First, let’s realize her age. If she was not married in that culture, she had not yet, or had barely reached the age of puberty. The custom was to marry the daughters off once they reached that age. John MacArthur says they were generally betrothed at 13 for one year and then married, so this girl could not have been over 14.
Let’s take a side trip here to forestall a few wrong conclusions. Even if puberty arrives earlier nowadays than it did in ancient times, as some scientists seem to believe, it doesn’t mean maturity does. One is physical and the other mental. In that time those young people were expected to be responsible enough to raise and provide for children as soon as they were able to have them. Do we expect that of our children?
Even as late the 19th and early 20th centuries young men were working to help provide for the family as young as 12 or 14. Boys brought up on farms were doing men’s work at 8 or 10. Girls were caring for baby brothers and sisters, and working as hard as their mothers in the house and field at the same age. No wonder they were ready to marry in their early teens, and no wonder they could make a valid commitment to God at an early age. They weren’t pining to be a fireman one day and an astronaut the next. They understood responsibility and lifetime commitment and were ready for it. Maturity isn’t about knowing facts and answering questions. Neither is spirituality. Be careful what you equate. Culture does make a difference.
So this very young teenager has just found out that her life is going to be different than she ever expected because of a decision her father has made, not one she has made. Can’t you just see the TV depiction of a teenager today? Standing hipshot, she crosses her arms, rolls her eyes and whines, “Da-uhd!” This isn’t fair. This isn’t what I planned. I had dreams and you ruined them all! It’s my life not yours!
Don’t think for a minute that a child has no responsibility to his parents’ vows. As soon as a man accepts the office of an elder, his family is accepting extra scrutiny, extra inconvenience as he performs his work, and less of his time. The same is true of a deacon though in a lesser way. The same is certainly true of a man who gives his life to preaching the gospel. It doesn’t lessen his own obligations to his family, but it does increase his family’s obligations to God. It also means their behavior must be above reproach.
Let’s be realistic here. No, it isn’t only elders, deacons, and preachers’ families who must behave themselves, but the ramifications are much worse since they represent the local church, and the Lord, in the eyes of the world. The world may very well be wrong about what they expect of these men, but it is simply naïve to think it doesn’t work that way.
Then there is this point—every Christian has vowed his life to God. So in a very real way, every Christian family is under the microscope. As soon as a child crosses the line, you know what everyone thinks—wasn’t he raised better than that? As soon as his life deviates from the life a Christian should live, the world suddenly looks at his parents differently. Even if it is not their fault, even if they have done the best they possibly could have, someone will lose respect for that couple, and certainly for the life they have espoused. No, it isn’t always fair, but what is it we always tell our children? Life isn’t fair.
Every one of us is someone’s child. If you were blessed as I was to have godly parents, they vowed you to God just as surely as Jephthah vowed his daughter. They said, “We will raise this child to serve you all his life.” Have you honored that vow?
"Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children-- how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, 'Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.' Deut 4:9-10