It is possible that Jephthah did away with his daughter, as Agamemnon did
"And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without
fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that
whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return
in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I
will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the
children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into
his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith,
even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great
slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children
of Israel. And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his
daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was
his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 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.
And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the
LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth;
forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even
of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing
be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon
the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said,
Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions,
and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the
end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her
according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was
a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament
the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year." (Judges
God hates child sacrifice:
"Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast
borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured.
Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my children,
and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?"
Is it really likely that God would accept such a sacrifice? When Hannah
gave Samuel to the Lord, she did not do away with him, but delivered him
to the temple for service:
"And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed
look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget
thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will
give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor
come upon his head...For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me
my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the
LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped
the LORD there...But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child,
girded with a linen ephod." (1 Samuel 1:11-1:27-28-2:18).
This seems more likely to have been the fate of Jephthah's daughter, than
for Jephthah to do a thing the Lord hates. There were women who congregated
at the tabernacle, perhaps for some sort of service:
"And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the looking-glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of
the congregation." (Exodus 38:8).
The daughter of Jephthah may have joined this congregation. As a
parallel, admittedly imperfect because taken from the idolatrous
practices of the nations, consider the Sicilian girls devoted to
"Eryx, a very lofty mountain, is also inhabited. It
possesses a temple of Venus, which is very much esteemed; in former
times it was well filled with women sacred to the goddess, whom the
inhabitants of Sicily, and also many others, offered in
accomplishment of their vows; but now, both is the neighborhood much
thinner of inhabitants, and the temple not near so well supplied
with priestesses and female attendants." (Strabo, Geography, Book
VI, Chapter II, Section 6, p. 412).
These young girls were not killed, though devoted, but given alive to the goddess, to
serve as her temple attendants. The reader may object, that young girls
devoted to Venus did unspeakable things, though it is not so stated
of this group. Readers so concerned may prefer this batch of young
maidens, consecrated to the chaste Athena:
"And indeed it is no long time since the Locrians have
ceased sending maidens to Troy,
'Who without upper garments and barefooted,
Like slave-girls, in the early morning swept
Around Athene's altar all unveiled,
Till old age came upon them with its burdens,'
all because Ajax violated Cassandra."
(Plutarch, Plutarch's Morals, On Those Who are Punished by the
Deity Late, Section xii).
In obedience to an oracle, these people devoted young girls to
service in Athena's temple, which evidently consisted in part of
menial chores connected with keeping the temple establishment
running. Hannah's example of devoting Samuel shows that this manner of thinking was not alien to Israel.
The atheists, of course, have their own inimitable way of
thinking: "At the end of this time she meekly returned, and Jephthah
cooked her." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 276). But child
sacrifice was forbidden by the law.