Bible Women: Jephthah's Daughter

So far all the stories you have read have come from the Book of Genesis, recounting the lives of the wives (and concubines and would-be concubines) of the men of Genesis: Eve (and Adam), Sarah (and Abraham) plus Hagar, Rebecca (and Isaac), Rachel and Leah (and Jacob) plus Zilpah and Bilhah, and finally Potiphar's wife (and Joseph). Now you move into another book of the Bible, the Book of Judges, and one of the most remarkable stories in that book: the story of Jephthah's daughter.

Jephthah was a judge in Israel and he led the people of Israel in a war against the Ammonites. As the story begins, Jephthah makes a vow to God in order to win a victory in that war, and that vow will, much to Jephthah's surprise, involve his daughter. We do not know her name, but her story, if you have not read it before, is one you will surely not forget. For some comparative materials, take a look at Dan Ashliman's story collection: Human Sacrifice in Legends and Myths.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Bible Women unit. Story source: King James Bible (1611): Judges 11 [LIBRIVOX AUDIO].

Jephthah's Daughter

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, "If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering."

So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.

And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back."

And she said unto him, "My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon."

And she said unto her father, "Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows."

And he said, "Go."

And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.

And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man.

And it was a custom in Israel: That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

Next: Delilah

(400 words)