Verse 40. "To lament the daughter of Jephthah" - I am satisfied that this is not a correct translation of the original twntl jtpy tbl 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,' ver. 30, 31. According to this rendering of the two conjunctions, w vau in the last clause 'either,' 'or,' (which is justified by the Hebrew idiom thus, 'He that curseth his father and his mother,' Exod. xxi. 17, is necessarily rendered disjunctively, 'His father or his mother,' by the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldee, and English, confirmed by Matt. xv. 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 rdn 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, Lev. xxvii. 1-8: this was a wise regulation to remedy rash vows. But if the vow was accompanied with µrj cherem, devotement, it was irredeemable, as in the following case, Lev. xxvii. 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 w 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 Sam. i. 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, ver. 36, 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, Num. xxxi. 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, ver. 34-39. "There was also another case of devotement which was irredeemable, and follows the former, Lev. xxvii. 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. This law, therefore, related to aliens, or public enemies devoted to destruction either by GOD, the people, or by the magistrate. Of all these we have instances in Scripture. "1. The Amalekites and Canaanites were devoted by God himself. Saul was, therefore, guilty of a breach of the law for sparing Agag the king of the Amalekites, as Samuel reproached him, 1 Sam. xv. x23: 'And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord;' not as a sacrifice, according to Voltaire, but as a criminal, whose sword had made many women childless.
By this law the Midianitish women who had been spared in battle were slain, Num. xxxi. 14-17. "2. In Mount Hor, when the Israelites were attacked by Arad, king of the southern Canaanites, who took some of them prisoners, they vowed a vow unto the Lord that they would utterly destroy the Canaanites and their cities, if the Lord should deliver them into their hand, which the Lord ratified; whence the place was called Hormah, because the vow was accompanied by cherem, or devotement to destruction, Num. xxi. 1-3; and the vow was accomplished, chap. i. 17.
"3. In the Philistine war Saul adjured the people, and cursed any one who should taste food till the evening. His own son Jonathan inadvertently ate a honey-comb, not knowing his father's oath, for which Saul sentenced him to die. But the people interposed, and rescued him for his public services; thus assuming the power of dispensing, in their collective capacity, with an unreasonable oath. This latter case, therefore, is utterly irrelative to Jephthah's vow, which did not regard a foreign enemy or a domestic transgressor devoted to destruction, but on the contrary was a vow of thanksgiving, and therefore properly came under the former case.
And that Jephthah could not possibly have sacrificed his daughter, (according to the vulgar opinion,) may appear from the following considerations: - "1. The sacrifice of children to Molech was an abomination to the Lord, of which in numberless passages he expresses his detestation, and it was prohibited by an express law, under pain of death, as a defilement of God's sanctuary, and a profanation of his holy name, Lev. xx. 2, 3. Such a sacrifice, therefore, unto the Lord himself, must be a still higher abomination, and there is no precedent of any such under the law in the OLD TESTAMENT. "2. The case of Isaac before the law is irrelevant, for Isaac was not sacrificed, and it was only proposed for a trial of Abraham's faith. "3. No father, merely by his own authority, could put an offending, much less an innocent, child to death upon any account, without the sentence of the magistrate, (Deut. xxi. 18-21,) and the consent of the people, as in Jonathan's case. "4. The Mischna, or traditional law of the Jews is pointedly against it; ver. 212. 'If a Jew should devote his son or daughter, his man or maid servant, who are Hebrews, the devotement would be void, because no man can devote what is not his own, or whose life he has not the absolute disposal of.' These arguments appear to be decisive against the sacrifice; and that Jephthah could not have devoted his daughter to celibacy against her will is evident from the history, and from the high estimation in which she was always held by the daughters of Israel for her filial duty and her hapless fate, which they celebrated by a regular anniversary commemoration four days in the year; ver. 40." -New Analysis of Chronology, vol. iii., p. 319.
