Jephthah and his daughter

Irene Riegner iriegner at concentric.net
Thu Sep 17 14:37:35 EDT 1998


Dear Bryan
You wrote:

"On the other hand, I will admit to the Biblical narrator's propensity
for
writing a two-sided story.  Few characters of Biblical narrative are
positive role models, positive representations of the "text's moral
viewpoint" from the beginning to the ending of their time on stage.  Yet

the narrator won't let the inconsistencies escape censure or penalty; in

this way, even bad acts are used as good examples which present the
moral
viewpoint in negative relief.  This we know is the Biblical rule of
narration, but it is violated in the Jephthah episode *if* indeed
Jephthah
killed his daughter. "

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that in biblical
narration, the editor will comment if the the actor violated the
editor's moral point of view.  In the case of Jephthah and his daughter,
this does not happen.  The editor does not censure Jephthah or bring
upon him some kind of calamity---unless we consider that he had no
descendants as the implied retribution.   Of course if he did not kill
her, this would be unnecessary.

I think the issue is :  What is this frame?  What is the "text's own
moral viewpoint?"  I see that the frame is limited.  It does not
encompass all the deuteronomic guidelines for life.  The frame is
limited to responses to two issues or questions:

a.  Why does everyone attack us?  (remember this is late 7th c. or later
or even    exilic).
The frame provides the lens through which to answer this question.
Israel forgot to worship Yhvh and joined in the worship of the god of
her neighbors.  I don't think moral behavior is meant here but only
service to Yhvh---i.e. bringing offerings to Yhvh as opposed to bringing
goodies to other gods.  If Yhvh does not receive his due, Yhvh withdraws
support and allows other nations to conquer the tribes.  Thus for the
editor to comment on Jephthah's murder of his daughter is beyond the
framework he has established.   We can and should, of course, question
the stance of the editor.

Incidentally, the blame is usually placed on "Israel," who is said to
have done something offensive to cause Yhvh to withdraw from
Israel---not on the action of an individual.  Anyway, Jephthah continues
to enjoy Yhvh's support as indicated in his victories over the
Ephraimites (Chap 12) in internecine fighting suggesting, again, that
for the editor, Jephthah's sacrifice was not an issue.

b.  Why a monarchy or at least a centralized government?
This  issue comes to the fore after Gideon's death when two themes
become prominent:  Internecine warfare and legitimate kingship.
Abimelech seizes the throne (as opposed to Gideon who was offered the
throne by the "men" of Israel). The refrain in this part:  There was no
king in Israel in those days, every man did as he chose.

In the end, the two issues, a and b, intertwine.

It is interesting to note that the dtr editor is not laying all of the
deuteronomic baggage onto Judges.  He understand that this period was
different from his.  There is no critique of home altars or statues as
long as these were dedicated to Yhvh.  This also points to the narrow
limits of the frame within which the dtr. editor is re-shaping these
tales.

Bryan, I've been reading your remarks and those of others about verbs
and discourse analysis, and I am now paying much more attention to the
sequence of verbs.  However to help in phrasing I also use the accents,
disjunctive and conjunctive, to indicate relationship.

Thanks
irene
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