Tuesday, February 25, 2014

David Murray and Jephthah’s Vow. Part 1

David Murray and Jephthah’s Vow. Part 1
David Murray recently posted a discussion of Jephthah’s vow (Judges 11:29-40). Reading Murray’s post, one might be forgiven for wondering why anyone would ever have thought that Jephthah made a burnt offering out of his daughter. However, a closer look at Murray’s points, reveals that none of them is certain. In the following, I give Murray’s points, each followed by a brief critique. I'll deal with the last two points and give a final evaluation in the second post.
 Jephthah’s previously godly character. Murray’s proof here is Jephthah’s balanced dealings with opponents earlier in the chapter. But dealing rationally with an enemy is not godliness. It’s just good politics. Jephthah may have been godly, but this doesn’t prove it.
Jephthah knew the Bible, so he would have known that human sacrifice was prohibited. The proof offered here is Jephthah’s response to the king of Ammon in vss 12-27. But that doesn’t prove that Jephthah knew his Bible. It just proves he knew his history. They aren’t the same thing.
He was filled with the Holy Spirit. So? That doesn’t prove anything either. One of the odd things about men in the Old Testament is that they are filled with the Spirit of the Lord for executing particular tasks. See, for example, Samson killing a lion in the power of the Spirit (Judges 14:5-6), or the Spirit of the Lord coming upon Saul (1 Samuel 10:6-10). Neither of those episodes shows that the men were filled with the Holy Spirit in a New Testament sense of the word.
Alternative translation of vs 31, using “or” rather than “and.” Yes, that is a possible alternate translation. So is the translation: “it shall be the Lord’s: that is, I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” The existence of an alternative translation does not prove which translation is correct.
Common custom of women serving at the tent of the Lord (Exodus 38:8). That there were such women serving at the tent of the Lord in the wilderness is clear. They are also mentioned in 1 Samuel 2:22. However, it is not clear that they were virgins, which is essential to Murray’s conclusion. There’s no evidence to that effect either in Exodus or in 1 Samuel.
The consequences not being her death, but her being husbandless and childless. That is certainly possible, but it would strengthened if there was some indication that dedication to the Lord’s service required perpetual virginity. There is no such indication anywhere in the Old Testament. Furthermore, if she were killed, she would certainly die without husband or child.
Commemorate, not lament. In Murray’s view, the NASB is correct in vs 40 in saying, “the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah.” He then says, they were going with “worshipful joy.” That goes well beyond what the word might possibly say. The word occurs only twice in the Old Testament: Judges 5:11 and Judges 11:40. First, these are two very different contexts, so what the word might mean in 5:11 is not necessarily what it means here. Further, the ancient versions read “lament” here, which might be wrong, but it certainly is what the translators understood the word to say. The word may mean no more than to recount or retell.
Possibility of repentance. Certainly Jephthah could have repented of a foolish vow. But the text seems to indicate either that he did not think it was foolish, or that he could repent of it (see verse 35).

1 comment:

Jason and Danielle said...

Would you comment on the fact that his name is used as a hero of the faith in Hebrews 11? thanks