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ever” as less natural. The whole is like an expedient to get rid of a difficulty.
4. Another translation is, “whosoever cometh out of the doors of
my house to meet me when I return in peace from the children of Ammon shall be the Lord's, and I will offer him
for a burnt-offering.” This is the most natural translation of the Hebrew words. It is confirmed by the LXX. and Vulgate. Jephthah is thus supposed to have had in his thoughts a human being, a man, more distinctly than any other being coming forth from his house. He vows that whoever of his household should come forth to meet him should be the Lord's. But this was indeterminate, because the first-born were already the Lord's, as also such as were set apart for the service of the sanctuary. Hence he obviates all doubt or uncertainty by adding, and I will offer him up for a burnt-offering. The idea that a human sacrifice was intended by Jephthah is the plain sense of his vow.
Did he actually offer his daughter as a burnt-offering? It is conceivable that he did not actually execute the vow, in the sense which was intended at its utterance. Accordingly some suppose that in the interval of the two months' respite which he besought, he had come to the conviction that the vow in its literal sense was not obligatory. He did to her what was equivalent to his original vow—what was accepted in lieu of it; that is, he devoted her to perpetual virginity in the service of the sanctuary. We believe that this fulfilment of the vow was a new idea till the time of Moses Kimchi. The ancient Jews and Christians never thought otherwise than that the daughter was sacrificed ; and therefore they did not hesitate to censure the father for such an act. Since Kimchi, many Protestant scholars have embraced the new view. It has even been defended by Bush and Hengstenberg. The grounds however on which they rest are insufficient, and the plain sense of the record is adverse. Thus it is alleged
(a) That it is not expressly stated she was offered up for a burnt-offering; on the contrary it is said of the father, “He did with her according to his vow, and she knew no man,” as if the latter phrase were intended to be explanatory of the manner in which the doing of the vow was accomplished—viz., by devoting her to a life of celibacy. If she were really put to death, it is asked, why is the fact of her death not once spoken of ? But if she were only doomed to a state of perpetual virginity, the reason of the expression," he did with her according to his vow," is obvious. To this reasoning it may be replied, that if the true sense of the vow be, that whoever came 1 Bush's Notes on the Books of Joshua and Judges, pp. 317, 318, New York,
forth from Jephthah's house was to be offered for a burntoffering, it was not necessary to say, "he offered her up for a burnt-offering to the Lord,” because “he did with her according to his vow” was precisely equivalent. The proper sense of the one takes along with it that of the other, so as to render superfluous any statement to the effect that he offered her up for a burnt-offering to the Lord. Because he plainly vowed to offer her up for a burnt-offering to the Lord, it was unnecessary to repeat the words. He did with her according to his vou varies the expression, while it bears the same sense. The phrase, and she knew no man, mentions the consequence of her being offered, and shews the greatness of the sacrifice she submitted to. She cheerfully bore the reproach of having arrived at a marriageable age without being married.
(6) We are also told that it does not appear by whose hands such a sacrifice could have been offered. Not by the bigh priest, because of the explicit prohibitions of the Mosaic law. Not by Jephthah himself, for this would have been a transgression of the Levitical law. Not at Shiloh in the tribe of Ephraim, where the tabernacle was at this time; because after the conclusion of the war with the Ammonites we find Jephthah engaged in a bitter war with the Ephraimites. Hence he could not have gone
into the heart of that tribe to offer such a sacrifice, even if it had been lawful. In answer to this we remark, that although human sacrifices were strictly forbidden by the law of Moses, there is nothing in the transaction to shew that Jephthah did not transgress the law. In the time of the Judges the law was not strictly or commonly followed. The people generally were by no means religious or orderly. Indeed they were the very reverse. We do not hesitate therefore to affirm, that Jephthah himself may have sacrificed his daughter. His character does not contradict that supposition, for he was evidently a rough soldier or bandit. The thing is related as extraordinary. It was an unusual occurrence, the memory of which had sunk deep into the hearts of the people, and appeared worthy of perpetuation by a yearly festival in the nation. The national deliverance had been purchased at a dear cost; and there was much of the heroic in a daughter who consented to die for the deliverance of her people.
(c) A thing so horrible as the sacrifice of a daughter could not have been the subject of a national feast of honour and joy. So Hengstenberg affirms, as if the people of Israel could have looked at the thing from our stand-point-a people who lived among the Canaanites and fell into their idolatrous worship,
1 Bush's Notes on the Books of Joshua and Judges, p. 318. 2 Die Authentie des Pentateuches, vol. ii. pp. 147, 148.
part of which consisted in human sacrifices; or as if the festival had been instituted in remembrance of Jephthah's deed, rather than the daughter's conduct. Besides, it is not intimated that the festival was a joyful one. It was the opposite.
(d) The same critic states, that Jephthah's daughter only bewailed her celibacy, whereas in the immediate prospect of death, she would have thought of death alone, or at least of death before every thing else. The record however is very short ; and the words of the daughter, which cover over and conceal as it were her impending death, are really more eloquent than mere complaints and exclamations, as Bertheau has remarked.
