Regarding Jephthah’s daughter

I linked yesterday to Rachel Barenblatt’s poem on “the nameless daughter of Yiftach (in English, his name is usually rendered Jephthah).”

The story of Jephthah is told in Judges 11, with the fate of his daughter described in Judges 11:34-40. Before going to battle with the Ammonites, Jephthah made a vow to God:

“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.”

He defeats the enemy and returns home, and then:

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.”

Barenblatt teaches me something I hadn’t known about this story, and about the winter holy days we celebrate in December:

Tekufat tevet, the winter solstice, is regarded as the date when Yiftach’s [Jephthah’s] daughter was killed.

The darkest day of the year seems appropriate for such a dark story. Note that this tradition assumes that Jephthat’s daughter “was killed.” That is undeniably what this story suggests — a sacrifice to God “as a burnt-offering.” Barenblatt’s powerful poem reflects on this. Read the whole thing, but here is the final stanza:

when he burned her bones
no prophet spoke God’s anger
and the maidens mourned alone

She also points us to Alicia Ostriker’s long poem/ritual script/cantata “Jephthah’s Daughter: A Lament.” Ostriker begins with the final verse in the story of Jephthah and his daughter as the basis for this ritual:

And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

This is in the Bible, so for Christians, this story is part of our story.

Narcisse Diaz de la Pena, “Lament of Jephthah’s Daughter,” 1846.

And we don’t even know her name.

Some interpreters of this story have latched onto a slightly less horrifying reading, suggesting that Jephthah’s daughter was not killed as a sacrifice, but was instead dedicated to God, set apart in seclusion as a perpetual virgin.

I certainly prefer that reading to the plainer one, but as much as I’d prefer to read this story that way, I don’t find the case for this reading very persuasive. This is the book of Judges — a relentlessly bloody collection of tales of slaughter, rape, terror and even a suicide bombing. There’s little in the chapters preceding or in the chapters following the story of Jephthah that suggests we should look for a less horrifying way of spinning this story.

The entry on Jephthah in the Jewish Encyclopedia mentions this alternative interpretation, but dismisses it:

According to some commentators … Jephthah only kept his daughter in seclusion. But in Targ. Yer. to Judges xi. 39 and the Midrash it is taken for granted that Jephthah immolated his daughter on the altar, which is regarded as a criminal act; for he might have applied to Phinehas to absolve him from his vow. But Jephthah was proud: “I, a judge of Israel, will not humiliate myself to my inferior.” Neither was Phinehas, the high priest, willing to go to Jephthah. Both were punished. …

The rabbinical commentary on the story is fascinating:

The Rabbis concluded also that Jephthah was an ignorant man, else he would have known that a vow of that kind is not valid; according to R. Johanan, Jephthah had merely to pay a certain sum to the sacred treasury of the Temple in order to be freed from the vow; according to R. Simeon ben Laḳish, he was free even without such a payment (Gen. R. l.c.; comp. Lev. R. xxxvii. 3). According to Tan., Beḥuḳḳotai, 7, and Midrash Haggadah to Lev. xxvii. 2, even when Jephthah made the vow God was irritated against him: “What will Jephthah do if an unclean animal comes out to meet him?”

Later, when he was on the point of immolating his daughter, she inquired, “Is it written in the Torah that human beings should be brought as burnt offerings?” He replied, “My daughter, my vow was, ‘whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house.'” She answered, “But Jacob, too, vowed that he would give to Yhwh the tenth part of all that Yhwh gave him (Gen. xxviii. 22); did he sacrifice any of his sons?” But Jephthah remained inflexible.

What impresses me in this commentary is the rabbis’ condemnation of Jephthah’s vow as “not valid.” That’s quite different from the way I was taught this story in my own evangelical/fundamentalist Christian tradition, in which this story is almost always referred to as that of “Jephthah’s Rash Vow.”

That word — “rash” — is treated as the key point of this story, which is presented as a cautionary tale against imprudent or reckless promises. I don’t recall ever hearing a Sunday sermon on the story of Jephthah, but I probably heard a half-dozen Sunday school or Bible class lessons, and all of them pointed to this as the moral of this immoral story: Don’t make rash vows, because you will be bound by them just like Jephthah was.

And that’s monstrous — almost as horrifying as the original story. Those well-meaning Sunday school teachers all assumed, as Jephthah did, that he was absolutely bound by his vow, no matter what. And thus they all repeated Jephthah’s error — assuming that such vows and rules might somehow matter more than the life of Jephthah’s daughter.

That seems to me to be precisely the opposite of what this brutal little story actually illustrates. It shows us the lethal ignorance and sinful pride of remaining “inflexible.” The story of Jephthah is the story of everyone who decides that vows and codes and rules must be absolute. That way of thinking always ends in death.



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  • flat

    This is the first time I looked at the story of jeptha from this point of view.

    man, that changes everything I knew of this story.

  • Thomas Stone

    Jeez, seems like the lesson should be ‘listen to your damn daughter when she points out that you’re acting like an asshole’, given the excellence of the case she made

  • Dana

     Well, she didn’t make that case in the actual bible. That argument she makes is part of the rabbinical commentary.

  • Tricksterson

    Damn Jews, what right have they got to go thinking they know the Bible better than we do!

  • EllieMurasaki

    But suggest that anyone, even Christians disagreeing with the
    speaker, might know the Bible better than the Christian speaker, and oh the shitstorm.

  • Lorehead

    It’s ancient foefic; meta-Hattie, as it were, pointing out to the despicable main character that the story makes no sense, yet being powerless to change it.

  • mr_subjunctive

    In fairness, that’s not something she says in the Judges 11 version, but in the rabbinical commentary. In Judges 11, she doesn’t point out that he’s acting like an asshole at all. Quite the contrary:

    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.’

    He lets her go mountain-wandering, and for some reason she doesn’t run away from her crazy stupid father during that two months. Instead she comes back and lets him kill her, because apparently a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

    I think the story would be improved by adding a second daughter (or maybe a sassy gay neighbor) to point out that they’re both being morons.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    In fairness, that’s not something she says in the Judges 11 version, but in the rabbinical commentary. In Judges 11, she doesn’t point out that he’s acting like an asshole at all.

    This distinction gets at an interesting thing about “literal” readings. The allegedly literal evangelical/fundamentalist reading, which allows for no interpreataion, no extrapolation, turns the story into a fable with one-dimensional characters and an oversimplified moral; it doesn’t treat the characters as real people at all. The Rabbinical commentary on the other hand, which fundamentalist Christians would not consider “literal” at all, treats the characters as actual people with personalities, inner lives and motivations. By working to make the story as written conform to real life instead of the other way around, the Rabbinical commentary confers a narrative cohesion to the story that the fundamentalist version of a literal reading negates.

  • Triplanetary

    (or maybe a sassy gay neighbor)

    Got you covered.

  • Tricksterson

    Obviously she was an uppity woman for trying to correct her father.

  • AndrewSshi

    Clearly the alignment of a lot of fundamentalists is basically Lawful Neutral.

    Most medieval moral theologians said that if you’d made a vow that was a sin, following through with the sinful vow was a worse sin than breaking the vow.

    This is probably also a good place to bring up the oath of the Sons of Fëanor. 

  • Tricksterson

    “Clearly the alignment of a lot of undamentalist is basically Lawful Neutral Lawful Stupid”

    Fixed that for you.

  • Alex Harman

    Clearly the alignment of a lot of fundamentalists is basically Lawful Neutral.

    At best.  Some of them, like Fred Phelps, are essentially just sadists, whose primary use for laws is to define groups of people against whom their cruelty (the true purpose of which is simply their own pleasure) can be sanctioned — hence, their proper alignment would be Lawful Evil.

  • Lori

    This story is disturbing on so many levels, not least of which is that, if the translation is correct, Jephthah always intended to make a human sacrifice. One normally doesn’t use “whoever” when talking about animals. He was just bummed that it turned out to be a human he liked instead of one he didn’t care about.

  • depizan

    Yeah, that struck me, too.  What kind of vow was that in the first place?  And why did God honor the bargain at all?  Why would God _want_ to give him what he asked for when what he offered in exchange should’ve been abhorent.  (Shouldn’t it?  I’m rather vague on what God approves of.)

    At least the modern “oh God, save my butt” prayers generally involve the prayer giving up something.  “Oh, God, please let me ace this test and I promise to give up coffee.”

  • Makabit

    At least the modern “oh God, save my butt” prayers generally involve the prayer giving up something.  “Oh, God, please let me ace this test and I promise to give up coffee.”

    Why would God want me to give up coffee?

  • Lori

    Why would God want me to give up coffee?  

    The way I was taught growing up, god doesn’t give a crap about you drinking coffee. He does however care when you love a thing too much and “make an idol” of it. So, if your coffee addiction is OOC it could make theoretically make a good bargaining chip.

    And then of course there’s Lent and other similar ideas about abstaining from something you care about/enjoy in order to facilitate focusing on god.

  • Tricksterson

    Because He’s a Mormon

  • Caravelle

     Was it “whoever” (by which I mean “a word that denotes a person and not an object”) in the original though ?

