Biblical text with discussion questions

Judges 11:29-40

92 וַתְּהִי עַל־פְתָּח רוּחַ יְהוָה וַיַּעֲבֹר אֶת־הַגִּלְעָד וְאֶת־מְנַשֶּׁה וַיַּעֲבֹר, אֶת־מִצְפֵּה גִלְעָד וּמִמִּצְפֵּה גִלְעָד עָבַר בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן. 03 וַיִּדַּר יִפְתָּח נֶדֶר לַיהוָה וַיֹּאמַר: אִם-נָתוֹן תִּתֵּן אֶת־בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן בְּיָדִי 13 וְהָיָה הַיּוֹצֵא אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִדַּלְתֵי בֵיתִי לִקְרָאתִי בְּשׁוּבִי בְשָׁלוֹם מִבְּנֵי עַמּוֹן וְהָיָה לַיהוָה וְהַעֲלִיתִיהוּ עֹלָה. 23 וַיַּעֲבֹר יִפְתָּח אֶל־בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן, לְהִלָּחֶם בָּם וַיִּתְּנֵם יְהוָה, בְּיָדוֹ. 33 וַיַּכֵּם מֵעֲרוֹעֵר וְעַד־בֹּאֲךָ מִנִּית עֶשְׂרִים עִיר וְעַד אָבֵל כְּרָמִים מַכָּה גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד וַיִּכָּנְעוּ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. 43 וַיָּבֹא יִפְתָּח הַמִּצְפָּה אֶל־בֵּיתוֹ וְהִנֵּה בִתּוֹ יֹצֵאת לִקְרָאתוֹ בְּתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלוֹת: וְרַק הִיא יְחִידָה אֵין־לוֹ מִמֶּנּוּ בֵּן אוֹ־בַת. 53 וַיְהִי כִרְאוֹתוֹ אוֹתָהּ וַיִּקְרַע אֶת-בְּגָדָיו וַיֹּאמֶר אֲהָהּ בִּתִּי הַכְרֵעַ הִכְרַעְתִּנִי וְאַתְּ הָיִית בְּעֹכְרָי וְאָנֹכִי פָּצִיתִי פִי אֶל-יְהוָה וְלֹא אוּכַל לָשׁוּב. 63 וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אָבִי פָּצִיתָה אֶת־פִּיךָ אֶל־יְהוָה עֲשֵׂה לִי כַּאֲשֶׁר יָצָא מִפִּיךָ: אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ יְהוָה נְקָמוֹת מֵאֹיְבֶיךָ מִבְּנֵי עַמּוֹן. 73 וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל־אָבִיהָ יֵעָשֶׂה לִּי הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה: הַרְפֵּה מִמֶּנִּי שְׁנַיִם חֳדָשִׁים וְאֵלְכָה וְיָרַדְתִּי עַל־הֶהָרִים וְאֶבְכֶּה עַל־בְּתוּלַי אָנֹכִי ורעיתי (וְרֵעוֹתָי). 83 וַיֹּאמֶר לֵכִי וַיִּשְׁלַח אוֹתָהּ שְׁנֵי חֳדָשִׁים וַתֵּלֶךְ הִיא וְרֵעוֹתֶיהָ וַתֵּבְךְּ עַל־בְּתוּלֶיהָ עַל־הֶהָרִים. 93 וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ שְׁנַיִם חֳדָשִׁים וַתָּשָׁב אֶל-אָבִיהָ וַיַּעַשׂ לָהּ אֶת-נִדְרוֹ אֲשֶׁר נָדָר וְהִיא לֹא־יָדְעָה אִישׁ וַתְּהִי־חֹק בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל. 04 מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה תֵּלַכְנָה בְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְתַנּוֹת לְבַת־יִפְתָּח הַגִּלְעָדִי אַרְבַּעַת יָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה.

29 Then the Spirit of G-D came on Jephthah, and...he passed over to the children of Ammon. 30 Jephthah vowed a vow to G-D, and said, "If you will indeed deliver the children of Ammon into my hand, 31 then it shall be, that whatever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be G-D'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering." 32 So Jephthah passed over to the children of Ammon to fight against them; and G-D delivered them into his hand. 33 He struck them from Aroer until you come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and to Abelcheramim, with a very great slaughter. So the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

34 Jephthah came to Mizpah to his house; and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances: and she was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 It happened, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are one of those who trouble me; for I have opened my mouth to G-D, and I can't go back." 36 She said to him, "My father, you have opened your mouth to G-D; do to me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth, because G-D has taken vengeance for you on your enemies, even on the children of Ammon." 37 She said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may depart and go down on the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my companions." 38 He said, "Go." He sent her away for two months: and she departed, she and her companions, and mourned her virginity on the mountains. 39 It happened at the end of two months, that she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she was a virgin. It was a custom in Israel, 40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to celebrate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year. --JPS Translation

Questions for discussion

  1. Go back into the story and underline the sentences in which Yiftach’s daughter speaks or acts. Then read these sentences out loud. Do you think Yiftach’s daughter had no control over her fate, some control, or complete control?
  2. Some commentators understand this story to mean that Yiftach’s daughter was literally sacrificed, while others believe that she remained alive, but was “offered to God” as a sort of nun and never allowed to marry.
    • What evidence in the text can you find to support each of these readings?
    • How does the story change depending on which interpretation you follow?
  3. A challenge: can you think of any contemporary analog for this story, or a modern example of a person who acts like Yiftach’s daughter?

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Biblical text with discussion questions." (Viewed on May 21, 2019) <https://jwa.org/node/23111>.

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