Jephthah and his daughter

Camille Bessette at
Tue Sep 15 09:31:05 EDT 1998

Dear Ron,

Thank you for your long and *very* interesting comment. It had opened new
insights for me, especially for the end of the narrative.

I remain dubious on some points mainly because of the choice of verbs.  The
writer is not using the terminology of "devoted" things (che'rem) to Yahweh.
He rather writes  (olah, which is the specific term for holocaust, where the
victim "climbs" or ascends towards YHWH.  The same term appears in a similar
context in Genesis 22:2 with Abraham, as in 2 Kings 3:27 with king Mesha.

I have looked in de Vaux (Les sacrifices de l'Ancien Testament) for
parallels in other literature: we have the Cretan Idomene, back from the
Trojan War and lost in a storm, promising to sacrifice the first person he
will see on the beach, and it is his son ! (Servius)
There is also Meandre in Asie Mineure, making a vow during war to sacrifice
the first person who would congratulate him : his son comes along with his
mother and daughter... He killed them all and drowned himself. (Plutarque)
De Vaux adds that, as those stories proceed more or less from the same
period, they indicate that the idea of a vow inducing a human sacrifice was
not scandalous as it would become later for a medieval reader. The faith of
Jephthah, or its religious consciousness, sounds with a primitive and rough
tone, but there is perhaps here the influence of his foreign mother. He
himself live outside Israel. (11:1-3).

Please forgive me if I quote de Vaux so often but I was "turned out" by one
of his close fellow-worker from the Ecole biblique et archeologique
française and...the crease is still there.

Carmel de Lisieux / France

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