Judges11:29-40

I am a Catholic struggling right now with some incidents in the Old Testament.

This is one of the examples. Judges 11:29-40

It is the story of Jephthah and how he made a vow to God saying that he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house if God would deliver the Ammonites into his hands. He wins the battle and when he comes home the first thing that comes out of his house is his only child - his daughter.

The daughter agrees to this, but asks that she be given time to go mourn her virginity in the woods, which she does. When she comes back, he sacrifices her.

What is the meaning of this scripture? And how can I justify it to someone who challenges the justice of God?

I think the last verse of the book kind of sums up what’s happening in Judges.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21

SOMEHOW, I don’t know how, or even
if I’m anywhere correct, but I feel like I am seeing
a type for Mary. :confused:

On the off chance I’m way off base**…**SOMEONE
PLEASE POINT IT OUT!!!

I think it’s important to note that God isn’t just a third party referenced here. It says the spirit of the Lord came to Jephthah just before making the vow, and it also says that the Lord delivered the Ammonites to Jephthah after he made that vow.

D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

haydock1859.tripod.com/id575.html

I think that every female OT protagonist or good character, in a way, is a type of Mary.

PS. It appears we share an affinity for near kinsman of The Lord. :thumbsup:

I am as puzzled too. Sorry can’t help you here.:tanning:

Thistle,

Thank you for this. It was interesting if not a little difficult to read through bec of the lack of formatting.

I understand that God is the Almighty, Creator of All, and that when He takes a life He is just bec He is able to give the everlasting soul it’s justice. But this is very hard to explain to an atheist. The idea of being careful when you make an oath to God is made very important in the passage. It might be a good reading for a wedding ;).

I also watched a video posted by a priest talking about violence in the Bible and how to better understand it. Still hard to explain to an atheist, but helped me very much.

This is a passage I struggle with, too. :thumbsup:

There are four possible explanations. I’ll list them all, and tell you which one I favour.

  1. The reference is to an actual human sacrifice; Jephthah, influenced by Canaanite culture, decides to sacrifice his daughter. This is not unlikely given (a) the lawless nature of the historical period of the Judges, where all did as they pleased, and (b) the frequent references to the Israelites’ adopting Canaanite ways. The Orthodox Study Bible adopts this view, and sees Jephthah’s daughter as a virtuous martyr, a type for future virgin martyrs. This view is adopted by most older commentators, as well as some modern Bibles (Jerusalem, New Jerusalem). The problems with this are: (a) if Jephthah performed a banned human sacrifice, why is he listed as a model of faith in Hebrews 11? and (b) accepting this interpretation negates the entire point of Genesis 22, as well as the Mosaic code against human sacrifice. The traditional answer to these objections is that “God, the author of life, could dispense with his law” (Challoner), but that’s not entirely satisfactory; God would not dispense with His law, but fulfill it.

  2. The reference is to a vow of consecrated virginity; Jephthah cannot offer a literal burnt offering (which would be unlawful under Mosaic law), but has to dedicate his daughter to the service of God. Since she is his only child, this means that his bloodline will die out. This explains why she mourns her virginity, and also explains why the sacred author does not say outright that Jephthah killed her. This explanation is consistent with Hebrews 11, Genesis 22, the Mosaic law, and it also makes Jephthah’s daughter a type of the Most Blessed Virgin. The trouble with this explanation is: (a) we don’t know if consecrated virginity was a practice in those days (though a child could be dedicated to God and separated from his family, as Samuel was), and (b) this is a fairly modern conception, disliked by more “traditional” commentators. I personally favour this view.

  3. The story is a folk-tale or legend, invoked to explain a festival held by the Israelites. This is a non-explanation; if the festival isn’t held for Jephthah’s daughter, who is it held for? Apart from “liberal” Bible scholars, no one takes this seriously.

  4. (Possibly the worst) The vow was published by Jephthah in public - this is never stated in the Bible, and is read into the text - and his daugher is flaunting her power over him by dancing like a Canaanite (the author of this theory forgets that even Miriam danced with a tambourine to celebrate Moses’ victory). This interpretation is even more execrable than the “folk-tale” view, and is included merely to show how some Protestant scholars indulge in (a) far-fetched eisegesis, and (b) character assassination of Biblical figures such as Jephthah’s daughter.

Take your pick. :smiley:

The problem is that (as far as I know) that there is no record of any kind of a burnt offering other than a literal one. I don’t know of any time where the term was used as a figure of speech.

This site, which gets its entries from the Modern Catholic Dictionary, reads the verses as a literal sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter.

