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among the most pious heroes of the Old Testament, should act so directly contrary to the will of God, as to offer up his child in sacrifice to him, though he knew that human victims were an abomination to him? Forbid it reason, forbid it humanity, forbid it every principle of nature and of piety!
But how then, it will be asked, shall we remove the crime, so expressly imputed to him, in the language of our bibles ? I answer, by a very obvious and simple change in the translation, perfectly agreeable to the strictest laws of criticism, and still more agreealale to the genuine laws of reason and humanity. The yow of Jephthah, according to the present translation, is this : “ If thou shalt without fail deliver the so children of Ammon into mine hands, then it “ shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the “ door of my house to meet me, shall surely be " the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt
offering.” Here then is a plain and unchangeable vow of offering up to the Lord, as a burnt-sacrifice, whatever should first meet him, from his house, at his return; which he is accordingly supposed to have executed upon his unfortunate daughter. But if we translate the single particle *, which comes between the two material parts of his vow, disjunctively, instead of conjunctively, as it is properly translated in the margin of the Bible, the whole of this bloody imputation will vanish, and a clear and consistent sense will appear in his vow, in these words: " If the Lord will deliver the children of Ammon “ into my hands, then it shall be, that whatso
material * It is so translated in the margin of the Bible, and also in Gen. ii. 6. Exod. i. 10. Deut. xxvii. 9. Isa. vii. 6. &c. + Witness the Nazarenes, Samuel, &c.
ever cometh forth of the doors of my house to “ meet me, shall surely be the Lord's *, or I « will offer it up for a burnt-offering;” that is, in other words, if it be a man or woman that first meets me, they shall be consecrated to the Lord, and if it be any other creature, I will offer it
up for a burnt offering t. And the whole of what follows, so clearly points out a dedication of his daughter to the service of God, according to the custom of those days, rather than the sacrifice of her, as to add the greatest strength to this interpretation. For what can we possibly understand by her bewailing her virginity upon the mountains, for two months before the execution of the vow, and by the expression, after the execution of the vow," that she knew no
man,” but that she spent her life in the service of God, as one of those virgin-priestesses, so frequently mentioned in ancient writers.
Should it be asked, Why then doth Jephthah express so deep a sorrow at his daughter's coming out to meet him? I answer, that, even according to this interpretation of his vow, he had still great and sufficient cause for sorrow. Every man has naturally a desire to see his name continued in a flourishing posterity. The Jews, in particular, had this desire; both because the want of issue was a curse and reproach amongst them, and also, because every one of them entertained the vain, but flattering idea that the promised Messiah should spring from his seed. When, therefore, the unhappy father saw himself, by an inconsiderate vow, cut off from these pleasing hopes;---when he considered his unoffending child as doomed, by his rashness, to live and die under the reproach of being childless, -we cannot much wonder, that he should rend his cloaths, and cry out,
“ Alas! my daughter, “ thou hast brought me very low.” Should it be farther asked, Why then did the daughters of Israel go yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah, four days in a year: I answer for the same reasons, which caused her father's lamentation, that is, her being doomed to an unalterable state of celibacy: which, like him, they might justly consider as a curse and reproach. I must, however, remark further, that the Hebrew
word*, which is here translated to lament, signifies also to talk or discourse with a sense perfectly agreeable to the interpretation now given ; as implying, that the companions, who joined with her in bewailing her virginity upon the mountains, went annually, so long as she lived, to visit and console her, in her state of religious dedication to the service of God.
I am not ignorant, that it has generally been imagined, that the story of Iphigenia's sacrifice at Aulis, and the rash vow of Idomeneus, made during his voyage from Troy,--to slay whatever should first meet him, at his return home, are both founded on this history of Jephthah ; and therefore may seem to countenance the idea of Jephthah's having sacrificed his daughter. But to this I need only answer, - 1st, that it is not clear, that Iphigenia was sacrificed, since
many writers tell us, that she was carried away from the altar, by Diana, that is like Jephthah's daughter, devoted to perpetual virginity ;-2dly, that if she was sacrificed, it was not by any order of her father, but by the command of Diana, and the craft of Ulysses ;--3dly," that the vow of Idomeneus was executed upon a son and not upon a daughter;-and, lastly, that,
* Thanah : vide Judges, cho'v. ver. 11. and it is so translated in the margin of the Eible.
even if the circumstances of both bore a stronger resemblance than they do to this sacred' history, still it would be absurd to draw any conelusions about it, from the obscure fables of pagan and mythologous antiquity.
But it is high time to return from this digression, into which I have been led, from a desire of throwing light upon a part of scripture, which, in its present form, must always appear harsh and unnatural, and highly derogatory from the character of Jephthah, who is expressly ranked, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, with the most faithful and distinguished servants of God, recorded in the Old Testament*.
Having then explained the mystical part of the sacrifice of Isaac, as it typically related to the death of Christ, I shall now proceed to consider the moral and instructive part of it, as applicable to ourselves. And ist, We may learn, from this history, the true nature of a genuine and approved faith; that it must be grounded on sufficient evidence, and must also shew itself by good works and obedience. There are too many
See, on this subject, De Lyra, Junius, and Tremellius, Osiander, L. Cappellus de Vot. Jephthæ, Marsham's Can. Ægypt. sect. 9. g. 3. Saubertus de Sacrificiis, c. 21. p. 516. Schedius de Diis German. 1.2, c. 31.