Weird Wednesdays: more human sacrifice

Presented for your consideration. The tale of Jephthah from Judges 11:

29 Now the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon. 30 Jephthah made a vow to the Lordand said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, 31 then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord gave them into his hand. 33 He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer [j]to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.

Jephthah lived in pretty rough times if you lend any historical credence to the Judges account. There was a period of near constant warfare between various tribes in and surrounding the land of Israel.

Born the son of a prostitute and a local patriarch, he gets kicked out by his half-brothers as something of an embarrassment to the clan, a constant reminder of dear old dad’s wandering eye and loose morals.

But when the neighbors get a bit riled up and start marching towards their home, Jephthah gets called back to lead the army and makes a vow to the Lord that he will offer up the first thing that comes out of his house as a burnt offering to Jehovah.

Suffice to say it doesn’t end well. God gives him the victory, but, uh, God apparently decided not to have Jephthah’s cat or dog or favorite sheep run out to greet him:

34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to theLord, and I cannot take it back.” 36 So she said to him, “My father, you have[l]given your word to the Lord; do to me as you have said, since the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.” 37 She said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 Then he said, “Go.” So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity. 39 At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel, 40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

Now, there are some who try to soften the story by saying that, “No… Jephthah didn’t really kill his daughter and offer her as a burnt offering to Jehovah, he just sent her off to dedicate her life to God as a virgin.

I find that unlikely simply because if she were going to live through this, there’s no really cause for Jephthah’s strong reaction of tearing his clothes in mourning and agony. There’s also verse 39:

39 At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made

Jephthah gets a sort of happy ending though. He gets lauded for his faith by the author of Hebrews 11, who lifts him up as an example to the rest of us.

32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak,Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms,

I’m sure my daughter will sleep more soundly tonight knowing that I’m called to follow the example of Jephthah.


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