on Judges 11 :40
To lament the daughter of Jephthah - I am satisfied that this is not a correct translation of the original לתנות לבת יפתח lethannoth lebath yiphtach. Houbigant translates the whole verse thus: Sed iste mos apud Israel invaluit, ut virgines Israel, temporibus diversis, irent ad filiam Jepthe-ut eam quotannis dies quatuor consolarentur; "But this custom prevailed in Israel that the virgins of Israel went at different times, four days in the year, to the daughter of Jephthah, that they might comfort her." This verse also gives evidence that the daughter of Jephthah was not sacrificed: nor does it appear that the custom or statute referred to here lasted after the death of Jephthah's daughter.
The following is Dr. Hales' exposition of Jephthah's vow: - "When Jephthah went forth to battle against the Ammonites, he vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, 'If thou wilt surely give the children of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatsoever cometh out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall either be the Lord's, or I will offer it up (for) a burnt-offering,' Judges 11:30, Judges 11:31. According to this rendering of the two conjunctions, ו vau in the last clause 'either,' 'or,'(which is justified by the Hebrew idiom thus, 'He that curseth his father and his mother,' Exodus 21:17, is necessarily rendered disjunctively, 'His father or his mother,' by the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldee, and English, confirmed by Matthew 15:4, the paucity of connecting particles in that language making it necessary that this conjunction should often be understood disjunctively), the vow consisted of two parts:
1. That what person soever met him should be the Lord's or be dedicated to his service; and,
2. That what beast soever met him, if clean, should be offered up for a burnt-offering unto the Lord.
"This rendering and this interpretation is warranted by the Levitical law about vows.
"The נדר neder, or vow, in general, included either persons, beasts, or things dedicated to the Lord for pious uses; which, if it was a simple vow, was redeemable at certain prices, if the person repented of his vow, and wished to commute it for money, according to the age or sex of the person, Leviticus 27:1-8 : this was a wise regulation to remedy rash vows. But if the vow was accompanied with חרם cherem, devotement, it was irredeemable, as in the following case, Leviticus 27:28.
"Notwithstanding, no devotement which a man shall devote unto the Lord, (either) of man, or beast, or of land of his own property, shall be sold or redeemed. Every thing devoted is most holy to the Lord.
"Here the three ו vaus in the original should necessarily be rendered disjunctively, or as the last actually is in our translation, because there are three distinct subjects of devotement to be applied to distinct uses, the man to be dedicated to the service of the Lord, as Samuel by his mother Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:11; the cattle, if clean, such as oxen, sheep, goats, turtle-doves, or pigeons, to be sacrificed; and if unclean, as camels, horses, asses, to be employed for carrying burdens in the service of the tabernacle or temple; and the lands, to be sacred property.
"This law therefore expressly applied in its first branch to Jephthah's case, who had devoted his daughter to the Lord, or opened his mouth to the Lord, and therefore could not go back, as he declared in his grief at seeing his daughter and only child coming to meet him with timbrels and dances: she was, therefore necessarily devoted, but with her own consent to perpetual virginity in the service of the tabernacle, Judges 11:36, Judges 11:37; and such service was customary, for in the division of the spoils taken in the first Midianitish war, of the whole number of captive virgins the Lord's tribute was thirty-two persons, Numbers 31:15-40. This instance appears to be decisive of the nature of her devotement.
"Her father's extreme grief on the occasion and her requisition of a respite for two months to bewail her virginity, are both perfectly natural. Having no other issue, he could only look forward to the extinction of his name or family; and a state of celibacy, which is reproachful among women everywhere, was peculiarly so among the Israelites, and was therefore no ordinary sacrifice on her part; who, though she generously gave up, could not but regret the loss of, becoming 'a mother in Israel.' And he did with her according to his vow which he had vowed, and she knew no man, or remained a virgin, all her life, Judges 11:34-39.
"There was also another case of devotement which was irredeemable, and follows the former, Leviticus 27:29. This case differs materially from the former.
"1. It is confined to Persons devoted, omitting beasts and lands.
2. It does not relate to private property, as in the foregoing. And,
3. The subject of it was to be utterly destroyed, instead of being most holy unto the Lord.
on Judges 11 :40
There is no allusion extant elsewhere to this annual lamentation of the untimely fate of Jephthah's daughter. But the poetical turn of the narrative suggests that it may be taken from some ancient song (compare the marginal note 4).
on Judges 11 :40