New Defender's Study Bible Notes
11:31 and. The Hebrew conjunction, vau, can mean “and” or “or” depending on context. Here it is better rendered “or.” That is, whatever first came forth would be dedicated to the Lord: if a person came out (Jephthah was probably thinking of a servant), he or she would be dedicated to God’s service at the tabernacle, as Samuel would later be (I Samuel 1:11); if an animal came out, it would be offered as a burnt offering. Jephthah apparently kept small flocks of clean animals in his “house” (enclosed area where he lived), and fully expected it to be one of these.
11:31 offer it up. Some competent Hebrew scholars say this clause could as well be translated: “and I will offer to Him a burnt-offering.” In any case, Jephthah was a true man of faith (Hebrews 11:32) and surely knew God’s prohibitions against human sacrifices (e.g., Leviticus 18:21). He would hardly make such a rash vow as to offer a human sacrifice, or carry it out if he had. Although he knew about God’s right to the firstborn (Exodus 13:2–Jephthah’s daughter was his only child), he knew also that she could be redeemed (Exodus 13:15; Leviticus 27:1-4) with a payment of thirty shekels.