Option 2 feels more like a reading with a pre-desired outcome than what one gets by just reading the passage straight. I think the OP has to tackle the verses head-on as written, with all of the unfortunate implications that come with it.

Just because an immoral act occured in the Bible doesn’t mean that the LORD endorsed it. Despite the beliefs of the writer.

The Bible says the spirit of God came to Jephthah just before he made his vow. It also says that God gave him victory over the Ammonites. It doesn’t say it was a coincidence or that it just happened. It specifically says the God was inovolved and did what was asked of him.

At no point does the Bible say that God said or did anything to prevent the daughter from being sacrificed. He didn’t tell Jephthah that he could not abide by such a deal. He didn’t give a sign to Jephthah warning him of what he was doing. He didn’t fail to give the Ammonites to Jephthah. On the contrary, he was an active participant both before and after the vow.

Not only that, God is said to be all-knowing. He would have known that the first thing to greet Jephthah was his only daughter. Assuming this was real. even before Jepthah uttered a word God knew the outcome and allowed (encouraged?) a girl to be sacrificed in his name.

If a friend of mine were to plead with me for whatever reason and promised me something (or someone) that went against my moral code, I would turn him down. If I didn’t realize the full extant of what was promised to me until after I agreed to the deal, I would not accept the offer. I might ask for something else or nothing at all. I certainly would want to be a part of an agreement that hindered another man’s health, stability, or family. I most certainly wouldn’t want to be associated with a bargain of death.

Look up “holocaust”. You might be surprised. :smiley:

This site, which gets its entries from the Modern Catholic Dictionary, reads the verses as a literal sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter.

This is a point about which there is legitimate disagreement among Catholic exegetes. Even the Haydock Commentary, which is over a century old and certainly not “liberal”, considers the figurative option seriously.

Option 2 feels more like a reading with a pre-desired outcome than what one gets by just reading the passage straight.

Not necessarily; remember St. Augustine’s admonition to read Scripture in accordance with the law of charity.

I think the OP has to tackle the verses head-on as written, with all of the unfortunate implications that come with it.

No, I think the OP must read it in the context of the entire Bible.

Genesis 22: God stops Abraham from literally offering his son as a burnt offering.
Leviticus, Deuteronomy: Child sacrifice is an abomination.
Entire Pentateuch: “Do not follow the ways of the Canaanites”.
1 and 2 Kings: The Israelite kings who practiced human sacrifice are condemned as evil.
Micah 6: “Should I offer human sacrifice? No, you must walk humbly with God”.
Hebrews: Jephthah is cited as a model of faith, along with David, Samuel, etc.

The fact is that we have no idea what happened 3,200 years ago. It’s easy to look at the ancient Israelites through our modern eyes and think “OMG, they were so barbaric!!11 They burnt their children alive!!1” :smiley: The fact is that, when it comes to murdering innocent children, modern civilization is far ahead of even the Canaanites. Bashing Jephthah and his daughter isn’t going to change that ugly fact.

While I don’t see any encouragement on God’s part in the passage, I do recognize the fact that God must have known who was going to come out first.

But Jepthe must have know that he was promising to sacrifice a human, unless there are a lot of animals coming out of his house. And I Ning here in lies the problem. Both God and Jepthe know that a human is going to come out of the house, but perhaps Jepthe is counting on it being one of his servants that he is promising to sacrifice.

When you make a vow to give something to God, you need to expect to be giving your most precious, not most common, sacrifice.

As far as the morality of the passage goes, Father Barron - on YouTube - spoke about looking at the scriptures from the point of view of Christ. He referenced passage in Rev. That spoke of the seven seals on the scroll, the scroll being the The Bible, and the One to break the seals was the land standing as if wounded - Christ.

When it is put into this perspective, all suffering and all life takes on a different meaning. If the girl died, her suffering was justified, and her soul did not perish. We as men have trouble understanding sometimes that death is not the end, and is doesn’t even begin to be the ultimate in suffering. Jepthe made a kind of “unholy” vow and suffered for it, but he suffered justly - that is, he stuck to his promise even when it was his only child, the most precious thing he had, that he gave up. A vow to God is a vow to be kept.

It reminds me of David and the baby he fathered. When the baby fell ill and faced death he refused to eat and mourned his child and the “unholy” union that created it. But when the baby finally passed he quite his fast and moved on. The time for suffering was over, and the baby was now in peace, an end we all should hope for.

Let’s assume that your definition of holocaust used in the quoted verses is the one Jephthah meant. Now assume that a calf was the first thing to walk out to greet him. Would Jephthah had to have assured that the calf didn’t mate ever again?

