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was the making of this vow, which, if he had fulfilled by sacrificing his daughter, it must be confessed was an immoral action."
5. "When he made his vow, he promised to fulfil it upon condition that God would prosper him in the undertaking he had in hand; and can it be supposed but that Jephthah would word his vow with so much caution as not to be obliged by it to do an immoral action? There are still extant proofs enow of his great abilities, which clearly evince that he was far from being either rash or weak, and yet he must have been both to a very great degree if he could first have vowed to sacrifice his daughter, or afterward thought himself obliged to do it, because God had given him success. In either of these respects he must have acted out of character; in the first, without his usual prudence, for which he is recommended; in the latter, without his faith, for which he is celebrated."
6. "Whatever Jephthah was, yet God is perfect; and how shall we vindicate the divine perfections, if He gave success to those means which led directly to an immoral end? The Spirit of God was upon Jephthah when he made his vow-the hand of God enabled him to succeed-and it was this success which obliged him to perform his VOW. In these instances he was certainly under the divine guidance. And was it of God that he vowed to sacrifice his daughter, or could God in any sense be the means of such a sacrifice? These things cannot be. His goodness, justice, veracity, nay, every divine attribute, forbid us to think of it. So that, if the perfections of God will not suffer him to countenance an immoral action, and if he did countenance Jephthah's vow by assisting him with His Holy Spirit, and by giving him
success, then certainly the thing he vowed was not immoral, and of course he did not sacrifice his daughter."
II. "To prove from the history itself that he did not sacrifice his daughter."
1. The first argument against her being sacrificed is taken from the history's not mentioning her being sacrificed. If there be any proof that she was sacrificed, it must be either in the words of the vow, or in the fulfilling of it; but there is no proof in them, for there is nothing more said in the latter than that he did with her according to his vow.' So that here we are referred to the words of the vow, to know what it was he did with her; and all that Jephthah vowed was, 'If the Lord would give him success, whatever met him on his return in peace should either be the Lord's, or (margin) he would offer it up for a burnt offering.' Here it is plain what he promised in these words consists of two parts; for what met him and was to be dedicated to the Lord was one thing, but what met him and was to be sacrificed was another; and it is certain these two things are distinct. As the vow, then, consists of two distinct parts, it would be kept by observing either of them, and as one thing Jephthah promised mentions nothing about sacrificing his daughter, and as, when he fulfilled what he had promised, it is only said he did with her according to his vow,' then it is evident that the history is quite silent about her being sacrificed, which as clearly proves as any negative argument can that she was not sacrificed."
2. "This is still further evident from hence, that though Jephthah had vowed to sacrifice whatever creature should first meet him, yet if a creature had met him which the law forbad to be
offered up, it is certain he could not have offered it; and how, then, could he is daughter? No vow can lay a man under any obligation to transgress the laws of God. What, then, was to be done in this case? The law itself provided a remedy. As the unclean creature could not be sacrificed, it was to be ransomed, and another allowed of for sacrifice was to be offered up in its stead. So that in either way the point is clear: either her father did include her in his vow, or he did not; if he did, then she was to be ransomed, and if he did not, then she could not be sacrificed."
3. "There are other arguments which clearly prove that she was alive after her father had fulfilled his vow, for the sacred historian observes, as a consequence of the vow's being fulfilled-as what followed upon her entering into it-that she continued a virgin all the rest of her life. 'Her father did with her according to his vow: and she knew no man.' But when? After she was sacrificed? No. This remark would have been absurd when she was dead; whereas, being a description of her after the vow was fulfilled, it must describe some state or condition she was in, even after the completion of the vow and in consequence of it and this was her being or continuing afterwards a virgin."
4. "The history proceeds further, and asserts that she was alive at least some years after the vow was fulfilled: the words are, And it was a law in Israel that the daughters of Israel went yearly (to lament as it is rendered, or as it is in the original) to make presents to the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.' How the translators happened to mistake this passage is not easily to be conceived; for the word,
which they here render lament, and which signifies, to make presents, they have given the true idea of in every passage but this and another. They have translated it by these three words, reward, hire, gift. The use of it is very remarkable in Psalm lxviii. 18: Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for men.' Here they have rendered the same word gifts which they have in the passage above made to signify lament. And gifts it does signify. I have their own usage and authority to say it does-and, what is more, the authority of all the lexicographers. To make presents is, therefore, the meaning of it in this place, and when these presents were made she could not be dead."
5. "And what greatly strengthens all these arguments, what demonstrates that she was alive long after the vow was fulfilled, is a proof taken from the sacred historian's observing, 'that she received these presents. Four days in every year the daughters of Israel made their presents to the daughter of Jephthah'-they made them for her use and benefit: the particle used in the original does not only denote the dative case to-to the daughter of Jephthah-but frequently expresses something further. When spoken of two things, where one is said to act upon the other, it denotes that one was the cause of the other, and produced whatever action or condition the writer was then treating of: in this sense it is most elegantly used in the first chapter of Genesis. When spoken of persons, where one is doing something to another, it often denotes that one did the action for the use and benefit of the other. This is a well known idiom of the sacred tongue; and the literal sense of the word, as well as the scope of the history,
require that in the passage before us it should be thus understood."
In concluding, he says, "I might have been more copious upon these arguments, but they seemed to me so plain and conclusive that they need not be further insisted on; and now the case hath been fairly stated, I leave it to every impartial man to determine on which side the truth prevails. The common received opinion is, that Jephthah, according to his vow, sacrificed his daughter; but this opinion I showed was not defensible, because human sacrifices were forbidden by the law of Moses, and Jephthah did not transgress this law, for he was directed by the Spirit of God in making his vow, he was never punished for it, he is commended by St. Paul, and had success in consequence of it. And if the common opinion cannot be supported against these objections, much less against the arguments brought to prove that she was not sacrificed."
"Thus is the character of Jephthah vindicated, and neither rashness nor immorality entered into the making of his vow, or the fulfilling of it; but this eminent judge appears to be distinguished for his faith and other virtues. The Scripture also is cleared in this particular, and reconciled to reason and common sense; and this historical passage was recorded, as all Scripture was, 'that the man of God might be perfect, throughly furnished to every good work.'
And now, dear sir, my apology for writing at such length must be my feeling so strongly on the point, and trusting to your kindness for all imperfections.
I remain, yours very sincerely,
T. D. L.