(e) Jephthah vows his daughter to the Lord ; but of vows in relation to human sacrifice, we (or rather the Mosaic law) know nothing. Such is another argument of Hengstenberg's. But the law in Lev. xxvii. 2-8 which prescribes the redemption of persons devoted to God, i.e., persons designed for sacrifice, presupposes the frequency of such vows. It is true that they could be redeemed with money, according to the Mosaic law; but the history given in the Book of Judges shews how often the law was broken.
(f) It has been asked, supposing that Jephthah at the time of making his vow had no distinct recollection or knowledge of the law in Leviticus which permitted a ransom to be given for the devoted person, Is it conceivable that when the execution of it was postponed for two months, and the affair had become notorious throughout the nation, being the subject of general discussion and great lamentation, there was no person in Israel who once thought of this law? Would not the agonised father, besides devoting to it his own intensest study, consult the priests on the subject? And would not the priests acquaint him with the provisions of the law in reference to a case of casuistry like the present? And what would naturally be the result? Could he fail to come to the conclusion that such a sacrifice as he first intended was not only unlawful, but in the face of the numerous pointed prohibitions against it, would amount to nothing short of downright murder ?? This and similar reasoning proceeds on an erroneous or very imperfect view of the times and the law. It supposes that the latter was written just as we now have it; though all internal evidence is adverse. It had not then been committed to writing, and may not have been known. As to the agonised father consulting the priests and their making him acquainted with the law, the thing is very improbable ; for the priests were ignorant, and Jephthah was not a person likely to become agonised or distracted for the
1 Die Authentie des Pentateuches, vol. ii. p. 147. ? See Bush's Notes on Judges, p. 319.
space of two months. Many readers seem to have a very im. perfect apprehension of the father's disposition. Dwelling upon the idea that he was pious, they join with this the phrase, “then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah ” (xi. 29), and infer that he could not commit such a deed as sacrificing his daughter, or even utter a vow including human sacrifice. They forget the nature of the period in which he lived—a degenerate and lawless one—the district in which he was brought up, beyond Jordan, far from the tabernacle; the heathen race with whom he must have been associated, as well as the freebooters of his own nation who lived by rapine and violence, and to whom he was well known. In such circumstances it is only natural to think, that his knowledge of good was very limited, and his piety greatly debased by superstition. The Spirit of God did not prevent him from falling into grievous sin, or miraculously transform his disposition at once. It gave him a strong impulse to undertake the deliverance of Israel, and braced him for the work. His piety was that of his own day and time not of ours.
In reviewing the whole account, we cannot hesitate to believe that Jephthah offered up his daughter in sacrifice in accordance with his vow, thinking that such an offering was propitious to Jehovah. In that he was mistaken. He acted as the rugged leader of such freebooters as he had before been wont to lead would naturally do. Having promised, under a superstitious impulse, he would not draw back or retract, even though his only daughter was the victim.
XI. CHRONOLOGY OF THE Book.—The chronology of the book is surrounded with difficulties. This arises from various
It is most likely that some judges were contemporary, ruling over different districts at the same time and not in succession. Again, the dates of particular events are not always given (comp. iii. 31), and it is not unlikely that there is a chasm between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel. Besides, round numbers are occasionally employed, as is inferred from the fact that forty appears four times.
From Othniel to Samson is 410 years, reckoning all the numbers expressly given. It is apparent, however, that this number is too great, because Jephthah reckons 300 years from the conquest of eastern Jordan to his own time (xi. 26); whereas from Joshua's death till Jephthah's own day about 300 years elapsed, according to this book. Again, 1 Kings vi. 1 makes the interval from the Exodus to the foundation of Solomon's temple 480 years. The contemporaneousness of several judges is a very probable hypothesis for reducing the whole period. Bertheau, dissatisfied with this solution, proposes
another, according to which two methods of computation are mixed up with one another in the book; one indefinite, according to the generations of man reckoned at forty years each ; another definite and specific. Both methods may be united, the contemporaneous one and Bertheau's. Six periods of forty years each—viz., Othniel forty, Ehud eighty, Barak forty, Gideon forty, the servitude under the Philistines forty, into which Samson's falls-make 240 years. The other numbers are parallel ones, indicating times contemporaneous with these leading ages. The number 240 agrees pretty well with 480 in 1 Kings vi. 1, and 300 in Judg. xi. 6. Bunsen supposes that the Judges-period was not so long-only 187 years ;? while others who attach authority to Josephus and St. Paul in this matter (Acts xiii. 20) are disposed to extend the period over 450 years, to the violation of 480 in 1 Kings vi., which is thus arbitrarily altered. The usual computation of the whole period from Joshua to Eli is 299 years, which is at least more probable than the estimate of Hales and others. Keil's investigations, ingenious and elaborate though they be, have contributed nothing towards a satisfactory settlement of the question ; and it is better to abandon thë attempt than make assumptions in place of absent data.
1 Das Buch der Richter und Rut, Einleitung, p. xviii. et seqq. 2 Bibelwerk I., 1. p. ccxxxiii. et seqq. 3 In the Dorpat theologische Beiträge, II. p. 303 et seqq.