The celebrated sacrifice of Iphigenia has been supposed by many learned men to be a fable founded on this account of Jephthah's daughter; and M. De Lavaur, Conference de la Fable avec l' Histoire Sainte, has thus traced the parallel: - "The fable of Iphigenia, offered in sacrifice by Agamemnon her father, sung by so many poets, related after them by so many historians, and celebrated in the Greek and French theatres, has been acknowledged by all those who knew the sacred writings, and who have paid a particular attention to them, as a changed copy of the history of the daughter of Jephthah, offered in sacrifice by her father. Let us consider the several parts particularly, and begin with an exposition of the original, taken from the eleventh chapter of the book of Judges. "The sacred historian informs us that Jephthah, the son of Gilead, was a great and valiant captain. The Israelites, against whom God was irritated, being forced to go to war with the Ammonites, (nearly about the time of the siege of Troy,) assembled themselves together to oblige Jephthah to come to their succour, and chose him for their captain against the Ammonites. He accepted the command on conditions that, if God should give him the victory, they would acknowledge him for their prince. This they promised by oath; and all the people elected him in the city of Mizpeh, in the tribe of Judah. He first sent ambassadors to the king of the Ammonites to know the reason why he had committed so many acts of injustice, and so many ravages on the coast of Israel. The other made a pretext of some ancient damages his people had suffered by the primitive Israelites, to countenance the ravages he committed, and would not accord with the reasonable propositions made by the ambassadors of Jephthah. Having now supplicated the Lord and being filled with his Spirit, he marched against the Ammonites, and being zealously desirous to acquit himself nobly, and to ensure the success of so important a war, he made a vow to the Lord to offer in sacrifice or as a burnt-offering the first thing that should come out of the house to meet him at his return from victory. "He then fought with and utterly discomfited the Ammonites; and returning victorious to his house, God so permitted it that his only daughter was the first who met him. Jephthah was struck with terror at the sight of her, and tearing his garments, he exclaimed, Alas! alas! my daughter, thou dost exceedingly trouble me; for I have opened my mouth against thee, unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. His daughter, full of courage and piety, understanding the purport of his vow, exhorted him to accomplish what he had vowed to the Lord, which to her would be exceedingly agreeable, seeing the Lord had avenged him of his and his country's enemies; desiring liberty only to go on the mountains with her companions, and to bewail the dishonour with which sterility was accompanied in Israel, because each hoped to see the Messiah born of his or her family. Jephthah could not deny her this request. She accordingly went, and at the end of two months returned, and put herself into the hands of her father, who did with her according to his vow. "Several of the rabbins, and many very learned Christian expositors, believe that Jephthah's daughter was not really sacrificed, but that her virginity was consecrated to God, and that she separated from all connection with the world; which indeed seems to be implied in the sacred historian's account: And she knew no man. This was a kind of mysterious death, because it caused her to lose all hope of the glory of a posterity from which the Messiah might descend. From this originated the custom, observed afterwards in Israel, that on a certain season in the year the virgins assembled themselves on the mountains to bewail the daughter of Jephthah for the space of four days. Let us now consider the leading characters of the fable of Iphigenia. According to good chronological reckonings, the time of the one and of the other very nearly agree. The opinion that the name of Iphigenia is taken from the daughter of Jephthah, appears well founded; yea, the conformity is palpable. By a very inconsiderable change Iphigenia makes Iphthygenia, which signifies literally, the daughter of Jephthah. Agamemnon, who is described as a valiant warrior and admirable captain, was chosen by the Greeks for their prince and general against the Trojans, by the united consent of all Greece, assembled together at Aulis in Baeotia. "As soon as he had accepted the command, he sent ambassadors to Priam, king of Troy, to demand satisfaction for the rape of Helen, of which the Greeks complained. The Trojans refusing to grant this, Agamemnon, to gain over to his side the gods, who appeared irritated against the Greeks and opposed to the success of their enterprise, after having sacrificed to them went to consult their interpreter, Chalchas, who declared that the gods, and particularly Diana, would not be appeased but by the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon. "Cicero, in his Offices, says that Agamemnon, in order to engage the protection of the gods in his war against the Trojans, vowed to sacrifice to them the most beautiful of all that should be born in his kingdom; and as it was found that his daughter Iphigenia surpassed all the rest in beauty, he believed himself bound by his vow to sacrifice her.
Cicero condemns this, rightly judging that it would have been a less evil to have falsified his vow than to have committed parricide. This account of Cicero renders the fable entirely conformable to the history. "Agamemnon was at first struck with and troubled at this order, nevertheless consented to it: but he afterwards regretted the loss of his daughter. He is represented by the poets as deliberating, and being in doubt whether the gods could require such a parricide; but at last a sense of his duty and honour overcame his paternal affection, and his daughter, who had warmly exhorted him to fulfill his vow to the gods, was led to the altar amidst the lamentations of her companions; as Ovid and Euripides relate, see Met., lib. 13. "Some authors have thought she really was sacrificed; but others, more humane, say she was caught up in a cloud by the gods, who, contented with the intended sacrifice, substituted a hind in her place, with which the sacrifice was completed. Dictys Cretensis says that this animal was substituted to save Iphigenia. "The chronology of times so remote cannot, in many respects, but be uncertain. Both the Greeks and Romans grant that there was nothing else than fables before the first Olympiad, the beginning of which was at least four hundred and fifty years after the destruction of Troy, and two hundred and forty years after Solomon. As to the time of Solomon, nothing can be more certain than what is related in the sixth chapter of the first book of Kings, that from the going out of Egypt, under Moses, till the time in which he began to build the temple, was four hundred and eighty years. "According to the common opinion, the taking of Troy is placed one hundred and eighty years before the reign of Solomon; but his reign preceded Homer three centuries, according to some learned men, and always at least one century by those who related it lowest. Indeed, there is much uncertainty in fixing the express time in which Homer flourished. "Pausanias found so much difference concerning this in authors, that he was at a loss how to judge of it. However, it is sufficient for us that it was granted that Solomon was at least a century before Homer, who wrote more than two centuries after the taking of Troy and who is the most ancient historian of this famous siege."