Thursday, January 08, 2009


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Miguel Cuthbert said...

Among my diversity of books is one called "Distressing Day of Judges" by a protestant scholar. He argues, somewhat convincingly, for the case of her being impelled into virginity at the temple. The main points being that (1) he must have considered the possibility that a human would be first to greet him, (2) the law was pretty clear about human sacrifice, (3) there was a position for women at the tabernacle (1 Sam 2:22), and (4) the vow can be interpreted under Lev 27: 28.


EegahInc said...

Definitely a possible interpretation. I decided to go with the majority opinion for a couple of reasons.

Paul & the Jews praised Jephthah's Faith, but not his intelligence. According to Leviticus, there was apparently a way to buy his way out of the problem for 30 sheckels that he either ignored or didn't know about. (Gotta study!) Over at you find this, "According to some commentators, among whom were Ḳimḥi and Levi b. Gershom, Jephthah only kept his daughter in seclusion. But in Targ. Yer. to Judges xi. 39 and the Midrash it is taken for granted that Jephthah immolated his daughter on the altar, which is regarded as a criminal act; for he might have applied to Phinehas to absolve him from his vow. But Jephthah was proud: "I, a judge of Israel, will not humiliate myself to my inferior." Neither was Phinehas, the high priest, willing to go to Jephthah. Both were punished: Jephthah died by an unnatural decaying of his body; fragments of flesh fell from his bones at intervals, and were buried where they fell, so that his body was distributed in many places (comp. Judges xii. 7, Hebr.). Phinehas was abandoned by the Holy Spirit (Gen. R. l.c.)."

And according to Judges, this whole incident ends with the establishment of a ritual in which the "daughters of Israel" mourned Jephthah's daughter 4 days out of each year. For me at least, that seems like an overreaction if she didn't die.

There's strong arguments on both sides. I think this is one of those stories where there's not quite enough info to know 100% but you can learn a lot by trying to figure it out.

PaperSmyth said...

Thank you, gents. That was the only explication of this disturbing incident I have EVER read.

EegahInc said...

If this passage were to ever come up in one of my Catechism classes I would probably offer up both interpretations and let the kids vote on it. The only qualifier would be that whatever side they chose, none of the blame could be laid on God. Jephthah defined the terms of the oath AND chose the punishment, blatantly ignoring the way out God had already provided back in Leviticus.

Anonymous said...

Definitive proof is readily available. If 'modern biblical scholars' who are not speaking with formal magisterial authority declare A to be preferred understanding, you can be sure that A is untrue.