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The Destruction of Women


Authors: Jo Milgrom and Yoel Duman

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Jephthah`s Daughter
Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-Philo 39 – 40
XXXIX 10. And because the king of the children of Ammon would not hear the voice of Jepthan, Jepthan arose and armed all the people to go forth and fight in the borders saying: When the children of Ammon are delivered into my hands and I am returned, any that first meeteth with me shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord.
11. And the Lord was very wroth and said: Behold, Jepthan hath vowed that he will offer unto me that which meeteth with him first. Now therefore if a dog meet with Jepthan first, shall a dog be offered unto me? And now let the vow of Jepthan be upon his firstborn, even upon the fruit of his body, and his prayer upon his only begotten daughter. But I will verily deliver my people at this time, not for his sake, but for the prayer which Israel hath prayed.
XL. And Jepthan came and fought against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivered them into his hand, and he smote threescore of their cities. And Jepthan returned in peace. And the women came out to meet him with dances. And he had an only begotten daughter; the same came out first in the dances to meet her father. And when Jepthan saw her he fainted and said: Rightly is thy name called Seila, that thou shouldest be offered for a sacrifice. And now who will put my heart in the balance and weigh my soul? and I will stand and see whether one will outweigh the other, the rejoicing that is come or the affliction which cometh upon me? for in that I have opened my mouth unto my Lord in the song of my vows, I cannot call it back again. 2. And Seila his daughter said unto him: And who is it that can be sorrowful in their death when they see the people delivered? Rememberest thou not that which was in the days of our fathers, when the father set his son for a burnt offering and he gainsaid him not, but consented unto him rejoicing? And he that was offered was ready, and he that offered was glad. 3. Now therefore annul not anything of that thou has vowed, but grant unto me one prayer. I ask of thee before I die a small request: I beseech thee that before I give up my soul, I may go into the mountains and wander (or abide) among the hills and walk about among the rocks, I and the virgins that are my fellows, and pour out my tears there and tell the affliction of my youth; and the trees of the field shall bewail me and the beasts of the field shall lament for me; for I am not sorrowful for that I die, neither doth it grieve me that I give up my soul: but whereas my father was overtaken in his vow, [and] if I offer not myself willingly for a sacrifice, I fear lest my death be not acceptable, and that I shall lose my life to no purpose. These things will I tell unto the mountains, and after that I will return. And her father said: Go. 4.  1And Seila the daughter of Jepthan went forth, she and the virgins that were her fellows, and came and told it to the wise men of the people. And no man could answer her words. And after that she went into the mount Stelac, and by night the Lord thought upon her, and said: Lo, now have I shut up the tongue of the wise among my people before this generation, that they could not answer the word of the daughter of Jepthan, that my word might be fulfilled, and my counsel not destroyed which I had devised: and I have seen that she is more wise than her father, and a maiden of understanding more than all the wise which are here. And now let her life be given her at her request, and her death shall be precious in my sight at all times.
5. And when the daughter of Jepthan came unto the mount Stelac, she began to lament. And this is her lamentation wherewith she mourned and bewailed herself before she departed, and she said: Hearken, O mountains, to my lamentation, and look, O hills, upon the tears of mine eyes, and be witness, O rocks, in the bewailing of my soul. Behold how I am accused, but my soul shall not be taken away in vain. Let my words go forth into the heavens, and let my tears be written before the face of the firmament, that the father overcome not (or fight not against) his daughter whom he hath vowed to offer up, that her ruler may hear that his only begotten daughter is promised for a sacrifice. 6. Yet I have not been satisfied with my bed of marriage, neither filled with the garlands of my wedding. For I have not been arrayed with brightness, sitting in my maidenhood; I have not used my precious ointment, neither hath my soul enjoyed the oil of anointing which was prepared for me. O my mother, to no purpose hast thou borne thine only begotten, and begotten her upon the earth, for hell is become my marriage chamber. Let all the mingling of oil which thou hast prepared for me be poured out, and the white robe which my mother wove for me, let the moth eat it, and the crown of flowers which my nurse plaited for me aforetime, let it wither, and the coverlet which she wove of violet and purple for my virginity, let the worm spoil it; and when the virgins, my fellows, tell of me, let them bewail me with groaning for many days. 7. Bow down your branches, O ye trees, and lament my youth. Come, ye beasts of the forest, and trample upon my virginity. For my years are cut off, and the days of my life are waxen old in darkness.
8. And when she had so said, Seila returned unto her father, and he did all that he had vowed, and offered burnt offerings. Then all the maidens of Israel gathered together and buried the daughter of Jepthan and bewailed her. And the children of Israel made a great lamentation and appointed in that month, on the 14th day of the month, that they should come together every year and lament for the daughter of Jepthan four days. And they called the name of her sepulchre according to her own name Seila.
9. And Jepthan judged the children of Israel ten years, and died, and was buried with his fathers.
Babylonian Talmud Ta`anith 4a
R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Three [men] made haphazard requests, two of them were fortunate in the reply they received and one was not, namely, Eliezer, the servant of Abraham; Saul, the son of Kish; and Jephthah the Gileadite. Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, as it is written, So let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, ‘Let down thy pitcher, etc.’ She might have been lame or blind, but he was fortunate in the answer given to him in that Rebecca chanced to meet him. Saul, the son of Kish, as it is written, And it shall be, that the man who kills him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter. [He] might have been a slave or a bastard. He too was fortunate in that it chanced to be David.
Jephthah, the Gileadite, as it is written, Then it shall be, that whatsoever comes forth out of the doors of my house, etc. It might have been an unclean thing. He, however, was fortunate in that it so happened that his own daughter came to meet him. This is what the prophet had in mind when he said to Israel, Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? And it is further written, Which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it to my mind.Which I commanded not’: This refers to the sacrifice of the son of Mesha, the king of Moab, as it is said, Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead and offered him for a burnt-offering. ‘Nor spake it’; This refers to the daughter of Jephtha. ‘Neither came it to my mind’: This refers to the sacrifice of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
 
