Judges 11:35 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 11:35, NIV: When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, 'Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.'

Judges 11:35, ESV: And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.”

Judges 11:35, KJV: 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.

Judges 11:35, NASB: So when he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, 'Oh, my daughter! You have brought me disaster, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.'

Judges 11:35, NLT: When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. 'Oh, my daughter!' he cried out. 'You have completely destroyed me! You've brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.'

Judges 11:35, CSB: When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, "No! Not my daughter! You have devastated me! You have brought great misery on me. I have given my word to the Lord and cannot take it back."

What does Judges 11:35 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Those used by God often defy our assumptions about spiritual heroes. The "rescuers" (Judges 2:16) who emerge in the book of Judges are not the spotless superheroes we might imagine. Gideon made foolish choices (Judges 8:26–27), as will Samson (Judges 13—16). Jephthah is already a complex character, as an exiled bandit captain hired to fight against the Ammonites (Judges 11:1–11). He also made a deeply misguided promise to God in exchange for military victory (Judges 11:30–31). Jephthah clearly never imagined when he made his vow to the Lord that it would be his only child, his daughter, who would emerge from his house to greet him upon his return from battle.

The pain is real. He immediately begins to express his deep grief by tearing his clothing, a common expression of mourning a great loss during this era. Jephthah cries out that she has caused him intense pain, crushing him with grief. That seems to blame his joyful, innocent daughter for causing him pain—though he fully realizes she is not responsible. By any standard, the fault rests entirely with Jephthah.

Jephthah explains to his daughter that he is grieving because he cannot take back a vow he has made to the Lord. He cannot save her from his own foolishness in this sacred promise to God. That's not necessarily accurate; the law compensated for ignorant vows (Leviticus 4:5–6). Whether that escape clause applies here, however, is something over which scholars differ. As far as Jephthah is concerned, this is a tragically unbreakable promise.