  • Lorehead

    I won’t pretend to know Hebrew that well, but the phrase in question is:

    אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִדַּלְתֵי בֵיתִי לִקְרָאתִי

    The pronoun אֲשֶׁר can refer to any subject of a relative clause.  For example, in the first two chapters of Genesis, the word refers to waters, plants, every thing that creepeth, all the work that God made, and the man he had formed.  The sentence in Hebrew is therefore ambiguous in exactly the way you would infer from the commentaries.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Good point. That said, the fact that the guy went ahead with the sacrifice and his daughter went along with it really suggests a level of unhealthiness in his thinking and in her attachment to him. :(

  • Charity Brighton

    Some people just don’t like to make waves. I’m sure the daughter had better things to do that day than to be immolated, but sometimes we have to make sacrifices to get along with our family. 

    It’s like Thanksgiving or some other family event dinner when your cousin who is a strident obnoxious ideologue shows up and tries to start arguments with everyone at the table. You might loathe her but you’ll keep the peace at least until your grandmother falls asleep at the table. 

    This is roughly the same concept, except the white-hot anger is on the outside, not the inside. 

  • Lorehead

    Some people just don’t like to make waves. I’m sure the daughter had better things to do that day than to be immolated, but sometimes we have to make sacrifices to get along with our family.

    I’m pretty sure she’d much rather have been the one making the sacrifice.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Or not being a sacrifice at all.

  • Charity Brighton

    I mean, I’m sure she didn’t enjoy the experience. But sometimes you just have to walk it off, take a knee, suck it up, whatever.

  • Lorehead

    Take two months to roam the hills and weep with your friends, if you need it.

  • Tofu_Killer

    The problem with the Rabbinical  reading of the story is that it suggests that you can back out of a promise to God with a plea to logic/emotion/gut feeling. RTCs cannot allow that anything other than the word of God is a guide to right action.

    There are ideologies in conflict here; biblical fundamentalism cannot allow humanistic concerns cannot get in the way of a literal reading.

  • Thomas Stone

    Well more than that it suggests that it’s possible to say words that have no meaning and inherently cannot be binding, if they don’t fit into a larger moral framework. Which is more or less the first and foremost case against most of the really idiot stuff that the fundamentalists tend to push- hatred of gays, hatred of women, hatred of Muslims. If you’re willing to say ‘well that obviously doesn’t count, because that contradicts practically everything else we believe (and also is pointlessly cruel)’ about anything at all, their whole edifice falls apart.

  • Lorehead

    If by problem, you mean a doctrinal difference between Judaism and Christianity, then almost.  The procedure for getting God to release you from a vow was more formalized than that.  The rabbis are, I think, snarkily pointing out that this story makes no sense.  They don’t have available to them what seems like the obvious explanation to us: that the Torah was written after Judges, so the people in the stories are following a different set of rules.  If Leviticus 5, which was set earlier, had been written earlier, then Jephthah should just have followed what it says to do “if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt[.]”

  • P J Evans

     And your point, if you actually have one, is?

  • Tricksterson

    He’s like an evil Victor.

  • Tofu_Killer

    “If by problem, you mean a doctrinal difference between Judaism and Christianity, then almost.” 

    This is an excellent point, and interesting, but it is not exactly the problem I was thinking of, and I have betrayed my social science training.

    My interest is how 3000 +/- years of biblical exposure have made their way into the everyday, where it effects how people act and think. The Rabbinical tradition is one very important path for how these stories arrived in the mainstream, as the fairy tale echoes of Jepthah’s Vow demonstrate. Given the high levels of illiteracy and the intellectual isolation of most communities until very recently, I would argue that the Lambeth Worm and Beauty and the Beast are better representations of how people understood this story for most of the past two thousand years than a close reading of the original text.

    So the problem I refer to is how this traditional understanding of the story collides with expanding literacy and the newly available source texts, and how biblical literalism and fundamentalism are made possible by these developments. Tradition carries a lot of inertia, especially where that tradition always creates the context for the fundamentalism.

    So, shorter: I am more interested in what people THINK the stories mean, rather than what the stories ARE , if that makes sense.

  • Dave

    >  I am more interested in what people THINK the stories mean, rather than what the stories ARE , if that makes sense.

    In a related field, this stance is known as phenomenology.

  • Tofu_Killer

     Yes, phenomenology too, but I meant a Staussian Grounded Theory methodology inflected with a historical context and a sensitive coding around “rash promises”.

    My education and $10 will get ya a vente latte at Starbucks (c).

  • Lorehead

    I think I follow.  But I’m also interested in what the rabbis thought it meant.  My very unauthoritative impression: these ancient theologians weren’t stupid.  They really did enjoy a kind of discourse I’ve called snarky, where they establish their intellectual superiority by pointing out the reductio ad absurdum of other people’s arguments.  They could see, just as well as anyone else who’s ever read Scripture, that it’s frequently bizarre, contradictory, or just inscrutable, but they came from a background and an environment where they couldn’t very well say, “This is pointless and we’ve all wasted our lives.”  Or at least, anyone who had would not be one of the  sages whose commentaries are recorded in the Talmud.

    But this is a story in which Jephthah is already, by the standards of the second century CE, indisputably in the wrong.  And there’s no theological problem with saying that he’s a selfish, entitled idiot.  So, out come the knives, and some very sarcastic stories in which the young daughter whom he killed shows him up, or God himself points out how stupid that vow was even if he had meant animals, and no, that’s not why he won the battle.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Exactly right. Jephthah was a moral idiot and is recognized as a monster by pretty much everyone outside of the literalists.
    My comment was about how the current RTC perspective on the story runs headlong into the traditions that have grown up around it and are current today, so no conflict.

  • Lorehead

    This reminds me of the discussion from a few weeks ago that the literalists aren’t really reading the text literally; they’re trying to maintain the dogma of inerrancy.  Pointing out that this story was set after the Law of Moses, which provides a way to annul careless oaths to God, was written, and therefore Jephthah should have been able to get out of it, is actually a more literal reading than trying to find a moral to the story that twenty-first century Evangelicals can agree with.  There’s nothing less literal about the reading that this is the tragic story of a bunch of crazy people, or that there used to be some bizarre cultural attitude in ancient Gilead that a man would lose face if he broke a vow, but not if he murdered his daughter.  Or perhaps imprisoned her in solitary confinement for life against her will, because that makes the story so much more uplifting, particularly when you consider that his father blames her for not staying passive and indoors.

    One pattern you see over and over again with the Evangelicals is blame as a substitute for solving the problem.  The way you respond to a tragedy is to look for some way the person who got hurt broke a rule, or just made a mistake.  Then, you conclude that it was all his or her fault, and stop.  So, Jephthah broke a rule by making an oath.  So it’s all his fault, and he got punished.  If he hadn’t broken any rules, there would have been no problem; therefore, the rules are perfect.  For that matter, Fred Clark’s counterargument is mainly that the girl who doesn’t even get a name is the real victim here, and she did nothing wrong, not that the story fundamentally makes no sense.

    This discussion also reminds me of a case I read about in which a Jewish teenager with obsessive-compulsive disorder would invent all kinds of new rules, going far beyond even Orthodox observance, and was convinced, he said 100% certain, that God would punish him if he ever broke one.  His therapist went and spoke to his rabbi, and found out that there is actually a formal ceremony in the Talmud, replacing the one in the Bible that involves animal sacrifice in the Temple, to nullify a vow to God.  He and two other rabbis got together and went through the ceremony with the boy, and it gave him some peace of mind: he no longer believed that he had to keep all of the vows that his mental illness had led him to make.

    I wonder if there’s ever been a similar case in the Evangelical community, and how a pastor would handle it, although I’m sure it would be with care and compassion.

  • banancat

    Religiosity is actually a common symptom of OCD, although that boy’s case was especially severe. I’m sure that in the evangelical culture such a case would be handled exactly the same as any other mental health issue: with lots of guilt and prayer.

  • Isabel C.

    I’ve read the fairy-tale version of this: the guy promises the devil “what’s standing behind my house”–thinking that it’s an old apple tree that doesn’t give much fruit–and it turns out that the daughter had gone out to water the tree or whatever, and it ends with people getting their hands cut off and marrying kings and so on, which is a somewhat better ending.

    It also makes sense that the guy can’t go back on it in that version–yep, the devil’s gonna hold you to that promise, because he’s the devil–but also makes him look like even more of a git, since…who makes vaguely-worded promises to Satan?

  • Mark Z.

    Isabel C.: who makes vaguely-worded promises to Satan?

    Answer: A guy who thinks he has an ace up his sleeve and forgets that he’s dealing with Satan.

    Fairy tales unanimously say that trying to cheat the devil is never smart.
    (You can outsmart him, but this requires you to be smart, and see above. The way to outsmart the devil is by being meticulously honest, humble, and realistic. Think Sam Gamgee.) And we can tell this dude is cheating because he’s making a deal while thinking
    “ha ha, this is going to cost me nothing of value”. That’s a great way to hose yourself.

    It doesn’t help that this guy thinks of his old apple tree as worthless, either; the apple tree behind your house is family, and you don’t kick family to the curb because
    they’re getting on in years and no longer contributing like they once did. That’s just fucking disrespectful. Basically this guy is doing everything possible* to hose
    himself, and he’ll be lucky to live past the end of the second page.

