Jeftah's daughter - a misunderstanding?

Ewan MacLeod macleod_ewan at
Tue Jun 4 13:48:56 EDT 2002

On looking at the Hebrew text of Jephthah's vow, it seems to me that there 
is another explanation which has not been considered so far.

I believe the phrase 'vehaalitehu olah' should be translated as 'and I will 
offer him [i.e. God] a burnt offering.' Thus, Jephthah would be saying that 
he will dedicate whatever comes out of his house to God, but IN ADDITION, he 
will offer a burnt sacrifice.

If the text meant, 'and I will offer IT up FOR a burnt offering', wouldn't 
the 'olah' have to be le-olah, i.e. FOR a burnt offering? By omitting this, 
I think the Hebrew text is saying simply that Jephthah offered a burnt 
offering, PLUS he dedicated whatever came out of his house.

For example, Hannah dedicates Samuel to God, by offering him to temple 
service. Indeed, it is possible that Jephthah's daughter could still have 
been alive (although old) by the time Hannah made her vow. It would be nice 
to think that Jephthah's daughter would have looked after Samuel - after 
all, would Hannah want Eli, an old man, to look after him? Or those two 
notorious sons of his?

This may also explain why the daughters of Israel went up every year to 
bewail her virginity - i.e. she was still alive, in the temple, but never 
able to get married or have children.

Ewan MacLeod

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