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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 208 Reviews JEPHTHAH AND HIS VOW. By David Marcus. pp. 77. Lubbock: Texas Tech University, 1986. Cloth. This essay is a singularly focused pursuit of the question: What happened to Jephthah's daughter at the conclusion of the story in Judg 11:29-401 What Marcus calls the "traditional" or "sacrificialist" interpretation holds that Jephthah rashly vowed his daughter to death. A minority opinion, also with some deep roots in rabbinic interpretation, regards the sacrifice as metaphorical: Jephthah's daugther was consecrated to Ood to remain a virgin for the rest of her life. After briefly recounting the history of exegesis, which rather massively favors the traditional interpretation, Marcus proceeds to a rehabilitation of the dissenting view. He is convinced that while the sacrificialist case is less than iron-clad, the alternative is not without merit. The reSUlt, he concludes , is a story shot through with intentional ambiguity. The effect of the ambiguity is to focus attention away from the unanswerable question about the fate of the daughter and on to the rashness of Jephthah's vow. There is considerable merit to the argument, and so we "sacrificialists" may well have to be less decisive about certain matters in our second editions. I am not, however, convinced that we must surrender the interpretation of the suffix on ,.,rr"lm' (v. 31) as an intended neuter, with the possibility open that Jephthah anticipated a non-human victim. If, as some rabbinic argument claims, Jephthah was assuming it would be some ''undesirable girl," why the masculine form of suffix? It is not sufficient to claim that "the only type of domestic animal that could possibly come out first ... (a dog, a donkey, a horse, or a camel) was not permitted to be sacrificed" (p. 16). Sheep and goats are often penned within the house precincts even today in middle eastern villages, like the poor man's ewe-lamb in Nathan's parable. That n",p",,~, is never said of an animal in the Hebrew Bible is an argument from silence, especially weak when a lion is said to "roar forth" mRip" in a Samson story (Judg 14:5). Marcus argues that the two parts to Jephthah's promise in v. 31 are not in apposition but consequential. That is, "will belong to the Lord" can mean consecration; "will offer him (sic!) up as an 'Ih" may be read metaphorically referring to her consecration as a sort of "sign," or the like. The argument holds together by a thread just strong enough to contribute to the sense ofambiguity noted above. The sense of ambiguity is heightened further by comparison with four other vows in the Hebrew Bible: Oen 28:20-22; Num 21:2; 1 Sam 1:11; and Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 209 Reviews 2 Sam 15:7-8. In these examples. as in the only extant vow from Ugarit. there is parallelism in thought between protasis and apodosis-not so in Jephthah·s vow. Is the text of the vow completely intact? Marcus observes that 'iTn'''»m iT"U) is anomalous. because iT~ is normally construed with the preposition lamed. His conjectural reconstruction further undergirds the sequential reading of the vow: mU) \1n'''»m 71" iT'm "I will offer him (sic!) up as a burnt offering to the Lord'" On the other hand. the double introductory formula ~ "'WR aa"iT "whoever/whatever goes out" is more likely. I think. a conflation of variants than "a dittography of sorts:' which would bring us back to the appositional reading of the phrases in the vow. After arguing to his conclusion that the pivot of the entire story is the irrevocability of the vow once made. Marcus canvasses every conceivable interpretation of the details in the story. The daughter's reason for wanting to go to the hills is unclear. If sacrifice is intended. why is her virginity (and not her life) the subject of lament? In the non-sacrificialist reading she laments the fact that she has to live as a virgin the rest of her life. or in the most extreme interpretation. consecration as a hierodule. she bewails the virginity she is going to lose. Marcus sees...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 208-210
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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