    Jephthah, on the other hand, is not a fairy tale. It’s a scarily plausible story
    about a violent religious fanatic doing what violent religious fanatics do. His karma doesn’t catch up to him. His daughter dies and he lives. I don’t know what else to say.

    * Well, not everything.

  • Ross

    Jephthah, on the other hand, is not a fairy tale. It’s a scarily
    plausible story about a violent religious fanatic doing what violent
    religious fanatics do. His karma doesn’t catch up to him. His daughter
    dies and he lives. I don’t know what else to say.

    Seems like the last time I heard this story, it ended with his wife murdering him, then his son killing his mother to avenge his father, then Athena stepping in and creating the criminal justice system to end the cycle of violence.

  • Mark Z.

    In the slightly longer view, that’s what happens here. The tribal elders eventually get sick 0f these self-appointed adventurer heroes, go to God’s representative, and demand a real government.

    YHWH is a lot more morally ambiguous than Athena, so instead of jury trials and the Furies submitting to the rule of law, they get a monarchy with a big disclaimer saying “If your king turns out to be a tyrant or an idiot, that’s your own problem.” (This didn’t completely end the era of self-appointed adventurer heroes, either; David was one of those before becoming king.) But they do end up with a real army for defense, and a religious infrastructure that cracked down on human sacrifice and other abuses.

  • Lori

    The tribal elders eventually get sick 0f these self-appointed adventurer heroes, go to God’s representative, and demand a real government.  

    Jephthah wasn’t self-appointed. Quite the opposite. He had left his family & tribe because they treated him poorly and was making his own way in the world, successfully leading outlaws. The tribe came to him and insisted that he save their asses because he could fight. He initially declined, owing to the treating like crap and all, but they talked him into it. Arguably he made the vow in exchange for victory because failing would have carried a very high cost.

    So if Israel got fed up with self-appointed adventurer heroes they didn’t mean Jephthah, or they were remembering events in a self-serving BS way. Obviously that 2nd one is not out of the question.

  • The_L1985

    Reading your link, I feel the need to interject that going down to Carterhaugh didn’t work out so badly for Janet and Tam Lin in the end.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, but the middle bits sucked.

    Somebody copy the URL of Mark Z’s link please? Disqus strips out little things like a href tags when converting comments to email notifs of comments, and Disqus flat out refuses to load comments on this computer.

  • The_L1985

    And…well, I guess it rather did.  Sacrifices to Satan?  Watching someone transform into all kinds of nasty beasties before your very eyes?

  • EllieMurasaki


    And having to hold on to the nasty beasties despite the high risk that the beasties will take exception to being held.

    The hell is ‘eel broo’?

    If your old flame shows up uninvited at your wedding, start eyeing the exits. There’s a chance he/she is a Doleful Ghost. Be that as it may, no good will come of it.

    I’m trying to figure out how that works given the scenario set out in the song “Friends in Low Places”.

  • Jamoche
  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m not convinced that ‘true love’ is a phrase applicable to someone who poisons one, but okay. Thanks.

  • Jamoche

    Lord Randal does seem a bit slow on the uptake :)

  • Randy Owens

    Lord Randal does seem a bit slow on the uptake :)

    Hey!  I resemble that remark!
    (Yes, “Randy”‘s short for “Randall”.)

  • Dash1

    The importance of punctuation:

    Lord Randal does seem a bit slow on the uptake

    “Lord! Randal does seem a bit slow on the uptake!”
    versus what I suppose would be a prayer:
    “Lord, Randal does seem a bit slow on the uptake.”

  • Randy Owens

    Hee, I just did a post on that yesterday on Facebook, pointing out the importance of punctuation when it’s been asking lately, “[h]ow are you feeling, Randy?”
    “That comma makes all the difference.”  (Yes, capitalization & word order, too.)

    (For those who don’t Facebook, they recently changed the text in the box where you type your status update, to rotate a few more allegedly friendly questions like that.)

  • The_L1985

     So how are you feeling Randy?  And did you at least take him out to dinner first? :P

  • The_L1985

    I’m trying to figure out how that works given the scenario set out in the song “Friends in Low Places”.

    It’s probably sad that my initial response to that was, “Jimmy Buffett counts as a British folk singer now?’

  • EllieMurasaki

    Jimmy Buffett did a version? It’s a Garth Brooks song, though I admit I was thinking of the cover by Celtic Thunder. British Isles, right? *flees enraged Irish ancestor ghosts*

  • Randy Owens

    Did you know when you posted that worse-than-TVTropes link to Making Light that they actually refer to the story of Jephthah around comments #440-443?  It wasn’t actually relevant to the specific context of your link, so I’m wondering if it’s just that much of a coincidence.

  • Loquat

    I’ve read another fairy tale that’s an even closer imitation of this story; a fellow somehow gets into a situation where he’s asked to kill the first living creature that meets him when he gets home – I’ve forgotten why he agrees to it, but there’s something important at stake – and he explicitly thinks that he’s agreeing to kill his faithful dog, because the dog’s made a habit of being first out the door to greet visitors for years and years. And, of course, by the time this guy gets home a few more years have passed and the dog is aging or lame and the kids are old enough to outrun it.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Variations on this device are really common in classic fairy tales. The most famous version is the Beauty and the Beast, but there are plenty of others.

    What I like about the fairy tale versions is that in the absence of a happy outcome like the Beauty and the Beast ending, there is usually a successful attempt to find an escape clause to the promise.

    Por ejemplo:

    There is one story I liked best as a child, and it is the story of a man who makes the promise to kill the first thing he sees when he returns home, knowing that his favorite daughter is the one meant to be killed, but gets out of it by wearing a blindfold until the near-dead family dog is carried out to him.
    You know now that I think of it, it usually sucks to be the dog in these stories. It’s like they all wear red shirts.

    I was also apparently a morbid child.

  • quietglow

     All he really needs to do is hide in a crate and have a couple of guys tell his family it’s a delivery and carry it inside. Terms fulfilled: nobody comes out to greet him, nobody is sacrificed.

  • christopher_y

    Variations on this device are really common in classic fairy tales. 

    Also in Greek mythology, in the story of Idomeneus. It must trigger something pretty universal.

  • Anton_Mates

     The Lambton Worm, perhaps.  To avoid a curse being placed on his family after he kills the Worm, John Lambton has to kill the first thing he sees when he returns; he asks his father to release a dog, but his father’s so happy he forgets and runs out himself.  John, not being entirely evil, can’t bring himself to go through with it and the curse is established after all.

  • Jessica_R

    That’s interesting, the Jehovah’s Witnesses soft pedaled it as she had to stay at the temple as some kind of servant for the rest of her life too. And the moral they took was that Jephthah was an upstanding guy who kept his promises even when it was “hard”. Yeah. It’s why Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies, because it clearly says that when an order or a promise makes every moral fiber in your body cry out in injustice, you say no. No, with no apologies. 

  • Gray Embry

    “She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her.”
    So, he walked into this vow *knowing* that he was going to sacrifice his daughter or wife, since there was no one else there to come out and greet him. “Let me kill all these enemies, O Lord, and I’ll burn up my daughter or wife in return”.

    And God lets him.


  • EllieMurasaki

    My understanding is he was expecting to lose a favored pet or perhaps a servant. The latter isn’t an improvement and the former not much of one, but losing a person he loved was not (he thought) on the table.

  • Lori

    As Ellie points out, the household would have included servants and IIRC it would have been reasonable for him to expect that one of those servants would be the first to meet him. He was also the head of some sort of criminal enterprise before being asked to help defeat the Ammonites and it’s possible he had in mind to sacrifice one of his outlaws. To the god who was supposedly superior to those other people’s gods in part by virtue of not demanding human sacrifice. Which god apparently agrees to the deal because he gives Jephthah the victory he was bargaining for and then lets him kill his daughter.

  • Drake

    Well, he doesn’t demand human sacrifice, but, you know, as long as you’re offering, he might as well imbibe, just to see what all the fuss is about…

    It’s kind of like when your friend is on a diet, and won’t actively seek out certain food, but if you happen to be eating that food he’ll find some elaborate reason why sharing it with you isn’t breaking his diet.

  • Makabit

    Which god apparently agrees to the deal because he gives Jephthah the victory he was bargaining for and then lets him kill his daughter.

    God is silent in the text. There is no reason to believe that Yiftach’s vow is accepted in exchange for victory, except that Yiftach thinks so. God doesn’t say a hell of a lot in Judges.

  • Lorehead

    Except in chapter 20, the one time when you’d think he should have kept his mouth shut.

  • Makabit

    True, Not Helping, although the telegraphese of the comments makes me think that what we’re getting there is probably being interpreted from omens, not spoken, shall we say, directly.

  • Lori

    It’s all well and good to say that god didn’t say anything, but that doesn’t change what he did and didn’t do. Jephthah got his victory. That may have had nothing to do with his oath, but if it didn’t that creates some other issues with the way fundies read the Bible. Jephthah was not prevented from killing his daughter.

    It’s  pretty easy to let god off the hook for this particular mess if one is so inclined. After all, the oath was clearly not his idea. However, the means for doing so creates implications that no fundamentalist I’ve ever known was comfortable with.

  • Lorehead

    I don’t have the impression that Fundamentalists think that, if you make a promise to God, and then get what you asked for, that proves you made it happen.  Maybe someone who took the lesson that Jephthah was bold enough to kill his daughter would believe that?

