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Avd Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon; and said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon.
Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou dost me wrong to war against me; the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.
Howbeit, the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah, which he sent him.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.
And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then shall it be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering.
So Jephthah passed ever unto the children of Ammon to fight against them ; and the Lord delivered them into his hand. And he smote them from Aroer even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances; and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
And it came to pass when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas! my daughter, thou hast
brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me ; for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back.
And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me ;
Let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.
And he said, Go; and he sent her away for two months, and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her accord. ing to his vow which he had vowed. And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gilead. ite four days in a year.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
As Jephthah was a chosen servant of the Lord, as well as the approved judge of Israel, it pleased the Lord to send His Spirit upon him ; by which is to be understood, that God endued him with every requisite qualification for the important and honourable employ. ment; and by this means, Jephthah gained a glorious victory; but his triumph, we find, was clouded by a melancholy event, occasioned by his making an inconsiderate vow. It is a very affecting story, and cannot be read without painful emotions. How must it rend the heart of a fond parent, to think of taking away the life of his only child, who appears to have entertained the utmost reverence and affection for him; who, thoughtless of danger, came forth to meet her honoured parent, with every demonstration of joy and thankfulness to heaven for his success and preservation ; expecting to be pressed to his fond bosom, and hoping to reward his toils with assiduous duty!
What must be the agitation of her mind, when she beheld him turning from her in an agony of distress, and heard him declare her unhappy fate, to which his own rashness had exposed her: for he had opened his mouth to the LORD, and could not go
back! Jephthah's daughter certainly was possessed of uncommon fortitude of mind; for she submitted to this sudden and heavy calamity with the utmost calmness and resignation ; willing to suffer any misfortune, ra. ther than her father should be guilty of impiety to God; she only requested to be indulged with a short respite in order perfectly to reconcile herself to the disappointment of dying without leaving a family, which was reckoned by the Jewish women the greatest disgrace that could befal them; because every one hoped that she might be the mother of some great deliverer at least, if not of the promised Saviour.
When the dreadful news was known to the young companions of this amiable young lady, pierced with severe grief, they doubtless threw aside the instruments of mirth, with which they came to welcome the conqueror, and changed their songs of triumph for tears and lamentations : willing to enjoy her conversation to the last, they accompanied her to a place of retirement, where she might effectually wean her thoughts from this world, and prepare for eternity.
Human sacrifices were strictly forbidden, particularly those of a person's own children: not only because such cruelty is displeasing to a God of infinite mercy, but likewise on account of its resembling the horrid practice of the idolatrous nations. There was little chance that an ox, a lamb, &c. should be the first to meet their master; therefore it appears probable, that Jephthah had learnt during his exile, or before the last repentance of Israel, the sacrifices in use by the heathens, and really intended to offer a human victim : and that God taught him to understand the enormity of this horrid crime, by suffering him to be involved in such extreme distress; for he was under the necessity, either of taking away the life of his only child, or inAlicting a disgraceful punishment on her worse than death; or else of exposing himself to the curse of God for breaking a vow, made with the utmost solemnity.'
This part of the history of Jephthah teaches us, that we ought to weigh well the lawfulness of any action, before we engage ourselves solemnly to the performance of it: had Jephthah done so, he would have recollected, that as there were certain species of animals, appointed by the Lord for sacrifices, any other kind of creature would have defiled the altar, because Gop had expressly named those He would accept.
Whatever was the fate of Jephthah's daughter, whether she resigned her pious soul as a voluntary sacrifice in acknowledgment of God's mercy in preserving her father, and delivering her country; or whether (as is the general opinion) she relinquished the hopes of having an honourable offspring, and passed the remainder of her days in solitary sadness, she certainly has left us an example of filial piety of the most exalted kind, and every dutiful child will read and admire it; whilst those who are unmindful of their parents' happiness, and unthankful for the blessings which paternal love dispenses, ought to blush with shame and conM4
fusion, fusion, when conscience obliges them to draw a comparison between themselves and Jephthal's amiable daughter.
JEPHTHAN's RESENTMENT AGAINST THE EPHRAIM
From Judges, Chap. xii.
And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves toge. ther, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the chil. dren of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire.
And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye
delivered me not out of their hands. And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me?
Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim, among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.
And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped, said, Let me go over ; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, nay: then said they unto