Judges 11:34, 35: Jephthah's Resolution to Keep His Vow

Verse 34:[1] And Jephthah came to (Judg. 10:17; 11:11) Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, (Ex. 15:20; 1 Sam. 18:6; Ps. 68:25; Jer. 31:4) his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her (Heb. of himself[2]) he had neither son nor daughter (or, he had not of his own either son or daughter[3]).


[His only-begotten, וְרַק֙ הִ֣יא יְחִידָ֔ה] And only she alone (Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius), solitary, sole, understanding, was to him, that is, he had her alone (Vatablus).


With timbrels and with dances; in consort with other virgins, as the manner was. See Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6.


[He did not have other children, אֵֽין־ל֥וֹ מִמֶּ֛נּוּ בֵּ֖ן אוֹ־בַֽת׃] Not (understanding, was there [Junius and Tremellius]) to him of himself a son (understanding, another [Junius and Tremellius]) or daughter (Jonathan, Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Drusius, Vatablus). Of himself, that is, of himself as parent. Although of another wife he might have step-children, born of another father, yet he had none of himself (Drusius). He did not have any offspring besides her (English, Arabic); or, of himself he did not have a son (English). Others translate it, from her, that is, from the daughter; which is to say, Which daughter had no children (certain interpreters in Vatablus, certain interpreters in Drusius): that it might be an enallage of gender, מִמֶּנּוּ, of him, in the place of מִמֶּנָּה, of her, which Hebrew critics note to have happened five times (Drusius).


Beside her, Hebrew, of himself, that is, proceeding from his own body; which may imply that he had other children, either by adoption, or in right of his wife, who had them by a former husband.


Verse 35:[4] And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he (Gen. 37:29, 34) 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 (Eccl. 5:2) have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and (Num. 30:2; Ps. 15:4; Eccl. 5:4, 5) I cannot go back.


[Thou hast deceived, הִכְרַעְתִּנִי[5]] Thou hast brought me low (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Malvenda), or, thou hast abased me (Vatablus). I was just now elated concerning the victory over the Ammonites, but thou hast brought low, indeed, thou hast altogether ruined and exterminated: this was done concerning my posterity (Vatablus). Those that hitherto tried to disturb me lost their labor, like my brethren and the Ammonites: but thou, with this done, art altogether overthrowing me (Malvenda out of Junius). He laments the lost hope of posterit from his daughter (Grotius).


Thou art one of them that trouble me: before this, I was troubled by my brethren; and since, by the Ammonites; and now most of all, though but occasionally, by thee.


[I have opened my mouth] He spoke by vowing; I vowed. In Numbers 30, the formula is the same in the law concering vows; whereby it is understood that the vow was not only conceived in the mind and intention, but was also expressed externally in words. Whence they were called the calves of lips[6] (Martyr).


I have opened my mouth, that is, I have vowed, which was done by words, Numbers 30:2, 6.


[I shall not be able to do anything else, וְלֹ֥א אוּכַ֖ל לָשֽׁוּב׃] In such a way that I am not able to return (Junius and Tremellius). Hebrew, to turn back, understanding, to extend, that is, to commute this vow to another (Junius). I would prefer, to recede, namely, from that vow which I vowed (Piscator). I am not able to fall back on another vow (Drusius). But he did not consider, or even did not know, that it was lawful for him to redeem her with thirty shekels, Leviticus 27:4 (Piscator). Inasmuch as he was a military man, it is possible that he did not know this manner of redeeming sacrifices. Or it is to be said, that this was not a vow of valuation, but חֵרֶם/herem, which is ἀνάθεμα/anathema, which was not able to be redeemed (Martyr). [Concerning which more is to be said further on.]


I cannot go back, that is, not retract my vow; I am indispensably obliged to perform it.

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֙א יִפְתָּ֣ח הַמִּצְפָּה֮ אֶל־בֵּיתוֹ֒ וְהִנֵּ֤ה בִתּוֹ֙ יֹצֵ֣את לִקְרָאת֔וֹ בְתֻפִּ֖ים וּבִמְחֹל֑וֹת וְרַק֙ הִ֣יא יְחִידָ֔ה אֵֽין־ל֥וֹ מִמֶּ֛נּוּ בֵּ֖ן אוֹ־בַֽת׃


[2] Hebrew: מִמֶּנּוּ.


[3] Hebrew: אֵֽין־ל֥וֹ מִמֶּ֛נּוּ בֵּ֖ן אוֹ־בַֽת׃.


[4] Hebrew: וַיְהִי֩ כִרְאוֹת֙וֹ אוֹתָ֜הּ וַיִּקְרַ֣ע אֶת־בְּגָדָ֗יו וַ֙יֹּאמֶר֙ אֲהָ֤הּ בִּתִּי֙ הַכְרֵ֣עַ הִכְרַעְתִּ֔נִי וְאַ֖תְּ הָיִ֣יתְ בְּעֹֽכְרָ֑י וְאָנֹכִ֗י פָּצִ֤יתִי־פִי֙ אֶל־יְהוָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א אוּכַ֖ל לָשֽׁוּב׃


[5] כָּרַע, in the Hiphil conjugation, signifies to cause to bow down.


[6] Hosea 14:2.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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