Bernard P. Robinson, «The Story of Jephthah and his Daughter: Then and Now», Vol. 85 (2004) 331-348
In Judges 11 Jephthah is an anti-hero, his rash vow and its implementation being for the Book of Judges symptoms of the defects of pre-monarchical Israel. The daughter is probably sacrificed; the alternative view, that she is consigned to perpetual virginity, has insufficient support in the text. The story speaks still to present-day readers, challenging them not to make ill-considered judgments that may have disastrous consequences; inviting them too to detect a divine purpose working through human beings in their failings as well as their strengths.
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336 Bernard P. Robinson
Further, how credible is the proposal of Marcus and Reis to take
in 11,31 metaphorically? The nearest approach that
Marcus can cite for a spiritual hlw[ is to be found in Num 8,11.13. 21,
where the Levites are presented to God as a â€œspecial giftâ€ (REB), a
spiritual hpwrt. This, I think, is not very strong evidence for finding in
Judg 11 the idea of a spiritual hlw[. What of Gen 22,1-14? It may well
be the case, as is forcefully argued by Moberly, that this story, in
which Abraham is commanded to offer his son but, the order having
been countermanded, sacrifices a ram instead, has a metaphorical
value (18), but I doubt that it can be used to argue for finding in Judg 11
the idea of consecrated virginity, which is remote from what happens
in Gen 22.
Consecration to God, such as occurred with Samuel (1 Sam 1) and
Samson (Judg 13,5.7; 16,17), is without parallel in the case of a girl
(although the priestly law of the Nazirites in Num 6 does say [v. 2]
that both men and women can make this vow). Both Samson and
Samuel, of course, were married. Attempts to find such consecrated
virgins in Exod 38,8 and 1 Sam 2,22 carry little conviction. Exod 38,8
speaks of the laver being made â€œfrom mirrors (?) of serving (?) women
who served (?) at the entrance of the tent of meetingâ€. 1 Sam 2,22 has
Eli hearing that his sons â€œhad lain with women who served (?) at the
entrance of the tent of meetingâ€. Even if these texts speak of women
with some sort of cultic role (this is the probable meaning of the root
abx that is used here), there is nothing to say that they were
unmarried (19). Keddell thinks that the thirty-two Midianite virgins who
are assigned to YHWH in Num 31,40 are to be thought of as
consecrated to Temple-service, but this is very speculative (20). So too
with Woodâ€™s suggestion that in Judg 21,19-21 the â€œdaughters of
Shilohâ€ captured as wives for the Benjamites had been tabernacle-
(18) R.W.L. MOBERLY, The Bible, Theology and Faith. A Study of Abraham
and Jesus (Cambridge 2000) 127-131.
(19) In Exod, LXX speaks of women fasting, Pesh and Ibn Ezra of their
praying, Vg of their lying in watch, Rashi and Nachmanides of their crowding in.
In 1 Sam, Vg has them waiting. LXX (â€œwhat his sons had done to the children of
Israelâ€) and Pesh (â€œhow they reviled the women who prayedâ€) seem to
presuppose different readings from MT.
(20) J.S. KEDDELL, A Dissertation on the Vow of Jephthah (London 1840)
19-21. It is hard to reconcile such a future with 31,16: the Midianite womenfolk
were chiefly responsible for the Beor episode. (On the other hand, since these
thirty-two are not killed and are not married off to Levites, it is unclear what fate
is prescribed for them).