  • AnonymousSam

    Kind of like in Exodus, where Moses concludes that God aids the Hebrews in their battle against the Amalekites when (and only when) he raises his stave in the air, so he lifts it as high as he can until his arms get tired, then enlists two people to help hold his arms up.

    In reality: if God had a preference for which bloodthirsty tribe killed the other, why would it hinge upon holding a stick in the air?

    (EDIT: Formatting, Disqus, do you know this word?)

  • Launcifer

    Because it wasn’t a stick: it was obviously a Les Paul and God wanted to see Moses’ power chord stance. They just cut that bit out of the story so that people wouldn’t go around believing that rock music was somehow godly.

    In all seriousness, though, this is one of those bits of the Bible that actively creeps me the hell out noce people start talking about the books of the Bible being somehow literally true, especially when considered alongside Isaac and whatnot. I mean, if nothing else, the Devil sticks to the letter of the bargain. God just seems to do whatever God wants at any given moment, possibly based on whether or not enough people have given up coffee for Lent in order for God to nick it for the pupose of satisfying the craving.

  • Dave

     Well, it’s just as plausible (he says, struggling to keep a straight face) that God had a preference for Moses raising his staff in the air, and differentially aided the Hebrews as a way of conditioning Moses to do so.

  • AnonymousSam

    Next, he teaches Moses to salivate whenever he hears a bell…

  • The_L1985

     “God doesn’t say a hell of a lot in Judges.”

    Given the hell that’s going on because of the Judges, I can’t really blame Him all that much.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m guessing that he thought it would be a servant who are not of course real people.

  • Lorehead

    Given how surprised and unhappy he is when it happens, I think the more likely interpretation is that he was expecting to see an animal first.  That’s definitely how the ancient rabbis read it, when for example they pointed out that he had no reason to expect to see a kosher animal first.

  • Albanaeon

    Considering Abraham and Isaac, and we know that God has a history of changing his mind on human sacrifice, Jephthah’s daughter’s fate is particularly chilling to me.  A son, SAVE HIM!  Daughter?  Well, he needs to learn about making rash vows.  Ughh. Evangelical Bible traditions.  Just about as bad as what one group was talking about with the Amalekites and their slaughter.  For them, the moral was you had to obey God no matter what and He’s well within his rights to get pissy if you don’t slaughter everyone like you were told.  That there’s something WRONG with slaughtering everyone didn’t even come up.

    Finding that there really are people for whom “right” is defined as “coming from someone with authority” was not pleasant.

  • quietglow

    “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. ”

    Even back in Sunday school it was apparent he had trouble taking responsibility. God did it! His daughter did it! All he can do is kill people. 

  • SketchesbyBoze


    So reassuring to know that the fundamentalist reading is often the opposite of what the text intended.

  • The_L1985

    To me, the morality seems to be thus:

    1. There should be some way to honorably get out of a rash and horrible oath (like this one).  Someone who uses this approved method is not an oathbreaker, because the Approved Method officially releases you from your oath.

    2. You should have the decency and common sense not to make the sort of oath that renders use of the method in #1 necessary.  This seems to be the logic behind Jesus’s advice to “Swear not at all.”

    3. Breaking a promise, especially when there is an Approved Escape Clause (see again #1), should be considered rather heinous.  After all, if your word cannot be trusted, then YOU cannot be trusted, and in ancient times, trust was a Really Big Deal.

  • flat

    Well for now I go with the christian fundamentalist version that she decides to serve God in the temple.
    Because I need some time to figure this one out for myself, sorry this isn’t the kind of thing I was expecting from Jepthah.
    I knew he hated his family and I thought he loved his daughter but I didn’t knew much else about him.

  • Tricksterson

    The term “burnt offering” pretty much kills that option doesn’t it?

  • flat

    thanks it is nice that you have been so sympathetic towards me about this difficult subject  concerning my faith.

  • mickey4727

    Some critics and scholars have condemned Jephthah for his
    vow, having the view that Jephthah followed the practice of other nations,
    offering up his daughter by fire as a human burnt offering. But this is not the
    case. It would be an insult to Jehovah, a disgusting thing in violation of his
    law, to make a literal human sacrifice. He strictly commanded Israel: “You must
    not learn to do according to the detestable things of those nations. There
    should not be found in you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass
    through the fire . . . For everybody doing these things is something detestable
    to Jehovah, and on account of these detestable things Jehovah your God is
    driving them away from before you.” (De 18:9-12) Jehovah would curse, not
    bless, such a person. The very ones Jephthah was fighting, the Ammonites,
    practiced human sacrifice to their god Molech.—Compare 2Ki 17:17; 21:6; 23:10;
    Jer 7:31, 32; 19:5, 6.

    When Jephthah said: “It must also occur that the one coming
    out, who comes out of the doors of my house to meet me . . . must also become
    Jehovah’s,” he had reference to a person and not an animal, since animals
    suitable for sacrifice were not likely kept in Israelite homes, to have free
    run there. Besides, the offering of an animal would not show extraordinary
    devotion to God. Jephthah knew that it might well be his daughter who would
    come out to meet him. It must be borne in mind that Jehovah’s spirit was on
    Jephthah at the time; this would prevent any rash vow on Jephthah’s part. How,
    then, would the person coming out to meet Jephthah to congratulate him on his
    victory “become Jehovah’s” and be offered up “as a burnt offering”?—Jg 11:31.

    Persons could be devoted to Jehovah’s exclusive service in
    connection with the sanctuary. It was a right that parents could exercise.
    Samuel was one such person, promised to tabernacle service by a vow of his
    mother Hannah before his birth. This vow was approved by her husband Elkanah.
    As soon as Samuel was weaned, Hannah offered him at the sanctuary. Along with
    him, Hannah brought an animal sacrifice. (1Sa 1:11, 22-28; 2:11) Samson was
    another child specially devoted to God’s service as a Nazirite.—Jg 13:2-5,
    11-14; compare the father’s authority over a daughter as outlined in Nu 30:3-5,

    When Jephthah brought his daughter to the sanctuary, which
    was in Shiloh at that time, he undoubtedly accompanied his presentation of her
    with an animal burnt offering. According to the Law, a burnt offering was
    slaughtered, skinned, and cut up; the intestines and shanks were washed; and
    its body, head and all, was burned on the altar. (Le 1:3-9) The wholeness of
    such offering represented full, unqualified, wholehearted dedication to
    Jehovah, and when it accompanied another offering (as, for example, when the
    burnt offering followed the sin offering on the Day of Atonement), it
    constituted an appeal to Jehovah to accept that other offering.—Le 16:3, 5, 6,
    11, 15, 24.

    It was a real sacrifice on the part of both Jephthah and his
    daughter, for he had no other child. (Jg 11:34) Therefore no descendant of his
    would carry on his name and his inheritance in Israel. Jephthah’s daughter was
    his only hope for this. She wept, not over her death, but over her “virginity,”
    for it was the desire of every Israelite man and woman to have children and to
    keep the family name and inheritance alive. (Jg 11:37, 38) Barrenness was a
    calamity. But Jephthah’s daughter “never had relations with a man.” Had these
    words applied only to the time prior to the carrying out of the vow, they would
    have been superfluous, for she is specifically said to have been a virgin. That
    the statement has reference to the fulfilling of the vow is shown in that it
    follows the expression, “He carried out his vow that he had made toward her.”
    Actually, the record is pointing out that also after the vow was carried out
    she maintained her virginity.—Jg 11:39; compare renderings in KJ; Dy; Yg; NW.

    Moreover, Jephthah’s daughter was visited “from year to
    year” by her companions to ‘give her commendation.’ (Jg 11:40) The Hebrew word
    ta·nah′, used here, also occurs at Judges 5:11, and in that text is variously
    rendered “recount” (NW), “rehearse” (KJ), “recounted” (AT), “repeat” (RS). The
    word is defined in A Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (edited by B. Davies, 1957, p.
    693) as “to repeat, to rehearse.” At Judges 11:40 the King James Version
    renders the term “lament,” but the margin reads “talk with.” As Jephthah’s
    daughter served at the sanctuary, doubtless like other Nethinim (“Given Ones”
    devoted to sanctuary service), there was much she could do. These persons
    served in gathering wood, drawing water, doing repair work, and undoubtedly
    performing many other tasks as assistants to the priests and Levites there.—Jos
    9:21, 23, 27; Ezr 7:24; 8:20; Ne 3:26.

  • Mark Z.

     That’s an interesting theory.

    I will admit that I don’t trust you, because

    (1) you spell it “Jehovah”, which nobody else does except Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are a bunch of kooks;
    (2) you rely heavily on Deuteronomy, which hadn’t been written yet;
    (3) you rely heavily on the King James, while modern translations pretty consistently reject the reading you propose; and
    (4) you presume the character and behavior of God to be consistent from one book of the Bible to the next, which is not generally the case.

    But you have provided enough evidence for your position that it can’t be dismissed out of hand. I’ll look into it.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Actually, LaHaye and compatriots have used that rendering of God’s name, and LaHaye is most assuredly no Jehovah’s Witness.

  • EllieMurasaki

    LaHaye is, however, most assuredly a kook.

  • Lorehead

    That’s actually the spelling the King James Bible uses.

