The Story of Jephthah: Descriptive or Prescriptive?

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On Wednesday Night, October 3rd, we will discuss the Old Testament story of Jephthah located in the Book of Judges (chapters 11-12). Jephthah was a judge who led some of the tribes of Israel into battle to defend the Israelites against the Ammonites. As he prepared for battle, he made a vow to the Lord saying “if You will deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” Why he made this vow the Bible does not say. But when he came home from battle, his daughter – his only child came out to meet him. Jephthah was very sad, but he kept his word and after 2 months he sacrificed his daughter.

It is a sad, strange story. But sadder still is how some people apply this Scripture. One of our church members knows someone with a criminal history who uses this Scripture to justify his bad behavior. He says that this Scripture proves “it is God’s will that some people do bad things.”

This Story of Jephthah is a good example of why it is important to understand how to properly interpret Scripture. One of the main Rules of Interpretation involves “Context” and part of figuring out the context is discerning whether a particular Scripture is “Descriptive” or “Prescriptive.” Descriptive means that this Scripture is simply describing what happened. It’s not saying whether it was right or wrong. Prescriptive means that the LORD is issuing a command. It’s prescribing what a person should do or should not do concerning a subject or situation.

SO, before we read about Jephthah and decide that “it is Gods will that some people do bad things”, let’s begin by completing the following statement-

The Story of Jephthah is:

  • Descriptive (95%, 21 Votes)
  • Prescriptive (5%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 22

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