SV: The daughter of Jeftah died?

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Mon Sep 30 10:52:07 EDT 2002

> > You have the sequence of events backwards.  The battle came first,
> > then the problem with his daughter.  In addition, Jephthah did not
> > specifically say he would sacrifice his daughter, he said "whatever
> > comes out of the house first."  Only when his child came out first did
> > he realize how rash his vow was.  IMNSHO he was a fool to keep it,
> > but I think the text strongly suggests that he did.
> It is interesting to compare Ps 15.1, 4:
> O Lord, who shall sojourn in thy tent?
> Who shall dwell on thy holy hill?
> ......[him] who honors those who fear the Lord;
> who swears to his own hurt and does not change..."
> You must remember the stigma attached to the sponsor of the vow if a person
> failed to fulfil a vow. Since Jephthah had made an oath in Yahweh's name, his
> failure to fulfil the oath would have resulted in personal dishonour to Yahweh.
> Thus, you can understand why the text (including the New Testament) sees
> Jephthah as a hero, despite the moral dilemma he was in.

I think the reason the New Testament lists him among the greats in 
Hebrews 11 is because of his military victory ("who through faith 
conquered kingdoms," v. 33) and not because of his oath.  If one 
glances at the list there, it's clear that some of these folks are on the 
list in spite of their mistakes.  Jephthah appears to be no exception.

> The foolishness of Jephthah's vow is that he made it when he had all but won
> victory. He did not need to make the vow. But, being so close to victory, he
> made the vow as a thanksgiving to his God. As you read the vow in Hebrew, the
> vow is perfect except for the last two words:
> weha`liytihu `olah (and I will offer it up as an incineration offering).

An excellent point.  I hadn't considered the idea that a vow was 
extraneous at that point, but I think you're right.  We might compare 
this rash oath of his with that of Saul when he forbade his army to 
eat or drink.  The interesting contrast is that Saul relented, both 
when he saw that it was a foolish vow and when he saw that it would 
cost Jonathan's life, and AFAIK he is never called on the carpet for 
backing away from the oath.

> When his daughter greets him on his return, Jephthah realises that these last
> two words should not have slipped from his mouth. Notice the expression he uses
> to describe the vow:
> paciyti-piy el-yhwh (I breached my mouth to YHWH).
> In other words, Jephthah realised that he had let something slip that he should
> not have. It was a quick outburst from which he could not recoil. Hence, he was
> obliged to carry through with the terrible demand.

I wonder if that phrase could be considered a Hebrew equivalent of 
"Me and my big mouth!" ????

Dave Washburn
"Don't let your mind wander.  
It's too little to be left alone."

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