Judges 11:37, 38: The Request of Jephthah's Daughter

Verse 37:[1] 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 (Heb. go and go down[2]) upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.


[Send me away (thus the Syriac, Munster, Pagnine), הַרְפֵּ֙ה מִמֶּ֜נִּי[3]] Release me (Montanus); depart from me (Jonathan); abstain from me (Tigurinus). Cease from me, that is, as one to be sent to the place of the Tabernacle, etc. (certain interpreters).


[So that I might wander the mountains, וְיָרַדְתִּ֣י עַל־הֶֽהָרִ֔ים] And I shall go down upon (either to [Tigurinus, Bonfrerius], or near [Drusius]) the mountains (Septuagint, Munster, Pagnine). Thus she speaks, because Jephthah’s house was on a steep mountain, from which it was necessary to descend; or because a valley came between his house and the mountain (Hebrews in Vatablus): or, I shall descend, in the place of I shall go. The Hebrews make use of the language of going up and going down, with no consideration of the situation. In Judges 15:11, they went down unto the summit of the rock.[4] On the other hand, we read in Joshua 7:24, ἀνήγαγον, they led them up into the valley of Achor[5] (Drusius). The Arabic translates it, that I might depart to talk about upon the mountains; similarly the Syriac. Or, I shall descend toward the mountains (Kimchi in Drusius). Perhaps it is a brief expression, in the place of, I shall descend, and go to the mountains; one word in the place of two. Thus, thou shalt take up coals of fire upon his head,[6] in the place of, thou shalt take up and place; Thou hast received gifts in the case of men,[7] that is, having received gifts thou hast given[8] (Drusius).


Upon the mountains: She chose the mountains as a solitary place, and therefore fittest both for lamentations, and for her preparation for her approaching calamity.


[And that I might bewail my virginity] Which at that time was sad and disgraceful (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Drusius). See 1 Samuel 1:6, 7; Isaiah 4:1 (Drusius). It was a certain sort of curse, to die without children. In the beginning, God had instructed men to multiply.[9] The Hebrews were zealous to enlarge the holy Republic. They were also hoping that the Messiah was going to be born of their stock (Martyr). I shall bewail my virginity. For she was not able to serve God alone, if she were subject to a husband.[10] For he had a right unto his wife. Thus among the Greeks animals dedicated to the gods were called ἄφετα/dedicted/released, for they served no one, but were kept unto the honor of the gods. It is another thing for men, who, although dedicated to the Temple, are able to have wives, from the congress of whom, nevertheless, they were abstaining in the time of their ministry. For men remain under their own authority (Grotius). Virginity was formerly shameful. See Isaiah 4:1 (Drusius).


Bewail my virginity; that I shall die childless, which was esteemed both a curse and a disgrace for the Israelites, Genesis 30:23; 1 Samuel 1:6, 7; Isaiah 4:1, because such were excluded from that great privilege of increasing the holy seed, and contributing to the birth of the Messiah, who was to be born of an Israelitish woman.


Verse 38:[11] 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.

[1] Hebrew: וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־אָבִ֔יהָ יֵעָ֥שֶׂה לִּ֖י הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה הַרְפֵּ֙ה מִמֶּ֜נִּי שְׁנַ֣יִם חֳדָשִׁ֗ים וְאֵֽלְכָה֙ וְיָרַדְתִּ֣י עַל־הֶֽהָרִ֔ים וְאֶבְכֶּה֙ עַל־בְּתוּלַ֔י אָנֹכִ֖י וְרֵעיֹתָֽי׃


[2] Hebrew: וְאֵֽלְכָה֙ וְיָרַדְתִּ֣י.


[3] רָפָה, in the Hiphil conjugation, signifies to let drop, to refrain, or to relax.


[4] Judges 15:11a: “Then went down (וַיֵּרְדוּ) three thousand men of Judah to the top of the rock (אֶל־סְעִיף֮ סֶ֣לַע) Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us?…”


[5] Joshua 7:24: “And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them up (וַיַּעֲל֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם) unto the valley of Achor.”


[6] Proverbs 25:22: “For thou shalt take up coals of fire upon his headגֶֽחָלִ֗ים אַ֭תָּה חֹתֶ֣ה) עַל־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ), and the Lord shall reward thee.”


[7] Psalm 68:18: “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men (לָקַ֣חְתָּ מַ֭תָּנוֹת בָּאָדָ֑ם); yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.”


[8] See Ephesians 4:8.


[9] See Genesis 1:28.


[10] See 1 Corinthians 7:34.


[11] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לֵ֔כִי וַיִּשְׁלַ֥ח אוֹתָ֖הּ שְׁנֵ֣י חֳדָשִׁ֑ים וַתֵּ֤לֶךְ הִיא֙ וְרֵ֣עוֹתֶ֔יהָ וַתֵּ֥בְךְּ עַל־בְּתוּלֶ֖יהָ עַל־הֶהָרִֽים׃

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ABOUT US

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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