Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Story of Jephthah: Another Bible tale not for children.

You may remember that I once posted on how perplexing I find it that we have turned the story of Noah into a quaint children story. For some reason we create toys, wallpaper and other items with Noah's Ark on it without thinking about the fact that the story is about the near annihilation of humanity.

Another disturbing Bible story is that of Jephthah in Judges 11. Jephthah, you may remember, makes a vow to the Lord that if God gives him victory over the Ammonites he will sacrifice as a burnt offering the first thing that comes out of house when he returns home. And of course the first thing Jephthah sees is his daughter. The story is a bit disturbing because it suggests that a hero of Israel, who is empowered by God to conquer Israel's enemies, engages in human sacrifice to the Lord. As they say elsewhere in Judges "such a thing should not happen in Israel."

Well this is a story that has driven interpreters nuts, especially if they really don't want to believe that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter. The below cartoon gives an entertaining twist to a disturbing story. But it also tries to suggest that the text doesn't really mean what it says. For myself, I think he sacrificed his daughter. But watch the video and see what you think.

HT: Joel Watts


  1. Some interesting but dubious ideas around Lev 27, but the assertion that the daughter would have known about the vow runs counter to the narrative which has Jephthah making the vow after a journey and immediately prior to the battle. I think within Judges as a whole the the expectation is tragedy as everyone carries on without the benefit of either Moses or a King, so unfortunately J's daughter got sacrificed. Also video was unaware that J was probably expecting an animal to be let out from the house first thing in the morning rather than a person as sacrificing a servant is not much better.

  2. I watched the cartoon and Wow! Although I chuckled at the "sacrifice fly," I wonder whether there's a different point here altogether: assuming that Jephthah made the oath in public, that he would be so vain as to value his honor above the life of his daughter (shades of Herod, Salome, and John the Baptist); or that he would be so cowardly (fearing that the LORD would "smite" him if he broke his oath) as to say essentially "here, LORD, take her, not me!"

    In either case, regardless of whether the daughter was manipulative or pure and innocent, Jephthah did what Herod did, and the Pharisees, and all of us do at times, except Jesus - He put himself and his own safety and pride above even the life of his daughter, and tried to call on the Lord as his accomplice through the oath.