephthah did not literally sacrifice his daughter. Instead, he dedicated her life to serve God.

Discussion: Judges 11:30-31, 34-35, 37, 39 (NASB), “Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, ‘If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return…it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.’… 34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child…When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low…for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.’ … 37 She said to her father, ‘Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.’ … 39 At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man…”

God views human sacrifice as an abomination. Deuteronomy 12:31, 32, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do…”

Since God forbids human sacrifice, Jephthah did not literally sacrifice his daughter. If a domestic animal had come out of Jephthah’s house, he would certainly have sacrificed it as a burnt offering. But Jephthah’s daughter was the first to greet him. Jephthah fulfilled his vow by consecrating his daughter to serve God (it shall be the LORD’S, verse 35). She would not marry and have children but instead remain a virgin. She would serve God for the rest of her life.

In agreement with this interpretation, note the daughter’s response. She did not grieve her imminent death; she sorrowed over her virginity. She was very sad that she would never marry and have a family.