What if DanielJT is right and that Jephthah expected a slave to greet him? Would that slave have been required to maintain virginity and not be sacrificed? What if the slave wasn’t a virgin? Would Jephthah have had to do nothing?

No, you can’t just consider the one thing that in the end greeted him. You also have to take into account all of the things that Jephthah thought would have greeted him when you define what the verses say. The only definition is one of deathly sacrifice.

No, I think the OP must read it in the context of the entire Bible.

Genesis 22: God stops Abraham from literally offering his son as a burnt offering.
Leviticus, Deuteronomy: Child sacrifice is an abomination.
Entire Pentateuch: “Do not follow the ways of the Canaanites”.
1 and 2 Kings: The Israelite kings who practiced human sacrifice are condemned as evil.
Micah 6: “Should I offer human sacrifice? No, you must walk humbly with God”.
Hebrews: Jephthah is cited as a model of faith, along with David, Samuel, etc.

Yes, it’s a biblical contradiction to have God allow the sacrifice of a human yet speak out against it.You can’t say there can’t be a contradiction solely by showing that it would be a contradiction. When the only logical conclusion, one that doesn’t twist the meaning of words, is that God allowed and possibly encouraged Jephthah to make a vow of sacrifice then no amount of other verses can negate that.

The fact is that we have no idea what happened 3,200 years ago. It’s easy to look at the ancient Israelites through our modern eyes and think “OMG, they were so barbaric!!11 They burnt their children alive!!1” :smiley:

I’m not here to knock the Israelites or even Jephthah (assuming he was real). My point of contention is that in the Bible God supported human sacrifice. When the OP says he/she is having trouble with the verses at hand, it’s important that he/she doesn’t brush aside God’s part in it.

The fact is that, when it comes to murdering innocent children, modern civilization is far ahead of even the Canaanites.

And the Canaanites are welllll second of the God character :smiley:

How about this: if it was an animal (a “clean” one), the sacrifice would have been acceptable. What if it had been a dog or a donkey (“unclean” animals)? There’s more going on than we see on the surface here.

What if DanielJT is right and that Jephthah expected a slave to greet him? Would that slave have been required to maintain virginity and not be sacrificed? What if the slave wasn’t a virgin? Would Jephthah have had to do nothing?

Human sacrifice was banned in the Israelite law, period. Whether it was a slave or a daughter would be immaterial.

No, you can’t just consider the one thing that in the end greeted him. You also have to take into account all of the things that Jephthah thought would have greeted him when you define what the verses say. The only definition is one of deathly sacrifice.

That’s your opinion. :slight_smile:

My point of contention is that in the Bible God supported human sacrifice.

No; it is condemned in both the Law and the Prophets.

And the Canaanites are welllll second of the God character :smiley:

Funny, but inaccurate. :smiley:

So the meaning of the word is completely different depending on the species? You never answered the question. Let’s say an unclean animal (or a non-virign human) walked through the door first. What would Jephthah had to have done to fulfill the vow to God? No, instead of making an unsatisfying definition that only creates more questions, it’s far more simple and likely that the burnt offering was a very literal burnt offering.

Human sacrifice was banned in the Israelite law, period. Whether it was a slave or a daughter would be immaterial.

Right, I agree that a part of the Bible forbids human sacrifice. The problem is that we can’t just throw out the plain meaning of words and the most likely and sensible explanation solely because it would cause a contradiction. We can’t assume there isn’t a biblical contradiction without some modicum of evidence. The fact that you presuppose the Bible is without contradiction isn’t evidence of lack of contradiction.

That’s your opinion. :slight_smile:

And I stand by it! :wink: Also my opinions on music, politics, technology, and adorable puppies are available at a reasonable price.:twocents:

Funny, but inaccurate. :smiley:

I don’t recall the story of the Caananite killing all of humanity minus eight people. :stuck_out_tongue:

You have a very interesting insight here. Please do you know the passage from Revelation Father Barron was refering to. It is interesting to see Revelation interpted as revealing the past, not the future as my Protestant friends seem to want to do.

It’s chapter 5.

I understand your frustration. Revelation is not just prophecy, it’s so much more.

Thanks James I am going back to read that Chapter of Revelation. Revelation was the second book on my “Bible Bucket List”. I read it last June, and I frankly didn’t see it as "revealing a particular date for the end of the world.
I am taking the Ascension Press Bible Timeline Bible Study and we have just passed this section of the Bible and as always we read sections of the New Testament. The focus of the study is to get the big picture. Unfortunately, I do not have a big screen brain :smiley:
Thanks again for the citation

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.