Jephthah and his daughter

Ita Sheres isheres at mail.sdsu.edu
Wed Sep 16 01:01:36 EDT 1998


Some perspective on the discussion about the Daughter is in order.  Jeph.
is described in the text as the first born son (his name alludes to
opening up of a woman's womb as in the case of the matriarchs in Genesis)
of an unnamed woman who is referred as both "zona" and "foreign."
Obviously, when Gilead marries (presumably a woman who is more
"legitimate" than Jeph's mom, the sons born to him (threatened by his
claim to the inheritance of the father) ultimately banish him from the
house, for that reason! In many ways, his story is similar to the story of
Joseph in Gen. who is also discarded by his brothers for reasons of the
inheritance.  When Jeph. does become the leader of the tribe (at the
request of the elders) he is also seeking a measure of revenge for the
injustices done to him in the past and he says so!!  Therefore, as I said
before, he has real psychological and social problems that are not
resolved to the bitter end; sacrificing his daughter (real or seclusion)
may be one way to internally deal with the various traumas in his
own life.  But no matter how you finally read this fabula, it is utterly
tragic for the woman who had to succumb to a fate not of her own making.
It seems to me that the text highlights her predicament by focusing on the
implied immortality that is afforded her (through the women's celebration
of her) and not offered to her father.  It is also quite interesting that
even though she is not named, she has a clear voice which is one of faith
contrary to Jeph. who was "testy" and insecure and needed reassurances
from Yahweh about his triumph.  God does not ask him to sacrifice (as he
does Abraham) and of course God does not interfere with the final outcome.
It's hard for me to see Jeph. as a man of faith or even a hero; he's
certainly a lousy father!

Ita Sheres.




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