  • Miss Michaele

     This sounds like an extended quote from the Watchtower magazine.  Citation, please?

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s because it is from the Watchtower. The article, word for word, can be found in — the Watchtower Online Library.

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    I hang out sometimes on a Christianity Q&A website: Christianity Stack Exchange. And all the Jehovah’s Witness contributors we have, answering any questions asked about the beliefs of the Witnesses, are plagiarists. You can tell from the writing style, and from the distinctive abbreviations used by the Watchtower Society.

    mickey4727 in the first post on the second page of comments is a plagiarist. The text plagiarised is probably the Inisight book. (The Witnesses have two forms of Bible book name abbreviations, and that text uses the shorter form, so it’s probably taken from a text intended for internal Witness consumption, not the Watchtower magazine.)


    P.S., also, the text mentions NW, that is, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. A non-Witness source would be unlikely to rely on this translation as a source, even in comparison with others, as it has been much-criticised. (I am not qualified to judge how valid those criticisms are, and it’s not really relevant anyway.)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Do the JWs even bother asserting copyright on anything they produce? ‘Cause they give away everything for free it seems.

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    Yes. It’s a bit weird. They do give everything away for free individually. But not the CD-ROM with everything on it: that’s for Witnesses only, for some reason. (It honestly doesn’t contain anything not availably publicly, so I don’t know why they have this restriction.) And it’s all on the website too.

    But they do assert copyright. And they don’t like other people reprinting or republishing their stuff. Even if they did allow republication, of course, it should still be sourced and referenced, not passed off as your own words.

    I don’t know why so many online Witnesses are plagiarists, but it does seem to be a common problem.


  • Cathy W

    Hypothesis: they know they’re supposed to spread the word, to the exclusion of almost everything else, but possibly lack the understanding and/or skill at writing to put things into their own words (most – not all, but most – of the Witnesses I’ve known have not been well-educated). Copy/pasting is easy, and you get to sound smarter than you are without worrying that you’re getting some fine point of doctrine wrong…

  • MaryKaye

    In Hawai’i if you broke kapu and were going to die for it, you could flee to the City of Refuge and be purified there and then go home.  They didn’t make it easy to get there–we heard several stories of people swimming the bay to do it, and it’s rocky and rough with high waves–but at least you could try.

    This story is like a horrible echo of Abraham and Isaac, which is a horrible enough story in itself.  When I was a young Christian I was taught that human sacrifice was for the nasty pagan gods, but it really doesn’t look that way in the source material.  I can’t believe that Jephthah’s culture had a strong taboo against human sacrifice–otherwise the oath would not have occurred to him in the first place, nor would his neighbors have tolerated his carrying it out.  Not to mention the priest who presumably had to officiate at this sacrifice.

    I did a pagan rite working (with considerable trepidation) with Tezcatlipoca, and had occasion to ask “What about the human sacrifices?  Was that right?”  I won’t claim any divine status for the answer–it could easily be a projection of my own subconscious–but it was “They were right to think that sacrifice was required; they were wrong to think that you can sacrifice someone else.”  Even as a Christian I couldn’t get around that.  Abraham makes sense if your son is your possession; morally it makes no sense to me if your son is a person.

    My Christian teachers never mentioned the idea that maybe Abraham was supposed to say no, and the ram was God’s last-minute save when he didn’t.  But there was no last-minute save for Jephthah’s daughter.

  • Lliira

    In the case of Aztecs, by the time of the 14th century, they were “sacrificing” huge numbers of their enemies in order to get rid of them. It was attempted genocide, not sacrifice.

    For sacrifice that is actually sacrifice, much less common, and somewhat more defensible from a theological standpoint, look into the Maya.

  • Charity Brighton

    Is it really “sacrifice” if you don’t like or value the thing or person you’re “sacrificing”?  I think it’s kind of cheating to make offerings of someone you would have killed anyway for your own personal gain even if you had no interest in sacrifice or religion.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What do you make of sacrificing an animal you were raising for slaughter, then throwing a feast where the main course is the meat of that animal?

  • Charity Brighton

    Well, presumably the culture in question values livestock and cattle. They can be a source of income, or a sign of wealth, or something like that, right? You’re supposed to be giving something up (I remember something about Prometheus and Zeus divvying up the meat and the fat or the bones and the fat or something about cattle sacrifices in Greek legends) that makes it different from just cooking and eating a meal just for its own sake.

    But sacrificing someone you were planning to rob and kill anyway, for purposes other than religion (that is, you would have robbed and killed this person anyway even if you did not have a religious belief that involved offerings like that) just seems like cheating.

  • Lori


    But there was no last-minute save for Jephthah’s daughter.    

    Yeah,  God saved the son, but let the daughter die without even the dignity of having her name recorded. Of course, who needs to know her name? It’s not like she was a person or anything. We know the only 2 things about her that mattered—she was a virgin and she did as she was told.

  • Lliira

    As Tofu Killer points out, this is a common trope. Worse, these days it’s usually played for laughs. Not immolating your daughter, but gambling her away. Or your wife. As if you own her in the first place. As if it’s funny that a man would value a woman in his family so little that he’d sell her into sexual slavery on basically a whim.

    “I’ll pay you a million dollars to sleep with your wife.” That was a hit a pretty short time ago. We still think men own women.

  • Another Matt

    Wow, in my fundamentalist upbringing the Jephtah story wasn’t even supposed to be a warning against making rash vows. It was taken as a bold vow, Jephtah knowing the stakes, which God rewarded. It was followed with, “who among you is prepared to give up everything you love to serve God?” Then some study from Luke 14:

    25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What happened to ‘love your neighbor’?

  • Another Matt

    Sigh. I know. There were basically two ways to address this. The first was to say that Jephtah and his daughter were to be very glad that the battle went well on behalf of the people, and so she was to take her sacrifice as the greatest showing of love possible — hating life itself to give glory to and victory to God’s army. The second was similar, which was to say that fallible humans are incapable of knowing what really constitutes love and hate, so we have to look at what the Bible says about it. In the case of the Luke passage, the point was supposed to be that if you weren’t prepared to sever all ties with your family for your faith (say, if your brother were gay or Catholic), you couldn’t be a true Christian, and that no matter what your conscience said, it was really an act of love to disown your family or even die for your faith. And of course, woe upon those who put their family in the situation of having to make that choice.

  • EllieMurasaki

    …I bet that works well for keeping people inside the boundaries, but as part of a code of ethics with which to deal with people including those outside the boundaries, it’s worth approximately fuck all. Which realization is a really good way to end up outside the boundaries and thus cut off from everyone inside whether one wants the people inside to cut one off or not.

  • Another Matt

    It’s also a great way to keep insiders’ consciences bruised one way or the other. I remember as a child behaving in a way I felt was right, but “knowing” it was wrong — and vice versa; I felt that I was wrong to have those pangs of conscience in the first place. Having compassion (or, dear God, sympathy) for the wrong person was a good example of doing something I “knew was wrong” but felt was right. My dad was always quick to point out that impure sympathies was “how Charles Manson got started.”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    And, of course, Jesus was well known for railing against having compassion for the wrong people.

  • Another Matt

    And, of course, Jesus was well known for railing against having compassion for the wrong people.

    If I remember right from my childhood, this was only permissible because Jesus was divine and he knew what to do with His compassion so that it wouldn’t be sinful. He thought the “WWJD?” question was really dangerous, because there were things only Jesus could do, like die for sins.If you found yourself in a situation where there was no Biblical command available to guide you, you were not to imitate Jesus because you could do something that was reserved for Him. Instead, you were supposed to pray for guidance and then do what God told you. I never once heard from God, so I was always terrified that I was so far gone that God wouldn’t tell me what to do.

    And again, commands which seem simple, e.g. to “love your neighbor” or “love your enemy,” required further Biblical interpretation because if you just went with your human intuitions about “love,” you would most likely get it wrong (funny how intuitions about “hate” needed no interpretation…).If you had compassion for the wrong person, you weren’t loving them — you were giving them up to their lack of faith. If you really wanted to love them you would try to do something about whatever it was that demanded your righteous disdain — if you could get them to give up their special sin and accept Christ, that was showing your love. Compassion would more often than not take you down the wrong path.

  • Another Matt

    If I remember right from my childhood, this was only permissible because Jesus was divine and he knew what to do with His compassion so that it wouldn’t be sinful. He thought the “WWJD?” question was really dangerous, because there were things only Jesus could do, like die for sins.

    I meant my dad thought “WWJD?” was dangerous.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    If you found yourself in a situation where there was no Biblical command available to guide you, you were not to imitate Jesus because you could do something that was reserved for Him.

    How does that square with injunctions in the bible, such as 1 Corinthians 11, to imitate Christ?

  • Another Matt

    How does that square with injunctions in the bible, such as 1 Corinthians 11, to imitate Christ?

    Look, I don’t want to defend the beliefs I was raised with because it gets me agitated — this Jephtah thing seems to have struck a raw nerve in me. In any case, I don’t specifically remember what I was taught about this verse, but if I had to guess according to the general spirit of those beliefs, this was not supposed to be a general injunction, but rather a command to follow the example of Christ on the next 15 verses regarding head covering (and Paul would have known what Jesus thought about these matters, whether or not Jesus said anything in the Gospels about it, and anyway the Holy Spirit wrote the whole thing and by definition He couldn’t have gotten anything wrong).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Oh, if I was unclear–definitely get that you’re not defending those beliefs. Just wondered if that particular internal contradiction had come up.

