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Shiloh to consecrate his daughter to the service of the high priest, because he was at that time in deadly hostility with the tribe of Ephraim; but he would be equally unlikely to go there to offer her as a burnt-offering, so that the objection proves nothing against the supposition that she was thus consecrated. Moses, on the other hand, lays stress on the fact that no one could lawfully make an offering to God in any other place except at the tabernacle (see Deut. xii. 6, where offerings in fulfilment of vows are specified among others). As Jephthah had recently gained a signal victory over the Ephraimites, is it any more unlikely that he should go among them, if he wished to make a religious offering, than it is to suppose that he would find at the tabernacle a Hebrew priest who would make an offering to Jehovah of a human being of such character as we all suppose Jephthah's daughter to have been? We are therefore forced to the conclusion that she was sacrificed, a burnt-offering, neither by Jephthah nor by a priest at the tabernacle.
But again, it is said the father fulfilled the vow which he had made concerning his daugher; but does the scripture decide that Jephthah's daughter was to be the offering which he purposes in his heart to make in fulfilment of his vow ? We think not. Most of the commentators hitherto have relied on the last clause of verse 31, on verse 39, where it is said Jephthah kept his vow, and on verse 40, the mourning of the daughters over her, for the view they take of this vow, and the way it was kept. We, on the other hand, rely on the same passages for the view we take, with only a slight alteration in the translation, which we feel justified in making, in addition to what we have already offered. We feel justified in saying that there is an ellipsis of the preposition in the last clause of verse 31, which if supplied would free the passage from its present uncertain meaning. Whoever will read the Hebrew Bible, with paper and pencil in hand, will find many instances of ellipses of the preposition, where we cannot translate without supplying one in English. For instance, Job says: “ Thy terrors array themselves me; "
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“ against ” is not in the Hebrew. Again Job says: “I would shake my head them.”
head them.” We must supply “at” in our idiom. So Isa. xlii. 16:“ I will do them ;
them we must say. So here, “ I will offer to him (Jehovah) a burnt-offering as the law everywhere prescribes.” It is taking no ungrammatical or unauthorized liberty with the text thus to translate (see Louth's Isaiah, p. 367, where may be found a valuable note on this very text about Jephthah's vow; also another relating to the subject of ellipsis, p. 421). Further, on the supposition that Jephthah took the life of his daughter and made an offering of her, why is the short phrase introduced, “ And she knew no man?” Is this said in her favor or to her disadvantage? If it had been untrue, would it not make her an unfit subject to offer to God? Again if it had been true, then it seems like an attempt to justify her from suspicion which might rest on her; which at best is to her disadvantage. On the other hand, if we suppose it was the purpose of Jephthah to devote his daughter to the service of God at the tabernacle, then this clause has great significance, and shows that she submitted to live a single life without hope of leaving a name behind in the earth. This no good person desires to do. The closing verse of the narrative tells us that it was a custom in Israel for some of the daughters of Israel to go yearly to do what ? Our version says to lament; but the word here used nowhere means to lament. In Deboralı's song the word is used to express the joyful rehearsing of the mighty doings of Jehovah in delivering his people from oppression; and in Proverbs it is used to express praise to the virtuous woman for her many virtuous deeds. Such a meaning well suits the connection in this story of Jephthah and his daughter. We may well suppose that the same companions who roamed with the daughter of Jephthah on the hills for two months, came yearly to her to express sympathy, and to praise her for the life she was living. Did some of the daughters of Israel go yearly to lament over one of their number who was passed away from the earth, or to rejoice with one who was alive and not leading an unhappy
life? We need not suppose that the number who thus gathered was large, or that it continued for a long series of years. We said above that there is often found an ellipsis of a preposition in Hebrew where we cannot translate without supplying one; so, on the other hand, there is often found a preposition in Hebrew which is suppressed in our version, and which, if brought out, would contribute to the clearness of the meaning. It is so in this last verse of the narrative. To offer praise to the daughter of Jephthah, is the way we understand the verse. To lament over would require different words from what are found in the text. Finally, if we conclude that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter, then it seems to make him a heathen as to religious knowledge, no better than the king of Moab, who sacrificed his oldest son on the city wall. This is placing Jephthah in an attitude where we do not like to leave him. Nor does Paul thus believe him. In Heb. xi. Jephthah is accounted worthy of mention, by name, along with Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, as well as Gideon and Sampson, among the ancient worthies who wrought righteousness and obtained a good report. This, in addition to what has already been said, seems clearly to prohibit the opinion that Jephthah in person offered his daughter, a human sacrifice, to Jehovah, at a time when any sacrifice was forbidden, except at the tabernacle and by the hand of a priest. On the other hand, if we suppose him mistaken as to the nature and obligation of a vow, this need seem no strange thing, for even Aaron made a mistake in performing his duties soon after the tabernacle was set up, and on one occa sion the whole congregation made a mistake, and had to offer a trespass-offering, as directed by Moses. The daughter, too, shows herself but poorly acquainted with the law of Moses if she submitted to the vow of her father, as commonly interpreted. If she was so worthy and so pious as the commentators make her, we see not how she could be so ignorant of the revealed religion of her nation. Those who are willing to do right in matters of religion are commonly guided and kept from making great mistakes. Such is the divine promise to
us all. We therefore conclude that Jephthah and his daughter were kept from doing anything which would disgrace either their religion or their characters in the estimation of the righteous of their day. This belief we shall hold till we are shown that we cannot scripturally hold it.
