Judges 11:40: In Memory of Jephthah's Daughter

Verse 40:[1] That the daughters of Israel went yearly (Heb. from year to year[2]) to lament (or, to talk with;[3] Judg. 5:11[4]) the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.


[And that they might bewail, etc., לְתַנּ֕וֹת לְבַת־יִפְתָּ֖ח] [They render it variously.] To lament, or, that they might bewail, the daughter of Jephthah (Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Castalio, Osiander, English). So that she might bewail, either her death (Bonfrerius), or her perpetual virginity (Osiander). This translation does not satisfy, for here follows the preposition ל/Lamed before the name of the daughter; while the verb to bewail, as active, requires the particle אֶת[5] (Piscator). Others translate it, to console (Vatablus, Drusius, certain interpreters in Grotius); to speak to (Montanus, Pagnine); that they might discourse with the daughter of Jephthah (Tigurinus, Dutch, English in the margin); that they might converse (Vatablus). It is a Chaldean word, and it signifies to discourse; and the ל that follows has been put for concerning, as is often the case. The sense: For the memory of the victory, and of faith kept with God, the virgins went four times in the year to that place, and celebrated the event with conversation, or even with songs. Which Epiphanius relates was done even unto his own times by the Samaritans in the same place[6] (Grotius). I translate it, to praise the daughter of Jephthah. Thus Judges 5:11 (see what things were said there). They were celebrating the due praises of that heroine: whether that was done in the presence of the daughter of Jephthah herself, or in another public place; whether that was done while she was yet alive, or also after her death. The praise of the daughter was certainly greater than that of the father: for, while he had rashly uttered the vow, of which he soon repented, she, consoling her father with her more than manly courage, bravely accepted the disadvantage of her father’s vow (Dieu).


Went yearly, to a place appointed for their meeting to this end, possibly to the place where she was sacrificed. To lament the daughter of Jephthah; to express their sorrow for her loss, according to the manner. Or, to discourse of (so the Hebrew ל/lamed is sometimes used) the daughter of Jephthah, to celebrate her praises, who had so willingly yielded up herself for a sacrifice.

[1] Hebrew: מִיָּמִ֣ים׀ יָמִ֗ימָה תֵּלַ֙כְנָה֙ בְּנ֣וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לְתַנּ֕וֹת לְבַת־יִפְתָּ֖ח הַגִּלְעָדִ֑י אַרְבַּ֥עַת יָמִ֖ים בַּשָּׁנָֽה׃


[2] Hebrew: מִיָּמִ֣ים׀ יָמִ֗ימָה.


[3] Hebrew: לְתַנּוֹת.


[4] Judges 5:11: “They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse (יְתַנּוּ) the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates.”


[5] The direct object marker.


[6] Panarion 55:1:10.

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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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