Leviticus Rabbah 37:4
4. Four people began their supplication by making vows. Three of them made their request in an improper manner and the Holy One, blessed be He, answered them favor­ably, while one made the request in an improper manner and the Omnipresent answered him correspondingly. They are as follows: Eliezer the servant of Abraham, Saul, Jephthah, and Caleb... Jephthah made a request in an improper manner, as is proved by the text, Then it shall be, that what­soever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me ... I will offer it up (Judg. XI, 31). Said the Holy One, blessed be He: If a camel, or an ass, or a dog had come out, would you have offered it for a burnt offering? So the Holy One, blessed be He, answered him correspondingly by bringing him his daughter to hand. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes (ib. 35). But surely he could have had his vow disallowed by going to Phinehas? He thought: I am a king! Shall I go to Phinehas? And Phinehas argued: I am a High Priest and the son of a High Priest! Shall I go to that ignoramus? Between the two of them the poor maiden perished, and both of them incurred responsibility for her blood. As regards Phinehas, the Holy Spirit departed from him; as is proved by the text, And Phinehas the son of Eleazar was ruler over them, in times past the Lord was with him (I Chron. IX, 20). As regards Jephthah, limb after limb fell off his body and was buried separately; as is proved by the text, And was buried in the cities of Gilead (Judg. XII, 7). It does not say, In the city of Gilead but In the cities of. This teaches that limb after limb fell off his body and he was buried in many places. R. Simeon b. Lakish and R. Johanan hold different opinions on his case. Resh Lakish says that he should have given money for her and offered a sacrifice bought with it upon the altar. R. ]ohanan says that he need not have given money, for we have learned: An animal that is fit to be offered on the altar should be offered, while one that is not fit to be offered on the altar should not be offered.
 
R. Abraham Ibn Ezra, The mystery of the intercalation
That Isaac and Jephthah`s daughter were slaughtered is a conclusion derived from what is written. There is a secret teaching, however, that they were not slaughtered, as I have shown in my commentary.
 
R. Abraham Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 29:19
The Lord`s nose will smoke – The fire of His nose will burn so that smoke will appear. So that if he is alone, he will die immediately; and if it is a clan, all of these curses will come upon them. The meaning is that they will encompass the clan so that its name is blotted out. And if it is a tribe, the Lord will separate them for punishment. Similarly "it will be dedicated to the Lord and I will offer up a holocaust sacrifice" as I have explained.
 
