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As [Jephthah] approached his home [following his great victory] the maidens of the town came forth, according to the custom of the time, to greet the mighty man of valour with songs and dances. In this way, Miriam and the women of Israel had celebrated the destruction of Pharaoh’s host in the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20); and later, David’s victories over the Philistines were acclaimed in the same fashion (1 Samuel 18:6).
The Fate of Jephthah’s Daughter
Did Jephthah actually sacrifice his only daughter, or did here merely dedicate her to a celibate service, perhaps at the Tabernacle? What are the arguments, pro and con? The following is a summary of the more cogent points in favor of each side:
Question: What really happened to Jephthah’s daughter in response to the vow that Jephthah made to Yahweh?
Mistranslated Passages In Our Bible: Jephthah’s Daughter
Our recent notes on this subject have moved several readers to press upon us the opposing view that Jephthah’s daughter was not offered up as a burnt-offering, but was only dedicated, or consecrated, to the service of God.
James Moffatt and Jephthah’s Vow
A Canadian reader sends us the following contribution to the examination of this subject, and we are glad to have this further view-point. He writes:—
Did Jephthah Revere the Law of Moses?
Our recent comments on this difficult subject have aroused considerable interest, especially from readers who disagree with what we suggested was the most reasonable interpretation of the Scripture record. Here is a typical exposition of the opposing view of the fate of the girl:
Rethinking Jephthah’s Foolish Vow
Most Christians struggle to understand the narratives recorded in the book of Judges. Consider the opening account where Adonai Bezek is captured by the tribe of Judah, humiliated by having his thumbs and big toes cut off, and then dies in Jerusalem. What about Gideon’s fleece in Judges 6, or Samson’s repeated relationships with illicit women in Judges 14–16? How do we understand and explain such difficult texts? Do we ask, “Who are the Adonai Bezek’s in your life?” or “What would Samson do?” Maybe it would be better to “dare to be a Gideon,” but I don’t think so.
(Judges 11:30, 31). After a crushing defeat of the Ammonites, Jephthah returned to his own house, and the first to welcome him was his own daughter. This was a terrible blow to the victor, and in his despair he cried out, “Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low...I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and cannot go back.” With singular nobleness of spirit she answered, “Do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth.” She only asked two months to bewail her maidenhood with her companions upon the mountains. She utters no reproach against her father’s rashness, and is content to yield her life since her father has returned a conqueror. But was it so? Did Jephthah offer up his daughter as a “burnt-offering”? This question has been much debated, and there are many able commentators who argue that such a sacrifice was actually offered. We are constrained, however, by a consideration of Jephthah’s known piety as a true worshipper of Jehovah, his evident acquaintance with the law of Moses, to whi ch such sacrifices were abhorrent (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31), and the place he holds in the roll of the heroes of the faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews (11:32), to conclude that she was only doomed to a life of perpetual celibacy.
The Daughter of Jephthah
Jephthah’s Daughter (1970 oil on board)
Jephthah’s Daughter (gouache on board)
Jephthah’s Vow (panel 5)
Jephthah and His Daughter
Jephthah Daughter on the Mountain
Jephthah Met by His Daughter
Jepthah’s Vow IV
The Return of Jephthah (18th c.)
Jephthah (pronounced /ˈdʒɛfθə/; Hebrew: יפתח Yip̄tāḥ), appears in the Book of Judges as a judge over Israel for a period of six years (Judges 12:7). Among biblical scholars, there is disagreement as to whether any part of the Jephthah stories is historical. According to Judges, he lived in Gilead and was a member either of the tribe of Manasseh or of the tribe of Gad. His father’s name is also given as Gilead and, as his mother is described as a prostitute, this may mean that his father may have been any of the men of that area. Jephthah led the Israelites in battle against Ammon and, after defeating the Ammonites, fulfilled a rash vow of his, by sacrificing his daughter. Traditionally, Jephthah is listed among major judges on the ground of the length of the biblical narrative referring to him, but his story also shares commonalities with the minor judges, for instance only six years duration of his office as judge.