    My own denomination is not into bibliolatry so if something that is taught contradicts some verse in the bible (a) it wouldn’t be a huge issue and (b) most of us wouldn’t notice!

  • Another Matt

    Oh, if I was unclear–definitely get that you’re not defending those beliefs. Just wondered if that particular internal contradiction had come up.

    Thanks — this is a complicated thing. Here’s more what I meant, rather than “I don’t want to defend these beliefs.”

    We were all expected to be good apologists for the Lord, and I happened to have been the most skilled apologist in my immediate family, even though I had never “heard God’s voice” (something I was scared to death to ever admit). I thought that if I could just do this right then the Lord would show me the same grace He showed everyone else.

    So now that I’ve discarded those beliefs (I don’t mind saying I’m basically an atheist, though for about 5 minutes a week I can convince myself to be a deist :) ), it can put me in a bad mood to relive my prior role as a defender of that brand of faith. I’m astounded sometimes just how easy it still is to “slip into character,” as it were.

    However, I think I have special empathy for fundies, and I really know what it’s like to be a terrified insider.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I get what you’re saying, and I’m glad you’re not a terrified insider any more. That whole idea that God will speak to you in a obvious, unambiguous way and that there’s something wrong with you if he doesn’t is pretty insidious. If God does speak to you like that, or you can convince yourself that he does, I guess it’s easier than the idea that discernment is hard, and that you may experience long periods of feeling disconnected from God despite doing “nothing wrong”. But I have to wonder how many people are pretending to everyone else while internally worrying why they don’t experience what they say they do.

    I was into apologetics and intellectual theology in my early days as a Christian, but I’ve since tired of it. These days I have little time for “I believe X because” and prefer to focus on “I believe X therefore”.

  • Charity Brighton

    I have to admit, of all of Charles Manson’s character flaws, I would have never picked “sympathy for others” as being the root of them all. I do have to wonder about any religious tradition that degrades concepts like sympathy, empathy, mercy, and compassion. Are there other important virtues? Sure — sometimes you have to “harden your heart” against some people, but compassion shouldn’t really be viewed as evil as a general concept…

  • Another Matt

    Right, well. It was about purity of faith. Compassion wasn’t inherently evil; just inherently dangerous. I think the Charles Manson thing was supposed to deter the slippery slope: yeah, today it’s merely a misplaced sympathy for the gays, but once you let yourself on that path, it’s not that far to orgies, opening yourself to other religions, styling yourself a guru, starting a cult, and finally to mass murder. If we can’t rely on the Bible to tell us what is unequivocally right and wrong, then anything goes. As Fred has said before many times, it’s the all-or-nothing stance combined with inerrancy that makes this happen.

    I should mention that my family has moderated itself quite a bit since my childhood, but I’m still recovering from their previous hardline fundamentalist positions. We’re all healing, I think, so there’s hope yet. I’m the oldest of my siblings, so I was steeped in it the longest.

  • frazer

    Your experience reminds me of that wonderful passage in Huckleberry Finn when Huck decides to go to hell rather than rat out Jim.  And of course, Jesus on quite a few occasions broke the Law in order to do good.

  • The_L1985

     Been there, done that, have the mental-scarring. *hugs*

    I was deeply fortunate that my mother never once tried to dissuade me from feeling compassion–that alone helped me to get my head on straight (or at least, somewhat less crooked) later on.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Wow, in my fundamentalist upbringing the Jephtah story wasn’t even supposed to be a warning against making rash vows. It was taken as a bold vow, Jephtah knowing the stakes, which God rewarded.

    What is it about the word “bold” and fundamentalism?  I swear (though I do now vow), I hear than damn word about 32,000 times per week on Christian talk radio.  Most recently, it was the guy preaching the pre-Christmas sermon about how Jesus was the only way out of Hell.  “I’m sure some people in the audience are offended by my bold preaching on this subject.”

    Dude, it is not actually all that bold of you to say something that the majority of Americans believe.  Calm down and get over yourself: you’re not nearly the brave, righteous truth-teller you think you are.

  • The_L1985

    “It was taken as a bold vow, Jephtah knowing the stakes, which God rewarded. It was followed with, ‘who among you is prepared to give up everything you love to serve God?'”

     …Wow.  That is all levels of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, right there.  Another Matt, your fundie upbringing has just made my fundie upbringing look sane by comparison.  Hel, you made my fundie upbringing look like a left-wing hippie commune by comparison!

  • Another Matt

     …Wow.  That is all levels of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, right there.  Another Matt, your fundie upbringing has just made my fundie upbringing look sane by comparison.  Hel, you made my fundie upbringing look like a left-wing hippie commune by comparison!

    So here’s the deal — it’s really easy to teach children this stuff if you’ve never actually been in the position to have to “give up everything you love to serve God.” It’s an obviously absurd standard nobody can uphold, and so it guarantees that you feel guilty for one reason or another.

    Fred Clark has many times referred to the value fundamentalist evangelicals seem to place on having the proper stance on some issue. I think this was one of those things — you pay lip service to the idea that God wants us to give up everything we love to serve Him, acknowledge that we’re all too weak or evil or whatever to do it, remind each other of our guilt in the matter, and then repeat ad infinitum. The only cure is to beg forgiveness from the god who holds you to this impossible-to-achieve standard.It’s a clever, self-perpetuating trick: it’s terrifying to go through childhood thinking that you’ve just done something that will not be forgiven because you didn’t realize it involved the thing or person you loved that God wanted you to give up, so you have to ask for forgiveness for every potential slight. The irony is, rather than establishing an Absolute Morality, it causes a kind of extreme moral paralysis or even a vague superstition: “wow, did my dad suffer this injury because of something I did and God wants to show me how wrong I was? I better try harder to not do anything wrong just in case. Or was it because I accidentally loved my dad more than I loved God?”And because it’s a deadly sin to even think about stepping outside of this loop, it’s just really hard to escape, as a child at least. I think some of the grown-up insiders understand the trick, but there’s the stance to uphold, after all, and in any case you risk losing your children to Satan if they aren’t afraid of God, so it’s your job to make sure they feel the fear. Sometimes I have suspected that I exaggerated the craziness of this when I describe it to others, but I have to remember that what is just lip service and stance maintenance to adults is often taken very seriously by children.

  • Dave


    it causes a kind of extreme moral paralysis or even a vague superstition

    Yes, this.
    Of course, this is not unique to fundamentalism, or evangelical fundamentalism, or to children.
    In this vein, I will never forget my Orthodox Jewish mom explaining to me, a few weeks after my stroke, that she was trying to figure out what it was she’d done wrong that had caused God to punish her in this fashion.

  • The_L1985

    That is absolutely monstrous, but I understand completely where you’re coming from.  As a kid, I was terrified that our family was cursed, because for a couple years, our home phone number had three 6’s in a row.  Combine this with a presentation on Mike Warnke’s version of “Satanism,” a showing of A Thief In The Night, and a love of peace signs…before, and you have a recipe for Instant Neurosis.

    I couldn’t understand why nobody else in my class was as terrified as I was, or why my teachers were trying to calm me down, or why nobody was doing anything about any of it.  If the world was about to end, why weren’t we out saving more sinners and feeding more hungry people?  Why weren’t we ending abortion and homosexuality and fortune-telling and burning all the rock music and stuff if it was all that dangerous?

    I had next to no exposure to any of this darker side of Christianity until I was about 9 or 10, and then it was like it was all dumped on me pretty much all at once: pre-millenial dispensationalism, pro-life propaganda, the existence of gay people, etc.  It was like suddenly the world had become scary and dangerous all at once, and the most horrifying part was the inaction in the face of all these things that were supposed to be scary.  At least when I was 4 and people told me scary stories about vampires, they always made it abundantly clear that the monsters in those stories were make-believe.  Without that explicit, “this is just a story, it can’t hurt you,” kids don’t have a buffer.

  • Another Matt

    That is absolutely monstrous, but I understand completely where you’re coming from.

    I don’t think I’ve ever quite forgiven my parents for not being more vigilant about what I was being taught in that private school…

    For me it’s not so much a matter of forgiveness as it is a question of what to learn from it, although I do regret the slow start I feel I got on life as a result, and I believe a lot of my social anxiety was the result of fundamentalist upbringing. But I also have family that has turned out much worse off than I did in this regard, to the point that as grown adults they fear the world so much they won’t leave their parent’s home.

    I do wish there were a better way to handle discussions about the harm fundamentalism does without hurting the fundies I love. It’s the mirror image of “love the sinner, hate the sin,” which I think is a good enough policy but often fails to work with people who so strongly identify with their faith. It’s especially the case that I don’t want to say “you screwed me up,” but rather, “it’s the pernicious ideas,” and I don’t know how to engage that thought with loved ones without being hurtful. In the end I don’t feel screwed up at all, but just stunted and late to have meaningful relationships with others in the world. I count myself very lucky that physical violence was never part of the programme.

    Thanks, all, for the discussion here; it’s been useful for me.

