Chick-fil-A’s Biblical Family of the Day

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “We support biblical families.”

Today’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day: Jephthah (Judges 11:30-40)

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.” So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them; and the Lord gave them into his hand. He inflicted a massive defeat on them from Aroer to the neighbourhood of Minnith, twenty towns, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.

Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.”

She said to him, “My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has given you vengeance against your enemies, the Ammonites.”

And she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: Grant me two months, so that I may go and wander on the mountains, and bewail my virginity, my companions and I.”

“Go,” he said and sent her away for two months. So she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to the vow he had made. She had never slept with a man. So there arose an Israelite custom that for four days every year the daughters of Israel would go out to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

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  • JKPS

    “So she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains.”

    Girl, you don’t need to bewail anything. Go and get yourself laid.

  • Carstonio

     That’s what I’ve been wondering about. The NIV has her bewailing the fact that she will never marry. I suppose that meant the same thing as virginity for a woman in that culture, at least hypothetically. I can imagine most people in that situation bewailing the fact that zie would never share hir life with someone, or never have children. That would be like the premise of Harlan Ellison’s “The Very Last Day of a Good Woman.” But the Judges account doesn’t explain why the daughter lamented dying while still a virgin.

  • Austinkitty

    I can’t find it now, but I recall an interview with Margaret Atwood where she flatly stated that she named Gilead because of the story of Jepthah.


  • Kirala

    I am thinking of the thing in The Horse and His Boy where Aravis begs her father to let her go mourn her virginity – and then she takes the opportunity to flee her situation and ends up happily away from her self-centered father.

    I can’t help but wonder if Lewis was trying to rewrite this story As It Should Have Happened. May be giving him too much credit, but I like the thought.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Different situation entirely. Aravis was escaping an arranged marriage. She wasn’t escaping death. In fact, she meant to escape the marriage by dying.

  •  Anaryllis, I always love the poetry you quote, but this one especially so. I must find the whole thing and read it.


  • Nitpicking time: God is certainly mentioned plenty in this story.  He just doesn’t take an active role in any of it, excepting perhaps the part leading into it, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah… and the Lord delivered them into his hands.”  After that, the Lord is basically an object, not a subject, grammatically speaking.

  • VMink

    I really wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case, especially after, you know, actually reading the story of Jephthah!

  • VMink

    No worries! Mind you, if it turns out that Jeph got his arse kicked up one side of the Levant and down the other as everyone from Moabites to Edomites to Hittites to The Rock got their licks in, I wouldn’t really be shedding much of a tear for him!

  • Vermontgrrrl

    Did you know Chick Fil A is a corporate bully?  Check out this article link to see what they’re doing to a one-man-show in Vermont.  Even though this article is a few months old, Chick Fil A is still aiming to take out the “little guy.”  When did this become an American value?

  • Interesting point! For my part, I doubt it — the only thing that makes this story compelling to both modern audiences and the audience that would have heard it “back in the day” is the fact that Jephthah’s vow cost him someone he cared about as well as his next generation. If it was his mother-in-law, maybe, but I don’t think a random stranger would have merited the cruel irony. It would be like if Oedipus had ran into a stranger instead of his mother on that road and had a meaningless fling with that person.

  • Lunch Meat

    But the Judges account doesn’t explain why the daughter lamented dying while still a virgin.

    It makes sense to me. I can’t be the only Christian kid who, when everyone else was praying that Jesus would return soon and end the world, silently added, “But please not until I grow up and get married and have sex. The day after that is fine.”

  • Amaryllis

    Thank you!

    In case you haven’t found it yet, redsixwing posted a link in hir comment earlier.

  • Amaryllis

     Interesting parallel, but I think we’ve got two different types of mourning here.

    Jephthah’s Daughter mourns because she’s going to die without having been anyone’s wife or (maybe even more importantly) anyone’s mother. Aravis, IIRC, mourns because she’s not ready to surrender her virginity, and doesn’t consent to being anyone’s wife or mother. And maybe there’s some relationship there to the difference between the Jewish and Christian traditions, the one where dying childless was considered a great sadness, and the other where virginity was, at least in some strains of Christianity, more esteemed than marriage and parenthood. (I refuse to speculate about Lewis himself, or what he thought about marriage.)

    But both fathers seem to have the same proprietary attitude about their daughters’ lives, don’t they?

  • Carstonio

    That would be valid if the Israelites viewed female sexuality the same way we do. My guess would be that many societies back then shamed it to a degree that would make the Taliban look like pornographers, but I haven’t looked this up.

  •  In some respects, but remember, several of the dimensions of modesty only became practicable due to innovations in personal hygiene technology.

  • Kelex

    “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

    In what possible way could this EVER have turned out well?  It doesn’t matter WHO comes out, he’s promising to murder SOMEONE. 

    Although my (NIV) translation says “whatever” instead of “whoever,” giving the possibility of a favored pet or animal of some type.  And I HAVE heard variations of this story where the Jephthah character had a pack of prized hunting dogs, and assumed he’d just have to sacrifice one of them.  In most of those variations, he ends up “sacrificing” his daughter by sending her to a convent to become a nun.

     But if the text is to be taken literally, in both this version and the NIV I read, it says “did with her according to the vow he had made” so murder and then corpse burning.

  • Mary

    Didn’t the bible prohibit human sacrifice?

    Apparently not if God approves of it. The God of the OT consistantly tells his followers to break his commandments so it really doesn’t matter what he said in the ten commandments or anywhere else. Plus it was a female involved. Women and children were property.

    As an aside note. the God of the bible was not very concerned about protecting women and children period. A woman could be either stoned if she did not cry out while being raped or she could be forced to marry her rapist.  And there is nothing in the bible against child sexual abuse at all.

  • I  rather think that the point about “bewailing her virginity” was that if she had already achieved womanhood, she would have been ineligible for sacrifice. What she should have done was got laid during her final fling and then whispered to Dad just before he snuffed her: “BTW, Daddy dear – I’m not a virgin anymore”.

  • Carstonio

    My point wasn’t about modesty, but about the double standard that still persists. I had understood cultures back then to treat a young woman’s sexual inexperience and reproductive ability as fatherly property.

  • firefall

    thus was made the Festival of the Travelling Salesman

  • hagsrus

     “…if she had already achieved womanhood, she would have been ineligible for sacrifice…”

    Sorry to be dim, but why?

  • Carstonio

    Yes, I didn’t see that in the text. Was it so obvious to the readers of the time that the writers saw no need to make it explicit?

  • smrnda

     I think you’re reading it wrong. A virgin daughter was very lucrative merchandise.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which Daddy dear had already sold to the angel of death. Why would she care, and how (if she were sneaky enough) would he know, and what worse thing could possibly happen to her (or, for that matter, him) if the delivery was damaged goods?

    (did I seriously just type that. ugh. the day when that attitude is rooted out of society forevermore ought to be a day of much celebration, except probably no one will notice till afterwards and no one will be able to pin down a date for anniversary parties.)