Judges 11:40
That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
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(40) To lament.—Rabbi Tanchum makes it mean “to praise,” or “celebrate.” The feelings of the Israelites towards Jephthah’s daughter would be much the same as that of the Romans towards Claelia, and of other nations towards heroines whose self-sacrifice has helped them to victory.

Jdg 11:40. The daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah — The Hebrew word לתנות, lethannoth, here rendered, to lament, occurs nowhere else in Scripture, but Jdg 5:11, where it is rendered rehearse, or celebrate, namely, There shall they rehearse, says Deborah, the righteous acts of the Lord, surely not lament them. And the word might certainly be much more properly rendered to celebrate, or talk with, here, than to lament. Buxtorf interprets it thus, on the authority of the Jewish rabbi, Kimchi, allowed to be the best Hebrew grammarian the Jews ever had, and famous as a commentator on the Old Testament. His words on the passage are — “Ad confabulandum juxta Kimchium, ut amicis colloquiis eam de virginitate et statu vitæ solitario consolarentur.” To converse with her, according to Kimchi, namely, that by friendly discourses they might comfort her concerning her virginity, and the solitary condition of her life. Houbigant translates the words, They went to the daughter of Jephthah to console her, four days in a year. If we render the clause thus, the matter is put beyond dispute; for they could neither converse with, nor console her, after she was sacrificed: but if we translate the expression, to celebrate, or even to lament, its being repeated four times every year, plainly indicates that she was alive, because we nowhere find that the Israelites ever had any custom of celebrating or lamenting the dead after the funeral obsequies were performed. Their law rather tended to prohibit every thing of the kind, and inspire them with an abhorrence of it, by representing the dead as unclean, and those who came near and touched them as defiled thereby. So that there is not the least reason to conclude that the daughters of Judah went yearly, much less four times every year, either to lament or praise the daughter of Jephthah after she was dead; but rather that they went while she lived, to visit and converse with her, and comfort her with their company and discourses. All, therefore, that Jephthah did with his daughter, according to his vow, was to devote her to a single state, as a Nazarite, or consecrated person, to be employed in the service of God in the tabernacle, under the care of the high-priests, probably in making the hangings and other ornaments of it, the habits of the priests, the show-bread, the cakes used in sacrifices, and other such like offices, and to continue in a virgin state till the day of her death. Thus Samuel was vowed to the Lord by his mother, 1 Samuel 1:11. That his daughter must live and die single was felt by Jephthah as the greater calamity, because she was his only child, Jdg 11:34, a circumstance which the sacred historian dwells upon, observing that besides her he had neither son nor daughter. But, says Mr. Henry, “we do not find any law, usage, or custom, in all the Old Testament, which doth in the least intimate that a single life was any branch or article of religion.” “And do we find,” replies Mr. Wesley, “any law, usage, or custom there, which does in the least intimate that cutting the throat of an only child was any branch or article of religion?” If only a dog had met Jephthah, would he have offered up that for a burnt-offering? No, because God had expressly forbidden this. And had he not expressly forbidden murder? But Mr. Pool thinks the story of Agamemnon’s offering up Iphigenia (put for Jephtigenia) took its rise from this. Probably it did, as the Greeks used, as he observes, “to steal sacred histories and turn them into fables.” But then let it be observed Iphigenia was not murdered. Tradition says that Diana sent a hind in her stead, and took the maid to live in the woods with her. Upon the whole, this one single circumstance, mentioned above, that, when the sacred writer had informed us, Jephthah did with his daughter according to his vow, he adds, and she knew no man, renders it as “clear as the light,” as Dr. Dodd observes, that her father’s vow was thus fulfilled; “for if she had been slain as a burnt-offering, it would have been absurd enough to have told us that she afterward knew no man. And indeed,” adds he, “the passage is so plain, that one would wonder it could ever have come into the heads of writers, to conceive that her father, who was a truly pious man, (Jdg 11:11,) could have thought of offering up his daughter as a sacrifice to that God who never allowed or admitted such horrid sacrifices, and whose great quarrel against the baneful idols of the heathen was, that they called for and accepted the sacrifices of sons and daughters:” see Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:10. 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.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). 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. Went yearly, to a place appointed for their meeting to this end, possibly to the place where she was sacrificed.

