A thought provoking passage is found in Judges 11: 29-40.
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.
30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
31 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………...
34 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.
35 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……..
37 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.
38 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.
39 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,
40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
Adam Clarke has this to say regarding this passage:
Shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering - The text is עולה והעליתיהו ליהוה והיה vehayah layhovah, vehaalithihu olah ; the translation of which, according to the most accurate Hebrew scholars, is this: I will consecrate it to the Lord, or I will offer it for a burnt-offering; that is, "If it be a thing fit for a burnt-offering, it shall be made one; if fit for the service of God, it shall be consecrated to him." That conditions of this kind must have been implied in the vow, is evident enough; to have been made without them, it must have been the vow of a heathen, or a madman. If a dog had met him, this could not have been made a burnt-offering; and if his neighbor or friend's wife, son, or daughter, etc., had been returning from a visit to his family, his vow gave him no right over them. Besides, human sacrifices were ever an abomination to the Lord; and this was one of the grand reasons why God drove out the Canaanites, etc., because they offered their sons and daughters to Molech in the fire, i.e., made burnt-offerings of them, as is generally supposed. That Jephthah was a deeply pious man, appears in the whole of his conduct; and that he was well acquainted with the law of Moses, which prohibited all such sacrifices, and stated what was to be offered in sacrifice, is evident enough from his expostulation with the king and people of Ammon, Judges 11:14-27. Therefore it must be granted that he never made that rash vow which several suppose he did; nor was he capable, if he had, of executing it in that most shocking manner which some Christian writers ("tell it not in Gath") have contended for. He could not commit a crime which himself had just now been an executor of God's justice to punish in others.
"From Judges 11:39; it appears evident that Jephthah's daughter was not Sacrificed to God, but consecrated to him in a state of perpetual virginity; for the text says, She knew no man, for this was a statute in Israel. בישראל חק ותהי vattehi chok beyishrael ; viz., that persons thus dedicated or consecrated to God, should live in a state of unchangeable celibacy. Thus this celebrated place is, without violence to any part of the text, or to any proper rule of construction, cleared of all difficulty, and caused to speak a language consistent with itself, and with the nature of God."
Those who assert that Jephthah did sacrifice his daughter, attempt to justify the opinion from the barbarous usages of those times: but in answer to this it may be justly observed, that Jephthah was now under the influence of the Spirit of God, Judges 11:29; and that Spirit could not permit him to imbrue his hands in the blood of his own child; and especially under the pretense of offering a pleasing sacrifice to that God who is the Father of mankind, and the Fountain of love, mercy, and compassion."
It is interesting to note that even the KJV Bible translators insert the word lament in v40 (“the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah”). The marginal reading has “sing the praise of”. Surely the submissive nature of Jephthah’s daughter, as well as the respect she had for her father, was something to celebrate and not lament!
Can we with equal certainty say that Abraham was commanded by God to offer up Isaac - as a burnt offering - in consecration to Him rather than kill him? I believe so! To command Abraham to kill his only begotten son (of promise) would have been in violation of the 6th Commandment. Through the providence of God, Abraham was to unlearn vestiges of his Babylonian thinking (child sacrifice) whilst also learning about the loving character of Jehovah Himself.
Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:1-2. to “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice to God….that you may prove what the will of God is” – exactly as Jesus did. This burnt offering was presented to God and burnt completely. The Bible says this was “a soothing aroma to the Lord” (Lev 1:.17) – meaning something that God was very pleased with – “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Paul said that his life’s ambition too was to “please the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:9).
In O.T times, an animal without blemish, when voluntarily offered to God as a burnt offering, was flayed, its parts separated in consecration to Him. The words of the following hymn then ought to give us pause for thought; may they be our experience!
Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee
Take my voice and let me sing, always only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold not a mite would I withhold
Take my will and make in Thine it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart it is Thine own it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love my Lord I pour at Thy feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever only all for Thee!