Judges 11:35
And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! you have brought me very low, and you are one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot go back.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(35) He rent his clothes.—Comp. Joshua 7:6. By one of the curious survivals which preserve customs for centuries after the meaning is gone out of them, every Jew on approaching to Jerusalem for the first time has to submit to the kriei.e., to a cut made in his sleeve, as a sort of symbol of rending his clothes.

Thou hast brought me very low.—Literally, crushing, thou hast crushed me.

I have opened my mouth unto the Lord.—A vow was not deemed binding unless it had been actually expressed in words (Numbers 30:2-3; Numbers 30:7; Deuteronomy 23:23). There were two kinds of vows among the Hebrews—the simple vow, neder (Leviticus 27:2-27), and the “devotion,” or “ban,” cherem (Leviticus 27:28-29). Anything devoted to Jehovah by the cherem was irredeemable, and became “a holy of holies(kodesh kadashim) to Him, and was to be put to death (Leviticus 27:29).

I cannot go back.Numbers 30:2. Jephthah had not understood until now the horror of human sacrifice. He would neither wish nor dare to draw back from his cherem (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5; Matthew 5:33; Jonah 2:9; Pss. 72:25, Psalm 26:11) merely because the anguish of it would fall so heavily upon himself. The Hebrews had the most intense feeling about the awfulness of breaking an oath or vow, and they left no room for any mental reservations (Leviticus 27:28-29). Saul was determined to carry out his ban even at the cost of the life of his eldest son, and even Herod Antipas felt obliged to carry out his oath to Herodias, though it involved a deep pang and a haunted conscience. It is clear that not for one moment did it occur to Jephthah to save himself from the agony of bereavement by breaking his ‘ban” (cherem) as a mere redeemable vow (neder). The Jews shared in this respect the feelings of other ancient nations. Thus the Greeks believed that the house of Athamas were under an inexpiable curse, because when the Achæans had been bidden to offer him up for a sacrifice for compassing the death of Phryxus, Kytissorus, the son of Phryxus, had intercepted the sacrifice (Herod. vii. 197, § 3; Plat. Minos, 5). It must be remembered that though his cherem had taken an unusual and unlawful (though far from unknown) form, the notion of such a vow would come far more naturally to a people which in very recent times, as well as afterwards, had devoted whole cities—men, women, children, cattle, and goods—to absolute destruction (Numbers 21:2-3).

11:29-40 Several important lessons are to be learned from Jephthah's vow. 1. There may be remainders of distrust and doubting, even in the hearts of true and great believers. 2. Our vows to God should not be as a purchase of the favour we desire, but to express gratitude to him. 3. We need to be very well-advised in making vows, lest we entangle ourselves. 4. What we have solemnly vowed to God, we must perform, if it be possible and lawful, though it be difficult and grievous to us. 5. It well becomes children, obediently and cheerfully to submit to their parents in the Lord. It is hard to say what Jephthah did in performance of his vow; but it is thought that he did not offer his daughter as a burnt-offering. Such a sacrifice would have been an abomination to the Lord; it is supposed she was obliged to remain unmarried, and apart from her family. Concerning this and some other such passages in the sacred history, about which learned men are divided and in doubt, we need not perplex ourselves; what is necessary to our salvation, thanks be to God, is plain enough. If the reader recollects the promise of Christ concerning the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and places himself under this heavenly Teacher, the Holy Ghost will guide to all truth in every passage, so far as it is needful to be understood.Jephthah was right in not being deterred from keeping his vow by the loss and sorrow to himself (compare the marginal references), just as Abraham was right in not withholding his son, his only son, from God, when commanded to offer him up as a burnt-offering. But Jephthah was wholly wrong in that conception of the character of God which led to his making the rash vow. And he would have done right not to slay his child, though the guilt of making and of breaking such a vow would have remained. Josephus well characterizes the sacrifice as "neither sanctioned by the Mosaic law, nor acceptable to God." 34-40. Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances—The return of the victors was hailed, as usual, by the joyous acclaim of a female band (1Sa 18:6), the leader of whom was Jephthah's daughter. The vow was full in his mind, and it is evident that it had not been communicated to anyone, otherwise precautions would doubtless have been taken to place another object at his door. The shriek, and other accompaniments of irrepressible grief, seem to indicate that her life was to be forfeited as a sacrifice; the nature of the sacrifice (which was abhorrent to the character of God) and distance from the tabernacle does not suffice to overturn this view, which the language and whole strain of the narrative plainly support; and although the lapse of two months might be supposed to have afforded time for reflection, and a better sense of his duty, there is but too much reason to conclude that he was impelled to the fulfilment by the dictates of a pious but unenlightened conscience. Thou art one of them that trouble me: before this, I was troubled by my brethren; and since, by the Ammonites; and now most of all, though but occasionally, by thee. I have opened my mouth, i.e. I have vowed, which was done by words, Numbers 30:2,6.

