Judges 11:36
And she said to him, My father, if you have opened your mouth to the LORD, do to me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth; for as much as the LORD has taken vengeance for you of your enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
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(36) And she said unto him.—To explain this the LXX. add the words, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord against or concerning thee.” There is, however, no need for the addition. His words would fatally explain themselves, even if he added nothing more.

If thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord.—The needless and incorrect insertion of the if in the English Version a little weakens the noble heroism of her answer.

Do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth.—While Jephthah, living in times of ignorance which “God winked at,” must not be judged for that terrible ignorance of God’s nature which led him to offer a sacrifice which, as Josephus says, was “neither lawful nor acceptable to God,” we may well rejoice in the gleam of sunlight which is flung upon the sacred page by his faithfulness in not going back from his vow, though it were to his own hurt (Psalm 15:4), and in the beautiful devotion of his daughter, cheerfully acquiescing in her own sacrifice for the good of her country. Compare the examples of Iphigenia; of Macaria (Pausan. i. 32); of Au-churus, the son of Midas; of Curtius; of the Decii; of Marius offering his daughter for victory over the Cimbri; and of the Romans during more than one national panic. Our modern poets have happily seized this aspect of the event (see Dante, Parad. v. 66):—

“Though the virgins of Salem lament,

Be the judge and the hero unbent;

I have won the great battle for thee,

And my father and country are free.”—Byron.

“When the next moon was rolled into the sky,

Strength came to me that equall’d my desire.

How beautiful a thing it was to die

For God and for my sire! “—Tennyson.

“It was not a human sacrifice in the gross sense of the word, not a slaughter of an unwilling victim, but the willing offering of a devoted heart, to free, as she supposed, her father and her country from a terrible obligation . . . The heroism of father and daughter are to be admired and loved in the midst of the fierce superstition round which it plays like a sunbeam on a stormy sea.”

Jdg 11:36. Do to me according, &c. — Do not for my sake make thyself a transgressor; I freely give my consent to thy vow. Forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance, &c. — What a generous, noble, and pious answer is this of this virgin! It expresses such a noble love for her country, such true piety and filial obedience, as can scarcely be exceeded.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.The touching submission of Jephthah's daughter to an inevitable fate shows how deeply-rooted at that time was the pagan notion of the propriety of human sacrifice. 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. Do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; do not for my sake make thyself a transgressor; I freely give my consent to thy vow; wherewith, and with the success of his arms, he had now acquainted her, though it be not here expressed.

Forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies; I am willing to bear my burden, being abundantly satisfied with the great deliverance which God hath given to his people by thy hands. And she said unto him, my father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord,.... The conditional word "if" may be left out, as it is not in the original text; for her father had told her that he had opened his mouth, or made a vow to the Lord, and had no doubt explained it to her what it was, though it is not expressed; she knew it respected her, as it had issued, and was concerning her, as appears by her later request:

do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; which is a remarkable instance of filial subjection and obedience to a parent, and which perhaps was strengthened by a like mistaken notion as that of her father concerning the vow, that it could not be dispensed with; and therefore was moved under a sense of religion, as well as filial duty, to express herself in this manner, as well as by what follows:

forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon: such was her public spirit, and the grateful sense she had of the divine goodness, in giving victory over Israel's enemies, and delivering them from them, with vengeance on them, she cared not what was done to her; yea, desired that what was vowed might be performed.

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.
36. The daughter has her share of the hero’s blood, and a larger share of the heroic temper: ‘My God, my land, my father’! Tennyson, ‘A Dream of Fair Women.’Verse 36. - My father, etc. See Numbers 32:2. The touching submission of Jephthah's daughter to her unnatural and terrible fate, while it reveals a most lovable character, seems also to show that the idea of a human sacrifice was not so strange to her mind as it is to ours. The sacrifice of his eldest son as a burnt offering by the king of Moab, some 300 years later, as related 2 Kings 3:27; the intended sacrifices of Iphigenia and of Phrixus in Greek mythology; the sacrifices of children to Moloch, so often spoken of in Scripture; the question in Micah 6:7, "Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" the Phoenician custom mentioned by Sanchoniatho (quoted by Porphyry), of sacrificing to Saturn one of those most dear to them in times of war, pestilence, or drought; the yearly sacrifice at Carthage of a boy chosen by lot ('Sil. Italicus,' 4, 765), and many other examples, prove the prevalence of human sacrifices in early times, and in heathen lands. This must be borne in mind in reading the history of Jephthah. Before commencing the war, however, he vowed a vow to the Lord: "If Thou givest the Ammonites into my hand, he who cometh to meet me out of the doors of my house, when I return safely (in peace, shalom) from the Ammonites, shall belong to the Lord, and I will offer him for a burnt-offering." By the words אשׁר היּוצא, "he that goeth out," even if Jephthah did not think "only of a man, or even more definitely still of some one of his household," he certainly could not think in any case of a head of cattle, or one of his flock. "Going out of the doors of his house to meet him" is an expression that does not apply to a herd or flock driven out of the stall just at the moment of his return, or to any animal that might possibly run out to meet him. For the phrase לקראת יצא is only applied to men in the other passages in which it occurs.

(Note: Augustine observes in his Quaest. xlix. in l. Jud.: "He did not vow in these words that he would offer some sheep, which he might present as a holocaust, according to the law. For it is not, and was not, a customary thing for sheep to come out to meet a victorious general returning from the war. Nor did he say, I will offer as a holocaust whatever shall come out of the doors of my house to meet me; but he says, 'Whoever comes out, I will offer him;' so that there can be no doubt whatever that he had then a human being in his mind.")

Moreover, Jephthah no doubt intended to impose a very difficult vow upon himself. And that would not have been the case if he had merely been thinking of a sacrificial animal. Even without any vow, he would have offered, not one, but many sacrifices after obtaining a victory.

(Note: "What kind of vow would it be if some great prince or general should say, 'O God, if Thou wilt give me this victory, the first calf that meets me shall be Thine!' Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus!" - Pfeiffer, dubia vex. p. 356.)

If therefore he had an animal sacrifice in his mind, he would certainly have vowed the best of his flocks. From all this there can be no doubt that Jephthah must have been thinking of some human being as at all events included in his vow; so that when he declared that he would dedicate that which came out of his house to meet him, the meaning of the vow cannot have been any other than that he would leave the choice of the sacrifice to God himself. "In his eagerness to smite the foe, and to thank God for it, Jephthah could not think of any particular object to name, which he could regard as great enough to dedicate to God; he therefore left it to accident, i.e., to the guidance of God, to determine the sacrifice. He shrank from measuring what was dearest to God, and left this to God himself" (P. Cassel in Herzog's Real-encycl.). Whomsoever God should bring to meet him, he would dedicate to Jehovah, and indeed, as is added afterwards by way of defining it more precisely, he would offer him to the Lord as a burnt-offering. The ו before העליתיהוּ is to be taken as explanatory, and not as disjunctive in the sense of "or," which ו never has. But whether Jephthah really thought of his daughter at the time, cannot be determined either in the affirmative or negative. If he did, he no doubt hoped that the Lord would not demand this hardest of all sacrifices.

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