Jephthah and his daughter

Ben Crick ben.crick at
Tue Sep 15 14:59:45 EDT 1998

On Mon 14 Sep 98 (21:57:31), kdlitwak at wrote:
> While this is not particulalry relevant to h3ebvrew (and I apologize
> for that in advance), since several people have mentioned that other
> biblical writers speak positively of Jephthah as proof that he did not
> sacrifice his daughter, let me point out that Hebrews 11 praises
> Jephthah among others for his "faith."  While I have a high view of
> inspiration, let me say 1) that "faith" has nothing to do with whether
> Jephthah killed his own daughter (as I think likely) and 2) finding
> evidence of "faith" in the original account is something I haven't been
> able to do, in English or in Hebrew.  Anyone else find it?

 Dear Ken,

 I hope Jonathan and the co-Chairs will excuse this digression into Greek.

 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon,
 Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets,
 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained
 what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,
 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;
 whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle
 and routed foreign armies.
 (Hebrews 11:32—34 New International Version).

 There are more predicates than subjects here, as Bengel points out. There
 is no evidence of a Chiasmus here either; so let's identify which we can
 identify, snd group together those whom we can group together.

 Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah are heroes of the Amphictyony (or
 Theocracy). They are not in chronological order, but probably in "hall
 of fame" order. Their common attribute is the first listed in verse 32,
 "who through faith conquered kingdoms". David "conquered kingdoms" and
 "administered justice" and "gained what was promised". Samuel and the
 prophets "administered justice and gained what was promised" too. Daniel
 "shut the mouths of lions"; Samson only OPENED the mouth of ONE lion

 Westcott groups the nine predicates in three threes:
 1. Conquered kingdoms;  administered justice;  gained what was promised.
 2. Shut the mouths of lions; quenched the fury of flames; escaped the edge
    of the sword.
 3. Weakness turned to strength; powerful in battle; routed foreign armies.

 Westcott then suggests that "The first triplet describes the broad results
 which believers obtained: Material Victory. Moral Success in Government.
 Spiritual Reward. The second triplet notices forms of personal deliverance
 from: Wild Beasts. Physical Forces. Human Tyranny. The third triplet marks
 the attainment of personal gifts: Strength. The Exercise of Strength. The
 Triumph of Strength (the believer against the alien)." (BF Westcott,
 /The Epistle to the Hebrews/, Macmillan, London, 3rd ed., 1903, page 379).

 Evidence of Faith in Judges 11?  He was the son of a prostitute, and his
 brothers turned him out with the connivance of the elders of Gilead. He
 proved himself a capable fighter at the head of an amorphous band of
 adventurers (Judg 11:3-6). Compare David and his band of adventurers when
 pursued by Saul. Jephthah trusted in YHWH, and believed that YHWH would
 give him the victory over the Ammonites (verse 9). He based his confidence
 on his knowledge of the history of Israel, and the victory that YHWH gave
 Israel over Sihon (vv 14-23). Jephthah perceived that Chemosh the
 abomination of the Ammonites was a worthless idol (vv 24-26). [Incidentally,
 Jephthah also believed in the 15th-century date of the Exodus, v 26!]

 Jephthah was absolutely sure that YHWH would give him the victory, because
 his cause was just, and rested upon YHWH's promises (v 27). The Spirit
 of YHWH then came upon Jephthah, enabling him to mount his campaign with
 confidence. The foolish vow was about his projected thankoffering for the
 victory, IMHO. He must have meant "four-legged". In those days, humans and
 animals entered the homestead through the *same doorway* (verse 31), as in
 remote rural crofts in Britain and Ireland even today.

 BTW, the abomination of Chemosh and Milcom (Molech) was the offering of
 *human sacrifices*: causing their children to "pass through the fire".
 See 2 Kings 23:10-13. There seems to be a switcheroo between Chemosh of
 Moab and Milcom/Molech of Ammon: in Judg 11 it's Chemosh of Ammon.


 ShaLoWM `aLeCheM

 Ben (Clifton Theological College, Stoke Hill, Bristol 9, 1960-64)
 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 <ben.crick at>
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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