Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

Jonathan D. Safren yonsaf at
Mon Jan 28 03:30:34 EST 2002

Dear Rolf,
Your understanding of the Jephthah Narrative is the same as that of those
Jewish apologists who wish to deny that J. sacrificed his daughter, such as
Radak (R. David Kimchi) and Metzudat David (R.David Altschuler, 17th
century) on Jud. 11:31,39. Rashi (R. Shlomo Yitzhaki) obfuscates. Another
medieval Jewish commentator - I forgot whom - ridiculed this denial of the
The Tannaitic Rabbis cited in the Midrashic collection Yalqut Shimoni,
Judges 67-68, had no problem with understanding Jephthah's fulfillment of
his vow obligation as human sacrifice.
Apparently the European Jewish commentators, who lived in Christian lands,
were writing with one eye over their shoulder.
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College

I suggest you read Jon Levenson's _The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved
Son : The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity_.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rolf Furuli" <furuli at>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Sunday, January 27, 2002 10:41 PM
Subject: Re: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

> Dear Jonathan,
> The acceptance of human sacrifices neither accords with the
> personality of YHWH as it is described in the Tanach, nor with the
> laws therein. Even a criminal who were hanged on a tree as a curse
> was first killed. I agree that there is no condemnation of human
> sacrifice in the account of Jephrah's daughter, but that is because
> such a sacrifice was not at stake - as I understand the account.
> I agree that the most natural antecedent of the suffix HU of the verb
> (LH in Judges 11:31 is "the one who comes out of the door" (=
> Jephtah's daughter). However, we shall not forget that the writer of
> Judges and his contemporaries had a common "presupposition pool" that
> we lack. Because of this, we can overlook nuances that can point in a
> different direction than our first apprehension.
> The text does not say that Jephtah's daughter really was sacrificed,
> but there are clues that suggest othervise. The promise of Jephtah
> included two things, the person should be the property of YHWH, and
> s/he should be sacrificed.  Jephtah faught against the Ammonites who
> practiced human sacrifice to their god Molech. This was, according to
> the law, detestable for YHWH (Deut 18:9-12). When Samuel became the
> property of YHWH, animal sacrifices were offered up (1 Sam 1:11,
> 22-28). I therefore think that the understanding of the
> contemporaries of the writer of Judges, was that animal sacrifices
> were offered rather than Jephtah's daughter herself. This accords
> both with the phenomeon of speech that God (and other persons) are
> said to have done something when it actually is done by others
> ("indirect expression") the practice of redemption, a value or a
> price can be taken in the place of something else (e.g. money for the
> firstborn).
> Three clues in the account speaks in favor of this interpretation:
> 1) Jephtah's daughter did not weep because she thought she would die,
> but rather because she would never marry.
> 2) The words of 11:39 L) YD(H )Y$ most naturally refer to the time
> *after* her father had carried out his vow. If that was not the case
> the words would be superfluous, because she is specially said to have
> been a virgin (v 37).
> 3) The young Israelite women (her friends, mentioned in verse 37)
> went to Jephtah's daughter four days a year to speak to her. I take
> TNH in the same sense as it is used in 5:11 ("recount", "rehearse").
> This suggests that she was alive and served at the sanctuary as a
> "given one".
> Abraham's attempt to sacrifice Isaac was, according to the text,
> ordered by YHWH to test his faith, and it was, according to the text,
> never YHWH's intention that it should be carried out. So my
> understanding is that none of the writers of the books of the Tanach
> would condone human sacrifice.
> Regards
> Rolf
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
> >The rashness of Jephthah's vow comes across very clearly in the
> >as does the rashnes of Saul's in 1 Sam. 14. But there is no condemnation
> >the author, either overt or implied, of human sacrifice. The same goes
> >Saul's intention to sacrifice Jonathan - the people condemn the intention
> >sacrifice the hero of the day and redeem him, but nowhere is there
> >condemnation in principle  of human sacrifice. Likewise Gen. 22, the
> >of Isaac - the angel stops Abraham in the act of sacrifice and a ram is
> >discovered to take Isaac's place; but nowhere in the narrative is there
> >condemnation, neither overt nor implied, either by God or by the author
> >the very practice of human sacrifice.
> >---
> >Jonathan D. Safren
> >Dept. of Biblical Studies
> >Beit Berl College
> >
> >
> >----- Original Message -----
> >From: "Glenn Blank" <glennblank at>
> >To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
> >Sent: Saturday, January 26, 2002 2:24 PM
> >Subject: Re: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..
> >
> >
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>  ----------
> >>  >From: "Jonathan D. Safren" <yon_saf at>
> >>  >To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
> >>  >Subject: Re: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..
> >  > >Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2002 11:02:12 +0200
> >>  >
> >>  > The God who accepts human sacrifice in Jud. 11 is not the same God
> >>  forbids it in >Deuteronomy.
> >>
> >>  God accepting human sacrifice?  No, but a man who made a rash vow,
> >>  intending it to be a human sacrifice, but determined to keep his vow
> >the
> >  > letter.  Jud. 11 gives no indication of God's reaction to this
> >>
> >
> ---
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