I cannot go back, i.e. not retract my vow; I am indispensably obliged to perform it. And it came to pass, when he saw her,.... She being the first person that presented to his view, as she was at the head of the virgins with their timbrels and dances:

that he rent his clothes; as was the usual manner, when anything calamitous and distressing happened; see Genesis 37:34.

and said, alas, my daughter, thou hast brought me very low; damped his spirits, sunk him very low, so that he was ready to drop into the earth, as we say; he that was now returning in triumph, amidst the acclamations of the people, in the height of his glory, and extolled to the skies, and perhaps elated in his own mind; on a sudden, at the sight of his daughter, was so depressed in his spirits, that he could not bear up; but was ready to sink and die away, all his honour being as it were laid in the dust, and nothing to him:

and thou art one of them that trouble me: or among his troublers, and the greatest he ever met with; he had been in trouble from his brethren, when they drove him from his father's house, and he had had trouble with the children of Ammon to subdue them; but this was the greatest trouble of all, that his daughter should be the first that should meet him; of whom, according to his vow, he was to be deprived, and so all his future comforts, hopes, and expectations from her gone; and therefore ranks her among, and at the head of, his troublers:

for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord; in a vow; not only had purposed it in his heart, but had expressed it with his lips:

and I cannot go back; or retract it; looking upon himself under an indispensable obligation to perform it; of which, be it as it may, he seems to have had mistaken notions and apprehensions; for if his vow was to sacrifice her, as some think, he was not obliged to do it, since it was contrary to the law of God, and abominable in his sight; and besides, what was vowed to be the Lord's, or devoted to him, might be redeemed according to the law, a female for thirty pieces of silver, Leviticus 27:2 and if the vow was to separate his daughter from the company of men, and oblige her never to marry, such a power as this parents had not allowed them over their children, according to the laws of God or of men, in the Jewish nation; and therefore, be it which it will, what he had to do was to repent of this rash vow, and humble himself before God for making it, and not add sin to sin by performing it.

And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he {o} 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.

(o) Being overcome with blind zeal, and not considering whether the vow was lawful or not.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
35. thou hast brought me very low] thou hast struck me down utterly: the same verb as in Jdg 5:27 (he bowed).

thou art one of them that trouble me] The first pron. is emphatic; ‘thou, my beloved, dost appear in the character of my worst enemy.’ For the Hebr. idiom (beth essentiae) see Psalm 54:4 [Hebrews 6], Psalm 118:7. Trouble is a feeble equivalent for the strong word in the original, which occurs only under circumstances which arouse unusual passion; see Genesis 34:30, Joshua 7:25-26, 1 Samuel 14:29, 1 Kings 18:17-18. The Versions give a free paraphrase of the two words bowed down, trouble me (kara‘, ‘akar), but do not necessarily presuppose a different text.

I have opened my mouth] lit. opened wide, Jdg 11:36, of a solemn utterance; cf. Psalm 66:13-14.Verse 35. - Thou hast brought me very low - literally, thou hast thoroughly bowed me down, i.e. with sorrow. I cannot go back. A forcible illustration of the evil of rash vows. He who makes them is so placed that he must sin. If he breaks his vow, he has taken God's name in vain; if he keeps it, he breaks one of God's commandments. So it was with Saul (1 Samuel 14:24, 39-45), with Herod (Mark 6:23); so it has often been since with those who have made unauthorised vows, and who in attempting to keep them have fallen into deadly sin. Jephthah's Victory over the Ammonites. - As the negotiations with the king of the Ammonites were fruitless, Jephthah had no other course left than to appeal to the sword.

Judges 11:29

In the power of the Spirit of Jehovah which came upon him (see Judges 3:10), he passed through Gilead (the land of the tribes of Reuben and Gad between the Arnon and the Jabbok) and Manasseh (northern Gilead and Bashan, which the half tribe of Manasseh had received for a possession), to gather together an army to battle, and then went with the assembled army to Mizpeh-Gilead, i.e., Ramoth-mizpeh, where the Israelites had already encamped before his call (Judges 10:17), that he might thence attach the Ammonites. עבר (to pass over) with an accusative signifies to come over a person in a hostile sense.

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