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The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary


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One of the judges who judged Israel. (See Judges 11:1-40) His name signifies, one that will open. The vow of Jephtha concerning his daughter, hath exercised the learning of the studious in all ages of the church. Some have decidedly been of opinion, that Jephtha did actually sacrifice his daughter; and others have as flatly denied it. The Chaldee Paraphrase, St. Ambrose, and St. Chrisostom, were of the former opinion; but by far the greater part of the old commentators, as well as modern ones, are in the latter judgment. I shall beg to offer an observation or two upon the subject, and then leave the reader, under grace, to think for himself on this point.

The first thing I beg to observe, is concerning the character of Jephtha. The Holy Ghost, by his servant Paul, hath recorded his name among those worthies who "by faith subdued kingdoms, and wrought righteousness." (Hebrews 11:32) Hence, therefore, we may safely conclude, that he was a child of God.

The next thing to be observed in his history, is that the vow he made was a solemn engagement between the Lord and his own soul. It was personal; it was himself concerned only to fulfil it; neither could it be supposed to imply, the disposing of what was not his to dispose of. "All souls are mine, (saith JEHOVAH,) as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine." (Ezekiel 18:4) It could not be, therefore, implied in Jephtha's vow, that he would engage to offer to the Lord what was not his own. The disposal of his daughter's person in marriage was, indeed, a parent's right, and frequently done; but this right never extended to the offering a child in sacrifice.

Thirdly, Human sacrifices were prohibited by the law, neither would the priest have offered the daughter of Jephtha; so that, unless it be supposed, that Jephtha invaded the priestly office, and offered his daughter himself, there should seem even hence to have arisen a great difficulty to the belief, that the daughter of Jephtha was really sacrificed.

Add to these considerations, it is well known, that the law had made provision for the redemption of persons by purchase. Thus the Lord enjoined, (Leviticus 27:1, etc.) "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation. A male from twenty years to sixty, shall be fifty shekels of silver; and if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels." Hence, therefore, here was at once a provision, and made by the Lord himself, to prevent every human sacrifice by redemption.

Let us suppose, that instead of Jephtha's daughter, some unclean bird or beast, forbidden by the law in sacrifice, had come forth to meet him—what would he have done in this case? Surely, he could not have offered it: then must it have been destroyed, since it could not have been consecrated to the Lord. The expression in Jephtha's vow, according to some readers of the Bible, seems to have made a provision for this uncertainty, what or whom he should first meet. "And Jephtha vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hand, 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." (Judges 11:30-31) In the margin of the Bible it is rendered, or I will offer it up; that is certainly by redemption, according to the law concerning redemptions. And it may be farther asked, Is not the expression in the vow, "shall surely be the Lord's," similar to that of Hannah's, in dedicating the child she asked of God in prayer. (1 Samuel 1:11) "And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but will give unto thine handmaid a man child, then will I give him unto the Lord all the days of his life. And when she had weaned him, she brought him into the house of the Lord in Shiloh, and brought the child to Eli: and she said, For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition; therefore also I have lent him to the Lord: as long as he liveth he shall be lent unto the Lord." (See 1 Samuel 1:11-28)

These are amongst the reasons wherefore it seems probable, that Jephtha's daughter was not offered in sacrifice. It hath been said, however, by those who suppose she was, that the distress of the father in meeting her at his return home, the expression he made use of, and the request she made him of a given space to be allowed her for lamentation, and his doing with her according to his vow after that time was expired, are proofs in point. But to these suggestions it might be said, that supposing the former opinions right, and that she was not offered in sacrifice, it becomes very easy to explain both her lamentations on the mountains, and the daughters of Israel going to lament yearly on the occasion. For it is one of the most notorious truths, that among the Hebrews no lamentations was equal to that of being doomed to a single unmarried state. For every daughter of Israel had an eye to the promised seed the Messiah; to be devoted, therefore, to an unmarried life totally precluded that hope; and the daughters of Israel going yearly to lament the daughter of Jephtha being so, is a proof of it. Besides, where did they go? It should seem, to visit the daughter of Jephtha, for the margin of the Bible renders it, that the daughters of Israel went yearly "to talk with her:" that is, in her nunnery. (See Judges 11:34-40) But having now stated all I think necessary to state on the subject, I leave the reader to his own opinion, taught, as I pray he may be, by the grace of God, only adding one short observation: how blessed is the condition of God's Israel now, freed from vows and sacrifices, while looking to, and wholly depending upon that glorious, all-sufficient, all effectual offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, "whereby he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)

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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Jephtha'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. London. 1828.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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