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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The Story of Jephthah and his Daughter: Then and Now 337
servants at Shiloh (21). That Judg 11 thinks in terms of consecrated
virginity is therefore improbable (22).
(iii) Some have taken the two clauses to indicate alternative
outcomes, arguing that the wâ€œ here has the force of or. So, for example,
Junius (23) and Sir Thomas Browne (24). Browne quotes as a parallel
Exod 21,15 (â€œWhoever strikes his father wâ€œ [=or, not and] his mother
shall dieâ€). If a clean animal should appear, Jephthah would sacrifice
it; if a human being, he would consecrate it to God. The latter,
Browne argues, is what happened to Jephthahâ€™s daughter (see below
on v. 39). This interpretation, which still has its advocates today, is
ingenious, but contrived. Apart from the unlikelihood of the existence
in Israel of consecrated virgins, one may note that the vow, on this
reading of it, makes provision for either a human being or a clean
animal coming forth first, but not for it being an unclean animal that
(iv) Keddell suggests that the first clause refers to dedication, the
second to animal sacrifice. Jephthah vows that the animal/person
first to meet him will be dedicated to YHWH and/or [depending on
whether the w is conjunctive or disjunctive in force] â€œI shall offer up
to him [YHWH] a burnt-offeringâ€. Keddell notes the omission of the
l which one would expect if Jephthah were offering a human being
as a sacrifice. He finds evidence for personal suffixes (as here with
whtyl[hw) denoting the indirect object in Gen 37,4; 2 Sam 20,5; 2 Sam
15,4 and 1 Kgs 20,9 (25). Even if one should grant this to be a possible
usage (26), this interpretation has no support in the Versions.
(21) L. WOOD, Distressing Days of the Judges (Grand Rapids 1975) 295.
(22) Kimchi envisaged Jephthahâ€™s daughter as surviving in a state of enforced
virginity but he did not think in terms of a cultic consecration, only of seclusion:
â€œHe built her a house and placed her there. She became a recluse (perÃ»shËh) from
mankind and from the ways of the worldâ€ (cited from MARCUS, Jephthah and His
Vow, 8-9; other adherents of this view are there listed). This type of permanent
seclusion would also be without parallel.
(23) Testamenti Veteris Biblia Sacraâ€¦scholiis illustrati ab I. Tremellio & F.
Junii. Hanoviae, typis Wechelianis, 1603. Junius says that the conjunction here
has a disjunctive force, as at Gen 26,11, Exod 1,10; 21,15 and often elsewhere.
(24) BROWNE, Pseudodoxia, 369.
(25) KEDDELL, Dissertation, 33-36.
(26) 2 Sam 15,4 is unpersuasive, since the verb used there regularly takes a
direct object (e.g. at Ps 82,3). In the Genesis text, if the reading and the MT
pointing are correct, the suffix does denote an indirect object (cf GKC 115c,
which speaks of it as a â€œstrange caseâ€). The other two texts perhaps also attest
such a usage.