Jephthah and his daughter

Bryan Rocine 596547 at
Mon Sep 14 19:19:09 EDT 1998

Dear B-Haverim,

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses.  Interesting Camille!  Several
folks have mentioned that we should, out of respect for the text, read Jdg
11 in "the most natural way" as an example of a father killing his
daughter, however revolting to our own sensibilities.  Maybe.  However, I
must also point out, that out of respect for the text, we may view
parricide as revolting *to the text's own moral viewpoint*.  I think the
text's own viewpoint is an interpretive control to be reckoned with.  In
the case of Judges 11, rather than find fault with Jephthah, I am more
inclined to think that the contradiction between an apparent parricide and
the text's own moral viewpoint may rest with my own inability to read the
text properly.  At least I'll take as a possibility that I am not reading
the text properly, especially considering the great cultural, linguistic,
time distance between me and the text.  (I realize that I may also need to
adjust my impression of the text's moral viewpoint!)  Let me give a

Due to Ron's thorough analysis, I have taken a closer look at the syntax of
v. 39.  I find particularly compelling the X-qatal clause in v. 39 _v:hi)
lo) yod(ah )i$_ "And it was she that was no knower of a man" and especially
its position after the wayyiqtol clause _wayya(as lah )et nidro..._ "And he
performed his vow to her..."  An X-qatal clause is a clause with a qatal
verb form that is preceeded by another independently standing word,
symbolized in the nomenclature by "X.".  Here the "X" is _v:hi)_  One
typical function of this type of clause *in narrative discourse* is to
elaborate on the previous wayyiqtol clause.  The function is one brand of
(what I call) topicalization, as if to say "he did such and such AND AS FOR
HER, she..."  If indeed this is the function of the X-qatal clause in Jdg
11:39, the grammar establishes a cohesion between the statement that
Jephthah performed his vow and that the daughter was no knower of a man.  I
think the grammar implies that Jephthah commited her to celibacy.

No one has mentioned the two-month period of morning.  It seems most
natural to see such a period as a preliminary to her death.  What would a
special time period of this nature be for if indeed she is to live on?


>From: Ron Rhoades <rrhoades at>
>Date: Sunday, September 13, 1998 12:31 AM
>Bryan Rocine wrote:
>> Dear B-Haverim,
>> I find it very difficult to believe Jephthah sacrificed his daughter by
>> killing her(Judges 11).  Might he have put her away to a life of
seclusion or celibacy? 


>Fifth, Jephthah’s daughter "had no relations with a man."(NAS) Had these
>words applied only to the time prior to the carrying out of the vow,
>they would have been superfluous, for she is specifically said to have
>been a virgin. That the statement has reference to the fulfilling of the
>vow is shown in that it follows the expression, "He carried out his vow
>that he had made toward her." Actually, the record is pointing out that
>also *AFTER* the vow was carried out she maintained her virginity. 
>Keil and Delitzsch say "This clause would add nothing to the description
>in that case, since it was already known that she was a virgin. The
>words only gain their proper sense if we connect them with the previous
>clause, he 'did with her according to the vow which he had vowed,' and
>understand them as describing what the daughter did in fulfillment of
>the vow...i.e.; he fulfilled the vow through the fact that she knew no
>man, but dedicated her life to the Lord, as a spiritual burnt-offering,
>in a lifelong chastity...Her friends went to lament her virginity."


B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13208


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