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28 victory to the injured party! Howbeit, the king of the .chil
dren of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him; he could not confute Jephthah's arguments,
but he would try the logic of kings, and trust to his sword. 29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, a spirit
of wisdom and courage, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gil
ead he passed over[unto] the children of Ammon, and gathered 30 forces together in the countries through which he passed. And
Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD,* and said, If thou
shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine 31 hands, 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, conse,crated to his special service, and I will offer it up for a burnt
offering. The margin renders it, Or I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to
fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his 33 hands : And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come
to Minnith, [even] twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter; he pursued them to their city, destroyed great numbers, and effectually subdued them. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the
children of Israel. 34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh, unto his house, and behold,
his daughter, accompanied by her neighboiers and companions, came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances, to wel.
come him and congratulate his victory : and she (was his] only 35 child ; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it
came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, as was usual when great calamities happened, and said, Alas, my, daughter ! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me ; thou art one of my great troubles ; that is, together with his brethren, and the Ammonites ; and the trouble was the greater, as he expected comfort and satisfac. tion in her : for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and
I cannot go back ; have made a vow that I cannot retract. 36 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. An heroic reply ; she probably did not know what the vow was, but was willing to submit to it, since God had
made her father the chief instrument of such eminent service to 37 Israet. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done
* It was common for commanders to make such tows, of being grateful to God, offere ing sacrifices, building temples, &c. So the Greeks and Romans did,
for me : let me alone two months, that I may go up and
down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my 38 fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away [for] two
months : and she went with her companions, and bewailed
her virginity upon the mountains, a solitary place, fit for la. 39 mentation. And it came to pass at the end of two months,
that she returned unto her father, who did with her [according) to his vow which he had vowed : and she knew no man.
And it was a custom in Israel, or an ordinance of the elders, 40 [That] the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament, or, to
talk with, the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
• On reading this chapter, there arises a very difficult question, and that is, what Jephthah did with his daughter! Now there are two opinions on this subject. One is, that she was really made a burnt offering ; the other, that she was consecrated to the ser. vice of the taber nacle, employed herself in work relating to it, and spent her days in religious solitude there. The history is very ambiguous, and does not positively determine either way. In v.31. the marginal reading is, that which cometh forth of the doors of my house shall surely be the Lord's, or I will offer it up for a burnt offering ; (Kennicott says, Or I will offer a burnt offering :) and in v. 40. the margin reads, instead of, the daughters of Israel went yearly tolament the daughter of Jephthah, They went from year to year to talk with her. This shows that our translators were very uncertain about the matter. The most common opinion is, that she was not slain, but devoted to the service of the tabernacle: and the reasons given for it are chiefly these : They argue from the nature of the vow, which must be taken with this proviso, if what came out of his house was fit to be offered. Had it been a dog, or an ass, it would have been an affront to the God of Israel to offer it. If it was not fit to be offered, he might redeem it, according to the law in Lev. xxvii. 4. and therefore he would certainly do it in the case of his only child. But he would so far fulfil his vow as to deprive himself of having any posterity by her, which was a great grief to him. If it be alleged that he had no power thus to seclude her; it is answered, Much less had he power to sacrifice her.
Another argument is, That she bewailed her virginity, and not her death; a triding cir. cumstance, if she had to live but two months. It is argued further, That to have sacrificed her would have been the highest affront to Fehovah. A sacrifice to Moloch would never have been suffered in Israel, especially at a time when they had put away their idolatry, and were a reformed and penitent people. Beside, no sacrifice could be offered but by the priests; and we can never imagine they would do it, in direct opposition to the law of God, and so become like the cursed nations. But the chief argument seems to be this, That it was unly a simple vow: a dedication or consecration; and therefore his daughter might be redeemed. A different word (a Cherem) is used for the vow by which the accursed nations were devoted, and which could not be recalled. One can never imagine that the apostle vould have celebrated Jephthah, if he had been guilty of sacrificing his daughter.
On the other hand it is maintained, That he did sacrifice her. This, it is said, is the plain meaning of the history, that Jephthah was determined to present some human sacrihice, his wife, child, or servant, (for what else was likely to come out of his house and meet him :) something valuable, in return for this great blessing. They say there is no instance of persons being thus consecrated to the service of the tabernacle in a state of virginity. As to her bewailing her virginity, it is said, she could not with honour bewail her death, because occasioned by so glorious a victory and triumph. But it was natural, considering that she was the general's only child, to bewail that she died unmarried. In short, say they, he seems to have been a rough, untractable man, who having made a rash vow, was determined to execute it, and having seen such practices in the land of Tob, and knowing little of the law of God, he might probably do it himself, without the knowledge or consent of the priest : and the apostle to the Hebrews might have some evidence that he repented of this crime, as he lived six years after it was committed.
This is the substance of the arguments on both sides. I own it seems to me, that he hd not sacrifice her. If he did mean that, undoubtedly it was a most foolish and rash vow, and fulfilling it (if he did fulfil it) was a most enormous crime. He should have consulted the priest on the occasion, paid the price of redemption appointed, offered a great sacrifice out of the flock, oined himself in the wrong, and taken shame to himself for his rashnese. God expressly forbade human sacrifices ; he mentions it as one of the chief abominations for which he drove out the Canaanites; so that it was a very bad action, and I wonder any divines should have ever attempted to vindicate it. But the reasons offered are not suffi. cient to induce us to suppose that be did sacrifice her, since the words will very well hear the former interpretation.
