“He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities… the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all… He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished… and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” (Isaiah 53:5–6, 8, 10)
Judaism abhors human, especially child sacrifice.
Indeed, even the sacrifice of bat-Yiftach is considered controversial. Some believe that she was simply dedicated to the Lord and remained a virgin the rest of her life.
This abhorrence of human sacrifice has proven to be one of the major objections that some Jewish people have when it comes to believing in Yeshua—that God, who hates human sacrifice, would never have authorized the sacrifice of a man to atone for people’s sins.
But the 53rd chapter of Isaiah tells us that it “pleased the Lord to bruise Him” and that He would indeed, die, sacrificed like a lamb led to the slaughter to atone for our transgressions.
However, Yeshua was not just an ordinary man; He was also the son of God—fully human and fully divine—in a way our limited minds cannot comprehend.
Yeshua’s death for the atonement of our sin was God’s will, but God’s grief was such that the veil (Parokhet) that the High Priest passed through once a year into the Holy of Holies was torn from the top to the bottom, from heaven to earth, at the moment of Yeshua’s death. (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45)
Only God the Father could have torn this veil from His place in Heaven.
In this way, He not only revealed that atonement had been made for sin, He also carried out the Jewish mourning custom of tearing one’s garment to express terrible grief at the death of a loved one.
Defending the Innocent
We can, perhaps, draw a third lesson from this Haftarah.
Yiftach had condemned his own child to die at his own hands. Bat-Yiftach did not protest but went away for two months to be with her friends to mourn.
We may wonder why she did not run to some safe place but instead returned only to be murdered by her own father. Was there such a safe place? Likely not. But even if there were, the cost of leaving may have been considered worse than death.
Furthermore, apparently no one came to her defense. Where were her friends? Where was the community? Why did they stand by in silence while her father “did to her as he vowed.” (Judges 11:39)
This scenario may remind us of the women who remain with men who abuse and mistreat them—even, perhaps, to their death.
Sometimes, that death is considered moral by the perpetrators. In many Muslim countries, women are murdered by their husbands or fathers in a practice called “honor killing” when they are suspected of any kind of immorality or breach of Islamic law.
How many anonymous women are killed while the community stands by in silence? While many of us find this topic extremely disturbing, we must not stand by in silence—we must oppose violence against the innocent.
Nullifying Unwise Vows
The rabbis join in condemning Yiftach’s vow; they agree that he should have annulled his vow, and there is such a process in modern-day Judaism.
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) always begins with a famous service called Kol Nidre (all vows), in which is carried out an annulment of vows made during the past year that we may be unable to keep.
Kol Nidre likely originated in Spain when the Jewish People were forced to convert to Christianity or face death.
Some of the Jews chose to take the vow publicly. In their hearts, however, they remained Jewish. Kol Nidre gave them opportunity to renounce their vow.
It must be said here, however, that the first Jewish Believers would not have doubted for a second that they were still Jewish, nor do Jewish Believers today.
Over the centuries, though, the misconception that it is not Jewish to believe in Yeshua has firmly taken root, both among Gentiles and Jewish people.
We may, at times, make a rash vow that later proves to be a mistake, even a disaster.
Better to humble ourselves and admit we have made a terrible mistake than to go on to keep the vow and be destroyed or destroy others.
Proverbs seems to make such a provision:
“If you have shaken hands in pledge (vow) for a stranger, you are snared by the words of your mouth … deliver yourself … go and humble yourself, plead with your friend give no sleep to your eyes nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” (Proverbs 6:1–5)
While the above verse applies to the danger of co-signing for another person’s debt, the principle, perhaps, can be applied to situations where we have made an unwise promise.
Surely, we should do everything in our power to keep our word; however, may we also have the wisdom to seek to be released from any rash and harmful vows that we should not have made in the first place.
This is not to advocate breaking promises because they are inconvenient or painful.
As King David said, “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless… who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind.” (Psalm 15:1–4)
In fact, Ecclesiastes advises us to not be hasty in making vows to God, saying, “It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” (Ecclesiastes 5:5)
Yeshua also warned against vows, advising us to use simple confirmations and declines such as yes and no instead. (Matthew 5:37)
May this account of Yiftach and his daughter serve to remind us to use wisdom and restraint when opening our mouth, especially when making a vow to God.
Making a Difference
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8–9)
When we read this section about Yiftach’s daughter, which has been omitted in the synagogue readings, may we remember to give a voice to the voiceless and stand in their defense for justice, righteousness, and mercy.
May we also remember that the vast majority of the Jewish People do not know that Yeshua fulfilled Isaiah 53 in His atoning death on the Roman execution stake.