Jephthah and his daughter

Ron Rhoades rrhoades at jps.net
Mon Sep 14 22:34:27 EDT 1998


>Shlomoh ben Michoel wrote:
> I think he did sacrifice his daughter, and even though it must have
>been VERY displeasing to HaShem, 
>
>HaShem knowing this, allowed it, but most certainly was not pleased
at >all with the sacrifice as it is abominable.
>
>It was acceptable for the simple reason that he made the vow and
>according to Torah he had to keep it.
>
>It is not the sacrifice He accepted, but reather the fact that
Jephtach >made a promise out of desperation and he HAD to keep it for
the sake of >Torah and G-d.
>
>This is my view, and I do not think there is any other "logical"
>explanation!

>Any comments?

>Shlomoh ben Michoel


Greetings Shlomoh,

You are correct that there are many things in the Scriptures that
YHWH
does allow on the part of his people even though he does not approve
them. This could be the case here. However, as I pointed out in my
first
post it would be illogical to think that YHWH would have *supported*
and
even granted Jephthah's request if it were a "human" sacrifice in
mind,
something disgusting to him (Jer. 7:31). As a rule such an action
would
have brought a condemnation even if allowed to happen. Jeph. would
not
have been praised by subsequent Bible writers. And again it would
make
Jeph. into a hypocrite, even destroying any valid reason in the text
for
warring against the Ammonites. Highly illogical.

Yes "vows were biding and final" under usual circumstances. However
there also were circumstances that nullified them. (One that only in
"principal" applies to this case is the fact that a woman's vow to
God
could be nullified by a husband or father with no consequences. Nu
30:6-16)

However even for men, a vow to YHWH was set aside under certain
serious
circumstances. According to the Mosaic law a sworn vow could be
forgiven
just on the basis that he was without knowledge somehow. Leviticus
5:4-10: "Or if any one swear rashly with his lips to do evil, or to
do
good, whatsoever it be that a man shall utter rashly with an
oath...and
it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he has become guilty
as
respects one of these things.5...he shall confess that wherein he
hath
sinned. 6 And he shall bring his trespass-offering to Jehovah for his
sin that he has sinned...and the priest shall make atonement for him
as
concerning his sin. 10...and he shall be forgiven."--ASV

Even if Jephthah had in mind a literal sacrifice, surely he would
have
been excused "by Law" when it turned out to be his human daughter.

So the fact that "vows were final and binding" under the Mosaic law
cannot be used to insist that Jephthah was obligated to carry out a
human sacrifice that was also against Mosaic law and contrary to
God's
clear directives. That he would even offer a human sacrifice would be
against reason since Jephthah knew one of the reasons he was to
destroy
the Canaanites was because of their disgusting human sacrifices.

In Deut. 7:2,5,16 we find Yahweh commanding that all the people of
Canaan and their cities be "devoted" (CHE'REM) to destruction without
exception. 

At Num. 21:2 the Israelites vow to Yahweh to "devote" to destruction
all
the peoples of Canaan. (cf Lev.27:29) 

Yet for valid reasons Yahweh's command was set aside for Rahab's life
(Josh. 6:17) and Israel's sworn vow was set aside for the Gibeonites'
lives (Josh. 9:21-27). 

Significantly the Gibeonites were not totally excused since the "vow
of
destruction" applied to them was carried out by having them serve as
temple workers!

Surely, if a command of God and a vow of destruction/devotion was set
aside for these non-Israelites, Jephthah's vow would have been set
aside
for Jephthah's innocent daughter IF it had been one that meant death.
And contextually it could have just meant sacrificed to lifelong
temple
service.

So the idea that "any person who is dedicated for destruction may not
be
redeemed but must be put to death" is also not absolute since we see
God
as well as humans put the law aside when circumstances called for it.
The fact that the "devoting to destruction" of the Gibeonites was
fulfilled by having them serve as temple workers is directly
applicable
to Jephthah's daughter!

Logically speaking, I think that neither Jeph. nor YHWH should be
unnecessarily be made a hypocrite if the text allows a different
non-literal interpretation. 

Don't you think so?

Ron
Nevada City, CA




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