To lament the daughter of Jephthah; to express their sorrow for her loss, according to thee manner. Or, to discourse of (so the Hebrew lamed is sometimes used)

the daughter of Jephthah, to celebrate her praises, who had so willingly yielded up herself for a sacrifice. That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite,.... Either the death of her, as some, or her virginity, as others; though the word (p) used may signify to talk and discourse with her, to hold a confabulation with her, and comfort her, as Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it; to bring her some news, and tell her some diverting stories, to cheer and refresh her in her solitude. De Dieu observes, that the word signifies in the Arabic language to "praise", or speak in commendation of a person or thing; and indeed in this sense it seems to be used in this book, Judges 5:11, "they shall rehearse", that is, with praise and thanksgiving, "the righteous acts of the Lord"; and so the daughters of Israel went every year to the place where the daughter of Jephthah was, to speak in the praise of her, of her heroism, in so cheerfully submitting to her father's vow, and expressing such gratitude and joy at the same time for victory over the enemies of Israel; and this they did in her presence and while she lived, to keep up her spirits; or it may be, in some public place, and even after her death, in memory of her, and to celebrate her praise. Epiphanius says (q), that in his time, at Sebaste, formerly called Samaria, they deified the daughter of Jephthah, and kept a feast for her every year. The meeting of the daughters of Israel, so long as the custom lasted, which perhaps was only during the life of Jephthah's daughter, was four days in a year; but whether they were four days running, or once in a quarter of a year, is not certain; the latter seems most probable.

(p) "ad alloquendum", Pagninus, Montanus; "ut dissererent", Tigurine version; "ut colloquerentur", Vatablus; "ad confabulandum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (q) Contr. Haeres. l. 2. Haeres. 55.

That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
40. And it was] And it became, altering the verb from fern, to masc. The verse is wrongly divided. For went render used to go (frequentative).

to celebrate] So translated to agree with Jdg 5:11 (rehearse), the only other place where the word occurs: the Versions give to lament. In both places the rendering is merely inferred from the context. There is no sufficient reason to doubt that Jephthah’s sacrifice was an actual incident in history; but the yearly festival which commemorated his daughter’s fate may have had a remoter origin. It is not unlikely that the incident was associated in the course of time with a primitive myth; for there are traces elsewhere of human sacrifices being connected with an annual mourning for the death of a god. In the parallel story of Iphigenia the heroine is really a form of an early goddess identified with Artemis. The present narrative suggests to some scholars reminiscences of Tammuz-Ishtar worship, which celebrated the annual death and revival of the divinity. In later times the daughter of Jephthah was worshipped by the Samaritans in Sichem as Korç, the heavenly virgin; Epiphanius, adv. Haeres. iii. 2, 1055. A. Jeremias, Das A. T. im Lichte d. Alten Orients2, p. 478.Verse 40. - The daughters of Israel, etc. No other trace of this custom, which was probably confined to Gilead, remains. To lament. The word rather means to praise, or celebrate, as in Judges 5:11 (rehearse).

Jephthah's Vow. - Judges 11:34, Judges 11:35. When the victorious hero returned to Mizpeh, his daughter came out to meet him "with timbrels and in dances," i.e., at the head of a company of women, who received the conqueror with joyous music and dances (see at Exodus 15:20): "and she was the only one; he had neither son nor daughter beside her." ממּנּוּ cannot mean ex se, no other child of his own, though he may have had children that his wives had brought him by other husbands; but it stands, as the great Masora has pointed it, for ממּנּה, "besides her," the daughter just mentioned-the masculine being used for the feminine as the nearest and more general gender, simply because the idea of "child" was floating before the author's mind. At such a meeting Jephthah was violently agitated. Tearing his clothes (as a sign of his intense agony; see at Leviticus 10:6), he exclaimed, "O my daughter! thou hast brought me very low; it is thou who troublest me" (lit. thou art among those who trouble me, thou belongest to their class, and indeed in the fullest sense of the word; this is the meaning of the so-called בּ essentiae: see Ges. Lehrgeb. p. 838, and such passages as 2 Samuel 15:31; Psalm 54:6; Psalm 55:19, etc.): "I have opened my mouth to the Lord (i.e., have uttered a vow to Him: compare Psalm 66:14 with Numbers 30:3., Deuteronomy 23:23-24), and cannot turn it," i.e., revoke it.
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