THE GREAT CREVASSE OF THE JORDAN AND OF THE
BY REV. LYMAN COLEMAN, D.D., EASTON, PA.
In the Researches of Dr. Robinson a letter is inserted from the “distinguished geologist,” Leopold Von Buch, “ whose researches have been particularly directed to the phenomena of volcanoes.” This letter is, in part, as follows:
“ The valley of the Jordan is a fissure, a crevasse which extends from Mount Lebanon to the Red Sea without interruption. Such, it seems to me, is the result of your researches, as well as those of M. de Bertou, and of Callien, who nevertheless finds fault with Ritter for having said the same thing. These long fissures, especially frequent among limestone mountains, give the configuration to our continents. If they are very large and deep they afford passage for the primitive mountains, which, for that reason, form chains in the direction which the fissure prescribes. We might therefore expect a greater development of the volcanic agents at the bottom of this fissure than upon the heights.”] To the same effect is also the opinion of the late Dr. Hitchcock: “ The valley of the Jordan, extending from the Red Sea to Mount Lebanon, was probably a fissure, along which volcanic agency may have been more or less exerted from time to
1 Vol. ii., p. 606 (1st edition).
2 Geology of the Globe, p. 51.
6. The whole of Syria is cleft from north to south by a straight crevasse of moderate width, but extending, in the southern portion of its centre division to a truly remarkable depth, two thousand six hundred and twenty-five feet below the sea-level. This crevasse, which contains the principal watercourse of the country, is also the most exceptional feature of its geology. Such fissures are not uncommon in limestone formations, but no other is known of such a length and of so extraordinary depth, and so open throughout its greatest extent. It may have been volcanic in its origin, the result of an upheaval from beneath, which has tilted the limestone back on each side, leaving this large split in the strata, the volcanic fire having stopped short at that point in the operation, without intruding any volcanic rocks into the fissure. This idea is supported by the crater-like form of the basins of the Lake of Tiberias and of the Dead Sea (Russegger, pp. 206, 207), and by many other tokens of volcanic action, past and present, which are encountered in and around these lakes, and along the whole extent of the valley.” 1
“ The grand geological feature of Palestine is the central valley or chasm. Hugh Miller has said, the natural boundaries of the geographer are rarely described by straight lines. Whenever these occur the geologist may look for something remarkable' (Old Red Sandstone, p. 120). No better proof of this could be found than the Jordan valley. It runs in a straight line through the centre of Palestine. Its formation was probably simultaneous with those volcanic agencies that created the eastern and western lava-fields. It is a tremendous rent or fissure, a hundred and fifty miles in length, rending asunder the whole limestone formation from top to bottom. Its extreme depth, from the lips of the fissure to the bed of the Dead Sea, is above four thousand feet, no less than two thousand six hundred and twenty-four of which is beneath the level of the ocean. Such a cleft in the earth's crust is without a parallel.” 2
1 Grove, in Smith's Biblical Dictionary, article Palestine. 2 Professor J. L. Porter, in Kitto’s Biblical Cyclopaedia, - Palestine. Vol. XXIV. No. 94.