  • The_L1985

    Well, in my case there were also times where I obediently parroted the stuff I’d learned in school, and my parents would ask me where the hell I’d learned that. Which only confused me more, because a conservative Christian paradigm was literally the only perspective I knew anything about, other than the usual straw men. I assumed that they believed all the way-out-there stuff I was being taught in school. After all, they were Christians too–and I knew even then that they were paying a lot of money for me and my brother to go to private school.

    I don’t think my father understands even now that it’s easy to talk about the importance of having an open mind, but unless you’ve had more than one kind of experience, other people have essentially closed your mind for you. He would tell me to keep an open mind about things–but I literally couldn’t yet, because I was unaware of any reasonable alternatives at all.

  • Another Matt

    Interesting. My parents are of two completely different minds about this, which made things even weirder to negotiate. My dad and his family are all fundie, but not my mom, who is at most a “cultural Lutheran.”

    My siblings all went to public school. For my mom, this was to get us a good education (couldn’t afford private school, and neither of them was able to homeschool). For my dad, it was a chance to send disciples into the Godless public schools to challenge liberal teachers. I’m sure you’ve seen the old creationist comics where the student goes into the science class and flummoxes the poor science teacher? That’s what we were supposed to do. I was too shy to do it in class, but I got some bad grades through middle school because I didn’t feel like it was worth it to apply myself to studies that had a chance to endanger my soul.

    Mom was dismayed, but for my dad, “having an open mind” was one of the many possible first steps to a slope that ends in mass murder. Like I said before, he’s softened up a bunch as he’s gotten older, and I wonder if he remembers just how hard-core he and his side of the family was in those days. I just want to be kind to him now, but our religious differences make it difficult to even get close.

  • The_L1985

    My parents are both Catholic–Dad was raised Catholic, Mom was some variety of Southern Protestant who converted as an adult. They sent me to a private school run out of the local Church of God. They would have sent me to a Catholic school, but there weren’t any in the area, and AL’s public school system was agreed by both of them to be worse than A Beka’s (and in some areas, they appear to be right).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It’s making a lot of sense to me why Catholics are seen as practically Satanic by hard core fundy Protestants. This conversation immediately brought to mind two of our greatest spiritual classics (which are not in the bible, so I guess that’s already terrible):

    1. The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis. Obviously dangerous.

    2.St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises–which are all about discerning “God’s voice”, if you like, so the equivalent of “pray to God and he will tell you what to do”. Except that Ignatius points out how often and easily we mistake our own spirit for God’s, leading us to conclude that what God wants you to do is what you wanted to do anyway (like invade Iraq, for example). So he (Ignatius) details at length the various things you should do to make sure you’re not deceiving yourself–or being deceived by someone else. It’s great stuff, and if taken seriously doesn’t lend itself well to being manipulated the same way as the simplistic “God will tell you what to do (and if it conflicts with what someone in power reckons then you got it wrong)”.

  • PatBannon

    Ah, Judges.


    Remind me why this malevolent, blood-soaked tome is part of the holy canon again?

  • Lorehead

    Well, first, one of my ancestors, probably a priest, decided to write down the history of his people, either as he remembered it or as he’d heard about it.  And what people remembered and talked about was predominantly lurid and scandalous.  It’s impossible to say today how accurate the history is, but it’s a lot more plausible than the story in Joshua.

    Centuries later, the Babylonians are sacking Jerusalem, and another of my ancestors decides, instead of the gold or the ritual objects, to preserve that book.  It does have a healthy dose of cynicism.  Probably sometime after this, someone adds the prologue about how the nation of Israel keeps sinning, so God allows their enemies to defeat them, but each time, he sends a leader who will lead them to victory once again.  It’s impossible to tell today to what degree the stories themselves might have been re-written to fit that thesis, so deeply important to the Babylonian Captivity, but the text we have has been worked into the Deuteronomist’s narrative, between Joshua and Samuel.

    After that, Cyrus the Great allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem, and Ezra and Nehemiah put together that and many other writings into a canon of sacred texts.  Note that Judaism has never believed that every single passage of that canon is the literally-true Word of God, nor that all of it is equally holy.  At least by the first century, the books in that corpus were regarded as falling into three categories, usually translated as the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, except when Jesus talks about them in the Gospels, in which case his words are usually translated, “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.“  Judges would be in the second category.

    Sometime after that, Christianity incorporated that whole corpus into its own canon, calling it “the Old Testament,” and deciding that what it demonstrated was that people who aren’t Christian are morally inferior.  Later yet, that interpretation went out of favor, and one branch of it came to believe that every word in “The Bible” must be the perfect, literally-true Word of God, intended as moral instruction for us today, which to them meant fables about reward and punishment.  Now, Jephthah got rewarded in the story (although the rabbis of the Talmud assert that he must have been punished off-camera, somehow), so it becomes necessary to interpret the story in some way such that it somehow becomes exemplary.

    That, unfortunately, has led to a backlash in which some people are more concerned with pointing out how Judges is not what the Fundies say it is than about reading it for what it is.

  • P J Evans

    [ Cites needed]

  • The_L1985

     I always figured it was because it fits into the backstory.  That, and I thought the idea of having a hair-based superpower like Samson was pretty cool.  (This was before I really understood much about the story of Samson.)

  • Elizabeth2000

    So interesting! This is a new idea to me – most of the discussion I’ve heard on this topic was about what she was doing during the two months that she “lamented her virginity”…

  • Beau Quilter

    Shakespeare saw the same lesson that you do.

    In Henry VI, part 3, the Duke of Clarence regrets what he considers a treacherous oath made to Warwick to turn against his brother, the king. Returning to his brother, he denounces Warwick, saying:

    Perhaps thou wilt object my holy oath; To keep that oath were more impiety Than Jephtha’s when he sacrific’d his daughter. 

  • Dash1

    Late to the party as always, but the folk tale of the “rash vow” appears in more than just Hebrew culture. (It’s given as one of the reasons for Agamemnon’s obligation to sacrifice Iphigenia, for example, and another Greek/Roman version thereof is the basis for Mozart’s “Idomeneo.” And there’s a bridge in Regensburg, Germany, that was supposedly built because the builder made a vow to give the devil the first thing that crossed the bridge. Vow resolved, if memory serves, with the involuntary help of a cock and a dog.)

    Some years back, I taught a course on ancient literature in English, and we read Judges after reading some Greek stories. IANAR (I am not a rabbi, nor am I a Hebrew scholar, so deploy salt-cellars before reading further.). However, one of the things that stood out to the students is that the Jephthah story is nearly unique in that the deity, as Makebit has pointed out, is entirely silent. In the other stories, the person makes a vow and then tries to ignore it, and the deity forces the fulfillment of the vow. In the Jephthah story, the deity is silent. Jephthah makes the decision about what the deity requires and carries it out, true religious fanatic style, without really thinking about what this particular deity is about. (This is consistent with the points made above about the rabbinic commentaries on the story.)

    And that led the class to think about the structure of the book of Judges: it begins with four “good” judges: Othniel, Ehud, Deborah and Gideon as main characters. Then there’s the thoroughly unpleasant Abimelech and an interregnum, so to speak, during which God, at one point, tells the people he’s sick and tired of being asked to pull their chestnuts out of the fire after they’ve forgotten him. But OK, they want some more judges, he’ll give them some more judges and they can see how they like them.

    And there follow two judges taken directly from well-known pagan folklore: the general who makes the famous rash vow, and the strongman with a head full of rocks and a heart full of some more rocks.

    I don’t claim any particular authority for this reading of the book as a unit, but I toss it into the mix for those who are interested. FWIW, it does appear from the archeological evidence that the chronological/sequential presentation of events in the book of Judges is not an accurate representation of whatever was likely happening on the ground (e.g., some of the stories seem to represent synchronous, rather than sequential, events), but is an after-the-fact imposition of a certain structure on the Hebrew stories. So a point was being made.

    And I’m sorry for the wall o’ text.

  • vsm

    There seem to be lots of interesting parallels to the Iphigenia story. In Euripides’ take, Artemis takes her as a priestess as in the less murderous reading discussed above, while providing a non-human replacement sacrifice, as in the Isaac story.

  • Dash1

    Eric Shanower, in his graphic novel series, Age of Bronze, does that part of it nicely: after the sacrifice, Agamemnon comes back to Clytemnestra to announce that Iphigenia wasn’t killed after all, but was carried off by the goddess in a cloud, so their daughter has been chosen as a servant to no less than Artemis, and it’s all good.

    And Clytemnestra, who isn’t having any of it, gives him this look that does not bode at all well.

    Shanower’s Agamemnon looks a lot, IMO, like Captain Hook.

    And, sort of not entirely unrelatedly, if you haven’t seen the movie Iphigenia (which doesn’t include that ending), it’s excellent. And Irene Pappas as Clytemnestra is wonderful.

  • vsm

    I’m not familiar with either of those works, but I’ll definitely add them to the list. Thank you for the recommendations.

    Right now I’m reading The Odyssey for the first time. I like how Homer seems to have thought that Odysseus having dinners and getting presents was at least as interesting if not more than the parts with the cyclops and the sea monsters.

  • The Guest Who Posts

    While I haven’t read that graphic novel yet, I think I read that Shanower based Agamemnon’s looks on the so-called “death mask of Agamemnon” that Schliemann excavated in Mycenae.

