Jonathan Magonet – Did Jephthah Actually Kill his Daughter?

The story of Jephthah’s daughter is famous as an example of child sacrifice, yet certain clues in the biblical text imply she may have suffered a very different fate.

The Case against Jephthah

If Jephthah were to be arrested for the killing of his daughter, the prosecutor would have some evidence, though largely circumstantial. First there is his infamous and rash vow to God, that if God granted him victory over the Ammonites then the one who came out from the door of his house to greet him on his return would belong to the Lord and he would offer that person, or possibly animal, up as a burnt offering (Judges 11:30-31). Indeed Jephthah wins the victory, but the first to greet him with timbrels and dancing on his return is his daughter.

The final comment of the biblical text on the subject is the laconic statement that Jephthah fulfilled his vow, though the text gives no details of her death.

In his defense, Jephthah might point out that it was actually his daughter who insisted that he fulfill his vow to God (Judges 11:36) perhaps mitigating to some extent his responsibility. Her death might even be regarded as an act of martyrdom, not unlike Samson’s willingness to die for the sake of his God and his people.

Moving Beyond Summaries: The Narrator’s Point of View

The problem with this, or any other brief summary of the story, is that it leaves out so much of the material that the biblical narrator has considered important to present. Such details need to be taken seriously.

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Michael Boling – Literary Analysis of Judges 13


Judges 13 is arguably one of the more well known stories in the book of Judges. Its tales of “ribaldry, bloody action, and its lengendary coloration” have provided interpretative challenges for scholars and laymen alike as the exploits of Samson resemble that of Herculean legend. The Samson saga in its entirety is ultimately a story of promise noting God’s election of Samson to deliver Israel from Philistine oppression. Judges 13, though full of hope, contains no promise of deliverance thus providing insight into Israel’s depraved spiritual milieu and also serving as a reminder for believers to remain faithful to God’s commands as the ecclesia.

This pericope is the foundation for the plot outlined in subsequent chapters. The setting establishes Israel’s spiritual depravity and God’s continued faithfulness to His covenant with Israel. Against this literary backdrop, the author utilizes the literary technique of inter-textuality in verse 3. An angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife, declaring despite her barrenness, she will conceive and bear a son. This statement is strikingly similar to the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 15 and served to remind Israel of God’s providence and commitment to them. Furthermore, this motif “was a formula of blessing used also in Isaiah 7:14” asserting the author’s utilization of inter-textuality to drive home his message.

Another literary technique is a vital development of plot found in the comment made by the angel of the Lord in verse 5 stating Samson will only begin the deliverance from the Philistines setting the stage for what ultimately became a protracted struggle that continued into the time of David. A vital link to the remainder of the Samson saga is the necessity expressed by the angel of the Lord for Samson to be dedicated to God as a Nazirite specifically the command for a razor never to touch Samson’s head. In Judges 13, the thematic element of the Nazirite vow in relation to Samson is first mentioned to Manoah who then relays the message to her husband. Additionally, Manoah’s wife is commanded to abstain from wine and unclean foods.

The concomitant themes of promise and fulfillment are woven throughout Judges 13. The author’s focus on Manoah and his wife display “the narrative is carefully constructed to suggest movement towards its conclusion, the fulfillment of the promise.” It is apparent the author is setting the stage for a point of comparison between the necessity of Samson to fulfill his Nazirite vow with the overt and repeated violations of this command of the Lord in his life. Grant Osborne saliently notes “one of the clues to the Samson story is the carnal, mistaken perspective of Samson contrasted to the omniscient comments of the narrator. As a result the reader experiences in a poignant way the tensions within the story.” Continue reading “Michael Boling – Literary Analysis of Judges 13”

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Book Review – Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos

Judges and Ruth

It seemed so promising. The Israelites had entered by the mighty hand of God into the Promised Land. Joshua left the people with a firm reminder of the need to be mindful of their covenant with God which had as its basis obedience to God’s commands which would lead to existence in the land. If they disobeyed and turned their back on this covenant, chaos would ensue. Unfortunately, as man often does, the Israelites chose the latter option, setting in motion a repetitive process of disobedience, calling out to God for salvation, a short period of obedience, and then the cycle resumed with another period of disobedience and you get the picture.

The books of Judges and Ruth take place during this period of Israel’s history. In his excellent commentary on these pivotal books of Scripture, Barry Webb examines how God worked in the lives of His people even during this chaotic period of rebellion, repentance, rebellion, and repentance. We clearly see that God’s divine plan is never stifled by man’s proclivity to sin and in the midst of the aforementioned chaos of sinful behavior, the promise of redemption moves forward.

This is another wonderful addition to the revamped Preaching the Word Commentary Series from Crossway Books. This venerable set has undergone a bit of a facelift of late with a new cover. Despite the new look on the outside, the content remains ever vigilant to sound biblical exegesis with a distinct pastoral focus in its insight and application.

Users will quickly note this is not an academically minded type of commentary. This is not to say Webb does not insert scholarly insight regarding matters of a linguistic or historical nature when necessary. The focus of Webb is on examining the text and drawing out the application of what God is revealing to His people. Through the many examples of what disobedience looks like throughout Judges and the beautiful message of redemption and the inclusion of a Gentile woman into the fold as a member of God’s people such as we find in Ruth, Webb shows the reader the “God in Chaos” that is noted in the subtitle of this commentary. God is ever present and at work regardless of how desperate or dim the circumstances.

Having recently worked through the book of Ruth, I can attest that Webb’s commentary was quite impactful in working through the text and applying the lessons of redemption that can be gleaned from that amazing book of Scripture. He aptly notes regarding the genealogy found in the closing chapter of Ruth, “Watching these four redeemers emerge has been like watching a magician produce rabbits from his hat. But this is no magic; it’s the work of a sovereign God quietly but powerfully working all things together for good for the sake of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). It is also part of a much larger story in which the full outworking of that same loving purpose can be seen.”

This is a small sample of the valuable exegesis and application that can be found throughout this commentary on Judges and Ruth. I highly recommend this as a great tool for Bible study for not just pastors, but for all believers. In fact, the entire commentary series is well worth the investment.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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