Monday, December 29, 2008

Walton on Jepthah's Daughter

OT Scholar John Walton weighs in on the always ticklish passage concerning Jepthah's vow and the subsequent sacrifice of his daughter (Judges 11:29-40). Of course, you are likely familiar with the tension--Did Jepthah actually offer her as a human sacrifice? Or did he merely commit her to temple service.

Walton says,

It can therefore be concluded that Jephthah is anticipating a human sacrifice. If his expectation is clear and the intended action is clear, the text leaves us no legitimate alternatives.

I admit to not being entirely convinced, but only because, like most of us, I object to human sacrifice. But Walton's case is pretty strong.

It brings to mind how often we let our own sensibilities weigh in on the interpretation of a passage. If something doesn't "fit" in our minds, we look for other alternatives, regardless of what the text says.

While God certainly does not expect us to check our common sense at the door of Bible study, he does expect us to recognize that the text is inspired and infallible, rather than our own sensibilities.

So if something in the Bible does not fit with my own thinking, I should first suspect my thinking.


Anonymous said...

Are you then suggesting that you should "suspect" your sensibilities that human sacrifice is objectionable?

Larry said...

Not at all. I am suggesting that we should not let our sensibilities deny what the text says.

The thought strikes me that no one denies that God told Abraham to make a human sacrifice out of Isaac. Yet somehow, because it didn't actually happen, we don't try to explain it away as temple service or whatever might have been appropriate for that time.

Dr. Claude Mariottini said...


Although you are not entirely convinced that Jephthah sacrificed her daughter, Walton’s view is the only one that reflects the true interpretation of the text.

If you are interested, I have written three posts dealing with different issues raised by the text:

1. Rereading Judges 11:31: The Sacrifice of Jephthah’s Daughter.

2. Judges 11:39: The Fate of Jephthah’s Daughter.

3. Judges 11:39: The Virginity of Jephthah’s Daughter.

I hope you and your readers will enjoy reading these posts.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Larry said...

Thanks, Dr. Mariottini.

I have subscribed to your feed, and I will look forward to getting some time to browse through your blog.