REFLECTIONS. 1. TXTE learn hence not to despise or insult any persons, for
VV we know not how soon we may need their help. Jephthah's brethren and friends cast him out, not for any fault of his; but they were glad to send for him again. It is the part of wisdom to treat every one with respect, and to make no man our enemy, for we may want him to be a friend. All of us are members one of another ; the meanest is useful ; and, the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee, nor the hand to the foot, I have no need of thee. Let us, therefore, cultivate good will to all men, and be ready to do all friendly offices toward them,
2. We learn from the example of Jephthah, as Solomon exhorts, with good advice to make war. It is the wisdom of princes and 'nations to take all fair and honourable methods to prevent quarrels or ruptures, and to propose terins of peace. War is a desperate remedy, and should never be tried till all other things have failed ; all wise and good princes, sensible of this, will never delight in it, but rather put up with small affronts than resent them. The same will hold good with respect to quarrels and contentions between particular persons ; all methods should be tried to promote reconciliation, and to prevent the continuance and increase of differences. If it be possible then, as much as in us lieth, let us live peaceably with all men.
3. Let us learn to be upon our guard against rash vows and resolutions. It may be sometimes useful to bind ourselves by solemn vows, to show our gratitude to God, and confirm our re. gard to his glory. But those vows should be wisely made, and extend only to those things that will be clearly serviceable to the interests of religion, which are our duty, had no such vows been made. But many persons, beside Jephthah, have run themselves and their families into great inconveniences by rash resolutions and vows ; therefore it is better to let such things alone, and always guard our hearts and lips. So Solomon advises, Eccles. v. 2. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven and thou upon earth ; therefore let thy words be few. And again in v. 5. Better is it that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay.
4. Whatever we have vowed to God, let us perform it, if it be possible and lawful. I say lawful, for unlawful ones are better broken than kept; and should be repented of with deep humiliation. But in lawful things, though the observance of them may put us to some inconvenience, let us be steady. A citizen of Zion sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. We have all of us vowed to be the Lord's, by our profession of christianity, and by VOL. II.
giving up ourselves to him. Let us remember that we have opened our mouth, and cannot go back with honour and a good conscience. Let us be faithful to all our engagements. So Solomon exhorts, Eccles. V. 4. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it, for he hath no pleasure in fools Pay that which thou hast vowed.
5. The submission of Jephthah's daughter to her father's rash vow, is very amiable, and worthy of imitation. She showed much obedience to her father, great love to her country, and joy for its success, in cheerfully consenting to be treated according to it. This is a beautiful example for children, who should be subject to their parents, as far as it is agreeable to the will of God, and what they require is lawful in itself; else there is no obligation. Let them especially submit to all their good resolutions for the honour of God, and the support of religion in their families. This example reads us all a lesson of submission to God, our heavenly Father, whose injunctions are always wise and kind ; and of a cheerful resignation to him, to do with us as his infinite wisdom directs : Here am I, should each of us say, let the Lord do with me as seemeth good in his sight.
6. The last reflection shall be on the different opinions of learned and pious men, concerning this dark affair of Jephthah's vow, Since their sentiments are so different and opposite, we should learn candour and humility, and bear with one another amidst different sentiments about disputed points. When I mention the names of PooL, HENRY, HALLET, and almost all the old commentators, on the one side ; and PERKINS, CRADOCK, the Assembly's Annotations, the Universal His. tory, and most modern writers on the other ; we may be sure it is a difficult point, and may also be sure that it is not a very important one ; and in such a case, nothing can be more unreasonable, absurd, and unbecoming, than confidence, and a contempt, of those who are otherwise minded. Let this teach us to be thankful that every thing which is fundamental in religion is plain and clear. May we think most of, and delight most in, the indisputable parts of religion ; and remember and practise what God requires of us, namely, that we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
In this chapter we have an account of a guarrel between the
Ephraimites and the Gileadites ; of Jephthah's death ; and of three other judges that God raised up for Israel.. 1 AND the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together,
1 and went northward, to the half tribe of Manasseh on the other side Jordan, where Jephthah lived, and said unto Jephthah, in an insolent manner, in order to quarrel with him, as they had done with Gideon, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children 'Ammon, and didst not call us to
go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire.* 2 And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great
strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands; which shows that he
did not undertake the war without a just cause, and that he did 3 call them, but they refused to come. And when I saw that ye
delivered [me] not, I put my life in my hands, exposed myself and people to great danger ; like a man that carries a precious jewel in his hand, which might easily be snatched from him ; and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into my hand, he approved what I did, and gave me success : wherefore then are ye come up unto me this
day, to fight against me? it is the highest baseness and ingrat. 4 itude. But the answer had no effect. Then Jephthah gath
ered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim : and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites [are] fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, [and] among the Manassites ; Ye are the ref. use and scum of these two tribes, and therefore should not have
undertaken a matter of such importance without our knowledge, 5 who are so much yoịr betters. And the Gileadites took the
passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites : and it was so,] that when those Ephraimites which were escaped, and who now themselves were fugitives indeed, said, Let me go over ;
that the men of Gilead said unto him, [Art] thou an Ephraim6 ite? If he said, Nay ; Then said they unto him, in order to
see whether he was of any other tribe, Say now Shibboleth : and he said Sibboleth : for he could not frame to pronounce [it] right. Then they took him, and slew him at the pas. sages of Jordan : and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand, in the fight, in the pursuit, and at the
* This shows that they were disposed to censure and quarrel with him. Had he sacrificed his daughter, that would have been another matter of accusation.
+ These Ephraimites spoke a different dialect, and could not pronounce the sh, as the French cannot pronounce our th, nor we pronounce the Welch ch ; by this means they were easily discovered.