Jephthah was the ninth judge of Israel. The son of a prostitute, Jephthah was cast out of the family by his half-brothers to prevent him from sharing in the inheritance. He fled to the land of Tob where he gathered a huge army of misfits, and started raiding the surrounding countryside. When Israel was threatened by the Ammonites, the leadership asked Jephthah's little army to counterattack their enemies. In return Jephthah asked for a place of leadership in Gilead.
Jephthah made a rash vow. He promised God that in exchange for a victory he would offer up as a sacrifice the first thing that should come out of his house to meet him on his return.
Jephthah wins the battle, and when he returns home, his only child, his daughter, comes out to meet him. He cries out, "My daughter, you have brought me very low; I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back." (11:35) His daughter and her companions go to the mountains and mourn for two months. Then Jephthah did to her according to the vow he made.
This story has many implications, but one lesson that can be taken is that God cannot be bribed; it was a pathetic attempt to guarantee God's support. The only adequate sacrifice to God is one's self. Micah asks, "What does the Lord require of you?" The answer follows: "To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) When Jesus sent out His call, it was not for gifts, but for men and women. "Follow me," He said to the fishermen of Galilee. (Matthew 4:19) No substitute could be offered; He was not prepared to bargain; they could not offer their sons or daughters; they could only offer themselves. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)