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Dealing with Jephthah

Bri.777

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So there is an event in the Bible that, very recently, has continued to greatly unnerve me. This is the story of Jephthah and his daughter in the Book of Judges. Jephthah was the Judge of Israel, and he had made a vow to God that if he, leading the Israelites, had achieved victory over the warring Ammonites, that "whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (Judges 11:31). When the Israelites were victorious over the Ammonites, Jephthah returned home, and saw his daughter come out from their home to meet him. This saddened him, as he had made a vow, and now he feels as though he must offer up his daughter as a burnt sacrifice. His daughter says to him “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites." (Judges 11:36). Afterwards, the text tells us that Jephthah did in fact, end up sacrificing his daughter, and then after that, was created the tradition "that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite." (Judges 11:40).

Now, nowhere in the text does it tell us that God commanded or approved of this action. In fact, according to the Mosaic Law's statement on human sacrifice in Deuteronomy 18:10, the Law of Israel condemned human sacrifice, and God looked down upon such a vile practice. However, and this is where my main issue comes from, in Hebrews 11:32, Jephthah is exalted, alongside Gideon, Barak, Samson, David, and Samuel, as being among the heroes of the Faith. Alongside that, according to Wikipedia, Jephthah is honored in the Commemoration Day of the Holy Forefathers on July 26 in the Armenian Orthodox Church (if he is honored in feast days of other Churches, I am not aware of it, I am just currently aware of it being done in the Armenian Orthodox Church). I know that the Old Testament is filled with people who are far from perfect, such as Moses striking the rock out of anger, Samson revealing his secret to Delilah, Solomon converting to Paganism and sleeping around with multiple women, etc., but Jephthah's case of burning his daughter is way more rash and terrible than those examples. I just can't understand how Jephthah can be honored in the Book of Hebrews, as well as some Church traditions, when he committed such an awful crime. I don't mean to give off the impression that I have better judgement than those that are more authoritative than I am, I'm just confused and frustrated as to why this is. Can anyone give an explanation for this?

(Also, I'm familiar with the interpretation that Jephthah didn't literally sacrifice her as a burnt offering, but instead, offered her as a spiritual sacrifice, and making a vow that she will remain a virgin for her life, and be dedicated to the Lord. However, the Church Fathers seem to interpret it literally, that Jephthah did in fact burn his daughter, so even though the "spiritual sacrifice" interpretation is a WAY more assuring and pleasant view, I just can't find the will to see it in that interpretation, as the Fathers did not see it that way.)
 

sestir

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Interesting question! I was going to write:
Not pretending to have the answer but, the Hebrew word is עֹולָֽה which would be pronounced like the prefixes used in LXX ὁλοκαύτωμα and related LXX coinages.
But BDAG derives it from ὁλος + καίω (whole + burn), referring to A Deismann on the subject of word formation, so my assumption (pun not intended) may be wrong. Anyway...

The suffix suggests something being burnt. Could -καύτωμα be an interpolation made in translation because olah were usually burnt?

עלה is also a verb. It seems to be used about animal sex. For example BDB (p748, 3) lists Genesis 31:10,12. She goes to lament, not her death, but her virginity. You seem so sure that she was actually burnt that I wonder if you have considered the underlying Hebrew. Can the statements by the Fathers take on another meaning if the actual sacrifice was her child bearing?
 

Bri.777

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Interesting question! I was going to write:
Not pretending to have the answer but, the Hebrew word is עֹולָֽה which would be pronounced like the prefixes used in LXX ὁλοκαύτωμα and related LXX coinages.
But BDAG derives it from ὁλος + καίω (whole + burn), referring to A Deismann on the subject of word formation, so my assumption (pun not intended) may be wrong. Anyway...

The suffix suggests something being burnt. Could -καύτωμα be an interpolation made in translation because olah were usually burnt?

עלה is also a verb. It seems to be used about animal sex. For example BDB (p748, 3) lists Genesis 31:10,12. She goes to lament, not her death, but her virginity. You seem so sure that she was actually burnt that I wonder if you have considered the underlying Hebrew. Can the statements by the Fathers take on another meaning if the actual sacrifice was her child bearing?
I am not very good with the Hebrew terminology. Are these words the ones used in the passages in Judges talking about Jephthah? In regards to whether Jephthah sacrificed his daughter as a literal burnt offering, or merely sacrificed her child bearing, I only affirm the former due to its support by the Church Fathers. I would much rather believe in the Spiritual Sacrifice narrative, though. Maybe there could be another meaning if the sacrifice was for child bearing, I'm just a little cautious disagreeing with what most of them who wrote on the subject agreed upon, even if the other option is much more pleasant.
 

Arachne

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Contemporary Jewish analysis here:

 

Luke

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King David is usually praised, although he did not do well with Bathsheba and Uriah. Hebrews 11;32 is not emphasizing that Jephthah is great because he made a rash vow. The emphasis is that he believed the Lord.
 

Bri.777

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King David is usually praised, although he did not do well with Bathsheba and Uriah. Hebrews 11;32 is not emphasizing that Jephthah is great because he made a rash vow. The emphasis is that he believed the Lord.
Interesting. I know King David had repented of his deed involving Bathsheba and Uriah. Do we know if Jephthah had repented? I remember reading a Church Father commentary touching on something of that matter. I believe it was either St. Augustine or St. Jerome who did so.
 

sestir

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Are these words the ones used in the passages in Judges talking about Jephthah?
Yes...
Jephtah — Judges 11:31
וְהַעְלִיתִהוּ עֹולָה - The verb here is supposed to be a form of עלה which I mentioned above.
ἀνοίσω ὁλοκαύτωμα

Israel under Hoshea & Amon — 2 Kings 17:17; 23:10
וַיַעְבִירוּ בָּאֵשׁ
διῆγον/διάγειν ἐν πυρὶ

Manasseh — 2 Kings 21:6
וְהֶעֱבִיר בָּאֵשׁ
διῆγεν ἐν πυρὶ

אֵשׁ = πῦρ = fire
בּאֵשׁ ≈ ἐν πυρὶ ≈ in/into/among/with fire

Jeremiah 7:31 (also Jer 19:5)
לִשְׂרֹף בָּאֵשׁ
κατακαίειν ἐν πυρί

Jeremiah 7:22
עֹולָה וָזָבַח
ὁλοκαυτωμάτων καὶ θυσίας

If Fathers have commented on Jeremiah chapter 7, it might shed some light.
 

hecma925

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Sacrificing a person is not outside the realm of possibility when God Himself told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
 

bwallace23350

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Sacrificing a person is not outside the realm of possibility when God Himself told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
God stopped Abraham. It was a test for him. God in the Old Testament condemned Israel for worshipping Baal and practicing child sacrifice. For some reason I think he could have asked for forgiveness for his rash and sinful oath and been ok
 

hecma925

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God stopped Abraham. It was a test for him. God in the Old Testament condemned Israel for worshipping Baal and practicing child sacrifice. For some reason I think he could have asked for forgiveness for his rash and sinful oath and been ok
God didn't have to if He wanted.
 

Bri.777

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Thanks for your replies everyone, they were greatly appreciated. I just wanted to give an update, that this issue no longer bothers me. I basically looked at every article on Jephthah and found more than was necessary lol. This article set a particularly good viewpoint on the matter: http://www.rbvincent.com/BibleStudies/jephthah.htm
.
Thank you all. God bless!
 
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