  • Dash1

     He has said as much. But he’s added some features. The character has long (Mycenaean) curly hair, and, for some reason, a triangular soul patch. And the overall look, for a late 20th century-early 21st century American, at least, reminds one of Captain Hook. The curly hair of the Mycenaean overlaps well with the curly locks of the pirate. And the moustache with upturned ends is a feature of both characters. (I’m thinking here of Hook as portrayed by actors, not the cartoon character.)

    The predatory look helps enormously, of course.

  • Lorehead

    Good point.  Now that I think about it, the theme of tricking powerful men into making oaths that they aren’t allowed to take back when they become ironic occurs often in the more folkloric parts of the Hebrew Bible.  It’s subtle, and at its most effective, when Nathan floors David with, “Thou art the man!”  But it also happens to Isaac, Belshazzar, Darius, and Haman, and probably to others I’m forgetting.  The similar device of a Persian royal decree that cannot be altered appears in both Daniel and Esther as well.

  • caryjamesbond

    Also in Greek mythology, in the story of Idomeneus. It must trigger something pretty universal.

    Well, that makes sense. Remember, even though the cultures passing these stories on are remembered as highly literate, at the time the stories originated, they weren’t.  There was no system of contracts or courts like we count on- if you were doing business, pretty much all you had was the other person’s word.  Consider two guys agreeing to sell a certain field.  Chances are its going to be a handshake and a promise made in a field with just the two of them around.  Real easy to screw the other person over.

    Stories like this are both about the importance of keeping your word, and the importance of not being a dumbass about giving it. 

  • The_L1985

     From his mother’s womb/Untimely ripp’d.

    At least, that’s what I learned from Shakespeare. :)

  • The_L1985

    *shockgasp* No, really?  Wow, and all this time I thought that characters in plays didn’t actually say the lines therein!  What a novel concept!  &lt /sarcasm &gt

    Seriously, you’re not clever.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Leaving aside all the absurdities, all the inanities, and the misgendering:
    We do not censor the word ‘fuck’ here. Mispelling it just makes you look like a dolt.

  • AnonymousSam

    Among other things. I never thought we’d find someone who made Chris Hadrick look like an intellectual giant, but…

    Achievement Fucking Unlocked.

  • The_L1985

     I don’t know; he makes a rather nice chew toy.

    Maybe he’ll wise up and eventually pass the 5th grade, but then he won’t be as much fun anymore.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, that’s an achievement I could have lived without.

  • Dave

    Well, at least they’re hooking up actual words together into phrases and clauses now, rather than just spamming YouTube links. Sometimes complete sentences, even. Which on occasion relate to the post being replied to. Those are all steps in the direction of actually participating in a conversation, I suppose.

  • Tricksterson

    Or Victor look coherent.

  • The_L1985

     Why on earth would we censor British cigarettes and bundles of firewood? :)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    … or a 1980s BBS retread who thinks they’re bringing it back into style, /<-wr4d d00d.

  • The_L1985

    I am a woman.  I was born with a vagina.  I have told you that I am a woman more than once.

    Also…isn’t Winston a man’s name? ;)

  • The_L1985

    No.  I was born female.  I am still female.  For the remainder of this life, I will remain biologically female.

    However, YOUR username is pretty unambiguously male, which raises some questions. Spambot, maybe?

  • The_L1985

    I assure you, sir, you will never have any way of determining the veracity if that statement, as I would not consider copulation with you even were your private parts made of pure cacao.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t suppose you’ve seen azurelunatic’s Saga of the Chocolate Penis? If not, Google ‘azurelunatic chocolate penis’, it ought to be right on top.

  • The_L1985

    I have now!! :D

  • The_L1985

    I hate to break this to you, but female rapists exist.

  • EllieMurasaki

    On the one hand, you’re right that it’s utterly ridiculous for rape to be accounted a women’s problem when the perpetrators are overwhelmingly men. (The victims are overwhelmingly women, yes, but not as overwhelming.)

    On the other hand, you’re Winston Blake.

  • Lorehead

    Let me guess; you took a rash vow to respond to the next poster you saw?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not one I remember, though it would certainly explain my response to Ginny Bain Allen.

  • everstar

    I feel like we ought to send screenshots of Mr. Blake’s yammerings to Disqus as evidence that please God, they really need to support a killfile.

  • The_L1985

     …Wow.  That’s one Hel of a persecution complex, buddy.  Someone agrees with you–on anything–and your immediate response is, “Stop lying.”

  • The_L1985

    How the fucking hell does acknowledging the existence of female rapists in any way excuse male rapists?  I’m just saying it’s not as easy as you seem to believe.  Also, I’m a feminist, and as I mentioned before, I am rather proudly female.

    Not that it matters.  Your clear lack of knowledge on this subject doesn’t surprise me, as you’ve demonstrated nothing but ignorance from the moment you first posted here.  Why don’t you go play in the sandbox or something while the grownups are talking, hmm?

  • The_L1985

     Actually, I’m a Neopagan.  As long as Christians and Muslims aren’t out trying to exterminate each other or infringe upon general freedom of religion, I could care less what their sexual practices are.

  • The_L1985

     “First they came for the Goddess-worshippers,” eh?

  • The_L1985

     Kali and Hecate are both goddesses, yes.  Hecate is, in fact, an aspect of one of the goddesses I worship.

    But Kali is a lot more complicated than that, and I don’t think She’d appreciate your rather crude description.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is not a documentary. ;)

  • The_L1985

    And again, thugees were not the only worshippers of Kali-Durga, and the worship of Kali continued in its other, non-violent forms long after the thugee cult was banned. This is like saying that the Crusaders were the only medieval Christians, or that all modern Asatruar are members of Aryan Nations.

    As someone who claims to be pro-Hindu, you really should know better.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I call Godwin.

  • The_L1985

     There is more than one definition to that word, sir.

    Pagan: n. 1. Not Christian.  2. A member of any ancient religion that pre-dates Christianity, esp. in the period and region of the late Roman Empire.  3. Neopagan. A religious movement that seeks to re-awaken worship of various pre-Christian deities, with or without the corresponding pre-Christian rites and ceremonies, as appropriate.

    Derived from the Latin: paganus, “of the countryside.”

    Or to quote another of Shakespeare’s plays: “There is more on heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dream’t of in your philosophy.”

  • The_L1985

    Where, if you don’t mind my asking?

  • Tricksterson

    Speaking as a pagan, um no.  I’d go into more detail but it would be pointless.

  • everstar

    I first heard this story as a little girl when my grandmother was telling me about the women represented in the emblem of the Order of the Eastern Star.  The blue ray with the veil-wrapped sword is Adah, Jephthah’s daughter.  I think I asked my grandmother why this was a good story for women to emulate and she told me something to the effect of “because she put her father’s not being forsworn above her own life.”  All I remember getting out of the story is that when my parents got home, I did not go out to meet them.  (I don’t remember if I asked my father if he’d made any promises I needed to know about, but I was certainly wondering about it.)  I’m still a bit bewildered by it being held up as an example of feminine virtue.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If obedience is the supreme feminine virtue…

    (note the ‘if’. the really big ‘if’. the ‘if’ the size of the fucking sun.)

  • everstar

     Oh, I know.  I understood very quickly that I’d never make a good Jephthah’s daughter because sorry, Dad, if you make a promise like this, I am booking it into those hills and not coming back.  Honestly, if I learned anything from this story, it’s that people, especially men, feel perfectly entitled to make promises binding on me without my consent.  If I don’t abide by said promise because nobody asked me, it means I’m faithless and a traitor, but if I do abide by said promise, the promiser is awesome.  Also, I’m dead.

  • Lunch Meat

    Please don’t even engage with this one. It’s a spammer, not even conversing on the level of a troll, and it’s making the comment section look like youtube.

  • caryjamesbond

    I really don’t care if Muslims exterminate you.

    Honey poo, I’m gonna guess from your language of choice, use of pinhead avatar, and the handle “Winston Blake” (plus a few other things) that you’re based in some Northern Hemisphere western country.

    You do know, sugar pie, that if the meaaaaan ol’ Muzzies do take over, that being an atheist won’t really help?  Hell, the mass-murdering Muslims tend to kill OTHER MUSLIMS.  Heck, they kill Muslims of the same type that aren’t fervent enough. 

    I mean, basically- they get exterminated, WE get exterminated. But then, you know Silat. So you’ve got that going for you.



  • JustoneK

    Are you sure you’re not a bot?

  • JustoneK

    You sure showed me.  I totally believe you’re not an average middle class white guy living in Murica with a Christian background.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Can we ban this guy?  I know Fred doesn’t like doing that, but at least our earlier trolls generally pretended to engage, and… sort of made sense.  This guy has nothing but stupid, offensive comments to offer.

  • newenglandsun

    I like any interpretation of this other than the traditional way I was brought up which was Jephthah’s rash vow.

  • Brian Plummer

    This story is so abhorrent. How dare Jephthah make a vow that ruins the life of someone else. Too bad his daughter didnt have the freedoms women in America have. Children had to obey their parents back then or suffer the consequences. I believe Jephthah devoted his daughter to the temple to remain a virgin. His daughter had no choice but to comply. Both lacked wisdom on whether God would have wanted them to fulfill the vow this way.