Thursday 20 August 2009

Bible Book:

"And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, 'If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord's, to be offered up by me as a burnt-offering.'" (v.30-31)

Judges 11:29-40 Thursday 20 August 2009


Phyllis Trible (a biblical scholar) includes this passage aboutJephthah and his daughter in her book, Texts of Terror. As afeminist I struggle with many aspects of it. It is hard to approacha text as horrific as this objectively. Emotions run high whenengaging with a text as obscene as this.

Jephthah, is the son of a prostitute and an unnamed father, castout by the family, a warrior with his band of outlaws (Judges 11:1-3).The people go to him promising to make him their commander and headif he will lead them in battle against the Ammonites. He agrees buton the condition that God gives him victory.

In verse 29 the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Jephthah. But he isnot satisfied, or lacks faith, aseven then he makes the stupid vow inverse 30. Stupid because it was not needed - the Spirit was alreadyupon him. Stupid because who did he expect to find coming out ofhis home to welcome him after a victorious battle? He ignores thefree gift of the Spirit of the Lord and tries to make a bargain tobind God. The vow reflects doubt - not faith, and control - notcourage.

Jesus spoke about vows in Matthew 5:33-37.He says that no one should make any vows to or in the name of God.Hence Jephthah's vow gets no response from God.

The vow has terrible results when he returns home after the victoryand is greeted by his daughter.

The unnamed daughter (another injustice) is the one who is going todie for his unfaithfulness and stupidity, yet in verse 35 he isonly concerned with himself. So she is killed having never had afamily (and so considered worthless in that culture).

Yet this unnamed daughter, who as a virgin we expect should beunremembered, is remembered by other women in a tradition based onher experience.

There is no happy ending for the daughter of Jephthah, nor for usin a world where there is still violence and injustice againstwomen. The unnamed daughter still cries out and challenges ustoday.

To Ponder

Reflect on the times you have tried to makebargains with God. How do they change your relationship withGod?

How much do you know about gender injusticetoday? How do you think Jesus wants you to respond? How are youdoing at responding?

Previous Page Wednesday 19 August 2009
Next Page Friday 21 August 2009