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Jephthah's Rash Vow: The Implications


Guest Geese Aplenty
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Guest Geese Aplenty

There are a number of problems with Jephthah's rash vow in Judges.

 

Being a savvy military leader, why did he not consider that his daughter might be the first "thing" to exit his house (she being an inhabitant of it and all)?

 

Why would he assume that the first thing to exit his house and greet him when he returned from battle would be livestock? Did he have a pet cow? If so, why would he be anxious to kill an affectionate animal eager to greet him upon his return?

 

Why did God accept a human sacrifice? In other areas of the Bible, God modifies his plans and shows mercy to the most unlikely people. Since human sacrifice is anathema to him, it boggles the mind that He accepted it.

 

This is not to highlight the seeming cruelty of the act but just to investigate the implications of it. The implications of God accepting a pre-Atonement human sacrifice are huge, because it suggests that human sacrifice can sometimes be efficacious, just as the pagans believed and practiced regularly. It suggests that the ritual killing of living things, human or not, satisfies His sense of justice (to a degree).

 

Think of it this way: Christians say that the purpose of the Jephthah incident is to demonstrate the seriousness of making a vow to God. In other words, God had no choice in the matter because vow-making is a serious business to Him. Fair enough. Does this mean that if a baby girl (not a teenager) walked out to greet Jephthah when he returned from battle, he would have had to tie her to an altar, plunge a knife into her chest, and set her on fire? (This is assuming she would be stabbed first and not burned alive--I'm not too familiar with human sacrificial procedure, especially when it is intended to appease God.)

 

My only conclusion is that this is folklore and that the practice of human sacrifice was not as nonsensical and cruel to the ancient mind as it appears to us.

 

And how does this jibe with WWJD? Years ago, in a fit of Christian consumerism, I bought a pair of toenail clippers and a coffee cup with that acronym emblazoned on it, and every time I cut my toenails while drinking my mocha latte I think of how many OT events seemingly do not harmonize with that sentiment.

 

[last paragraph a goof]

 

BTW, if any one here is a member of TWeb, can you please re-post this there? I was kicked off and am eager bait a certain JP Holding with this one.

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Of course it was an analogy, the message of which was to show that you shouldn't be so rash when petitioning god. Have faith that you will get what you asked for, without resorting to such sacrifice.

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The other apology for this scene is that he offered her up to god, not as a sacrifice, but in service at the temple and so he could have no grandchildren (thus her mourning) and his property would be given to someone outside his family. Of course, the story doesn't really support this, and tradition shows no positions in the temple (that I'm aware of) where anyone needed to remain a virgin but it is still an extremely popular xian view (yet another yelling match I somehow ended up in). They just won't accept that YHWH, the god that knows the future, entered into an agreement where a human sacrifice was the payment for services rendered.

 

mwc

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