The daughter of Jeftah died?

David Stabnow dstabno at
Mon Jun 3 17:42:44 EDT 2002

Steve Oren wrote: "I suspect what is bothering Liz is the assumption that
sacrificing a child is against Biblical Israaelite religion.  The trouble
is that while that assumption may be comforting to us (how many of us woule
sacrifice our only child even at his/her worst?), there is no particular
support for it."

DKS: Child sacrifice, at least by fire (which is what Jephthah did), is
prohibited in Deut 18:10 (see 2 Kgs 16:3; Ezek 16:21).

"THere is one child sacrifice story in Genesis, there is another in Kings
(which gets mentioned in Joshua) and there is Ezekial's comment (I think
chapter 22 but I don't have any texts before me) quoting Yahwah as saying
that he gave bad laws
to Israel by commanding them to sacrifice their first-born."

DKS: Yes, in Ezek 20:26 God, as judgment against sinful Israel, gave them
"not good" statutes and "ordinances by which they could not live."  This
was in place of the good statutes and the ordinances by which they could
live and prosper.  He gave them the "not good" ones so that they would
become horrified, and turn back to Him.

"THe editor includes this story because it shows Yiftah's relgious virtue
(and thus his fitness to lead Israel) as he keep his vow even when it led
in a direction he had not suspected."

DKS: That assumes his example is a good one for us to follow.  Another
possibility is that his example, and that of many others in Judges, are
examples of what we should not do.  Judges, in fact, is an example of
Yahwism turned on its head -- anti-Yahwism (I forget the respected scholar
who argued thus).  We should not use rash vows to try to get God to turn
events in our favor.  Rather, we should pray to and trust in God, then
perhaps make a considered vow to somehow honor Him in response.

It is also an example of the conundrum we can find ourselves in when we vow
rashly.  Better not to vow, than to vow and then go back on it (Qoh 5:5).
But for Jephthah what was better -- to go back on the vow, or to practice
child sacrifice?  His rash vow put him in a no-win situation.  It is an
illustration of Yahwism gone awry through the repeated apostasy of the

Dave Stabnow
Bible Translation Editor
Broadman & Holman Publishers
Nashville, Tennessee
david.stabnow at

    Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for God's glory.  (1 Cor 10:31, HCSB)

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