Jephthah and his daughter

Bryan Rocine 596547 at
Thu Sep 17 21:23:07 EDT 1998

Dear Irene,

Hi.  I thought maybe you felt you had already overdone it on Jephthah and
were out.  You wrote:

>> From: Irene Riegner <iriegner at>
>> Date: Thursday, September 17, 1998 2:37 PM
>Dear Bryan

>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.

You don't think moral behavior is meant?  What is meant by "And then the
children of Israel did the evil _hara(_ in the sight of YHWH"?  In the
background-building of the Jephthah episode in 10:6, the same censure is
repeated for the sixth time in the book, here quoted from the RSV:
"And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord,
and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of
Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the
Philistines; and they forsook the Lord, and did not serve him."

Anyhow, the same as a machine with a useless part is a poorly
designed machine, the book of Judges with a superfluous Jephthah's
daughter, one outside the macrostructure of the book, is
a poorly designed case.  I always assume a consistently designed case until
I just cannot any longer.  And if indeed a moral revulsion to the worship
of these gods is a part of the moral viewpoint of the narrator, a sacrifice
of Jehthah's daughter is revolting as well.  And from the narrator? 
nothing but circumstantial and editorial, approval actually,
in the strife with Ephraim, that is...  Oh, great point about Jephthah
dying childless.  I hadn't thought of that as censure before.  That could
be...poor Jephthah's daughter...we've had her dead and then alive again
more times in this one thread!  ;-)

>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.  

I'll speak to this in a sec.


>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.

It's too easy to assign the word king a solely human referant.  God is also
a king in the viewpoint of this narrator.  This summary comment encompasses
the lack of either king human or king divine.  This same narrator--I don't
mean the same writer, but the same viewpoint, one which is alledged to long
for a Israeli monarchy, writes the words of God: "it is not of you that
they are refusers, it is of me that they are refusers from kinging
_mimmloK_ it over them."  (1 sam 8:7)

>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

Sorry, that's a "nope".  Gideon's ephod is not said directly to be for the
service of YHWH but the circumstantial evidence is strong.  It was a
spiritual snare.  Read 17 and 18 about the graven image to YHWH and the
humiliation and violence associated with it, all the while, says the
narrator(18:31), the House of God was in Shiloh, in the words of the Deu,
"the place which YHWH your God chooses out of all His tribes to put His
name."  btw, in both cases, the actions of an individual are indeed
censured.  Conclusion: the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter should be in
this narrator's sites.  ;-)   She's alive once again.  I'm getting dizzy!

Enjoyed it, Irene,

B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13208


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