Radak on Judges 11: 31
And I will offer him up as a holocaust sacrifice – The opinion of our Rabbis is well-known. But our teacher Abraham [ibn Ezra], may his memory be a blessing, explained that the vav in vehe`elitihu means in this case "or", and he explained it will be for the Lord as meaning "dedicated" – if it is not suitable for a sacrifice – or "I will offer it up" – if it is suitable. Similarly is the case of the vav in "one who strikes is father ve`imo – meaning "or his mother". And his explanation is felicitous. And thus it appears from the text that he did not kill her, and that the words "I will mourn" are an indication that he did not kill her, but rather deprived her of ever "knowing" a man as it is said "and she never knew a man". And further note that it says and he did to her as he had sworn and not "and he offered her up", as an indication that the meaning of the performing his oath was to dedicate her to the Holy One. Thus would appear from a close reading of the text.
Ramban on Leviticus 27:29
Now do not let yourself be misled by Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra`s empty words, when he says that the meaning of the expression and I will offer it up for a burnt offering is "or I will offer it up," as if to say: "if that which comes forth of the doors of my house be a man or woman, that person shall be holy to G-d, inasmuch as he will abstain from the ways of the world, to stand to minister in the Name of the Eternalin prayer and thanksgiving to G-d; but if it be something fit for an offering, I will make it a burnt offering." Accordingly [Ibn Ezra`s interpretation continues, since Jephthah`s daughter was the first to come out to meet her father], he built her a house outside the city where she resided in seclusion, and he provided her with sustenance all her days, and no man knew her, so that his daughter remained shut away [from the world all her life].
All this are words of emptiness. For if he vowed that [whatsoever comes forth of the door of his house] shall be the Eternal`s, this does not mean that he should be a recluse [from the world], but instead he is to be like Samuel, of whom his mother said, and I shall give him unto the Eternal, and he was a servant in the House of G-d, not a recluse. And according to the ordinances of the Torah, no man can utter a vow which will bind the persons who come out of the door of his house to live thereafter in seclusion, just as he cannot bring them as an offering. And if the matter be so [as Ibn Ezra put it] then Jephthah`s daughter would be bewailing her virginity with her companions with her, like harlots enhancing their hire! Heaven forbid that this be a custom in Israel, to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a yearbecause she did not marry and she worshipped G-d in purity! Rather, this whole subject is to be understood in its plain meaning [that Jephthah actually brought her as an offering], and his mistake was as I have explained.
Hamlet II, 2
Hamlet.  O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou!
Polonius.  What treasure had he, my lord?
Hamlet.  Why, `One fair daughter, and no more, The which he loved passing well.`
Polonius.[aside] Still on my daughter.
Hamlet. Am I not i` th` right, old Jephthah?
Polonius.If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.
Hamlet.Nay, that follows not.
Polonius. What follows then, my lord?
Hamlet. Why, 'As by lot, God wot,' and then, you know, 'It came to pass, as most like it was,'-- the first row of the pious chanson will show you more; for look, where my abridgement comes
 
St. Ephraem the Syriac: Hymn on Virginity
XXXII. Jephthah`s daughter who washed in her blood was baptized and she sent up from herself the pearl that rooted out fear, and to the treasure on high it ascended ; the girl that stretched out her neck to the slaughter of the sword, the pure pearl consoled her that went with her. And she that here destroys virginity, apprehension becomes her companion in the day of remembrance, and in the Resurrection fear becomes her leader before the Judge, though she have greatly repented.
XXXIII. Jephthah`s Daughter wished to die, so that the vow of her father might not be made void: do not thou make void with thine eyes the vow of virginity that thy mouth has vowed. Jephthah poured out the blood of his daughter ; but thy own Bridegroom, his holy Blood was shed for thy fault.
             Nisibean Hymns, 70
Praiseworthy was also the deed of Jephthah, the vine-dresser who plucked the virginal grape and offered it to the master of the vineyard.
He prevailed, offered his offspring, and he suppressed and ejected his love, and he became not insane in spite of his sorrow because his faith sustained him…A very strong consolation was the great example of Jephthah who with his sword offered the treasure of life to his Lord. His right arm Jephthah stretched out and offered the sacrifice. The dove saw him in his sadness and gave him courage through her voice Upright was the priest, who sacrificed with blood of his own offspring, so that he may be an example of his Lord, who sacrificed with his own blood.
 
The Levite`s Concubine
 
Targum Yonatan Judges 19:2
And his concubine despised him and went from him to the house of her father, to Bethlehem of the house of Judah, and she was there for four months.
 
Tanhuma Vasheve 2
A proof of the power of excommunication is indicated by what occurred to the tribes that became incensed over what had happened to a single concubine at Gibeah but were not aroused by the idols made by Micah. Many thousands of the tribe of Benjamin were slain on three different occasions but after they repented and prostrated themselves before the Ark, the Holy One, blessed be He, become reconciled with them? Thereupon they made a pact of excommunication, that every Israelite (from the youngest to the oldest should come to the Lord (by doing good deeds), as it is said: For they made a great oath concerning him that came not unto the Lord to do good deeds, saying: He shall surely be put to death(Judg. 21:5). Though an oath was taken there, it was called a pact of excommunication to teach us that an oath and a ban of excommunication are identical. Because the men of Jabesh ­Gilead did not come unto the Lord, they were sentenced to death.
 
Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-philo – Chapter 45
And it came to pass at that time that a certain man of the tribe of Levi came to Gabaon, and when he desired to abide there, the sun set. And when he would enter in there, they that dwelt there suffered him not. And he said to his lad: Go on, lead the mule, and we will go to the city of Noba, peradventure they will suffer us to enter in there. And he came thither and sat in the street of the city. And no man said unto him: Come into my house. 2. But there was there a certain Levite whose name was Bethac.  The same saw him and said unto him: Art thou Beel of my tribe? And he said: I am. And he said to him: Knowest thou not the wickedness of them that dwell in this city? Who counselled thee to enter in hither? Haste and go out hence, and come into my house wherein I dwell, and abide there to-day, and the, Lord shall shut up their heart before us, as he shut up the men of Sodom before the face of Lot. And he entered into the city and abode there that night. 3. And all the dwellers in the city came together and said unto Bethac: Bring forth them that came unto thee this day, and if not we will burn them and thee with fire. And he went out unto them and said to them: Are not they our brethren? Let us not deal evilly with them, lest our sins be multiplied against us. And they answered: It was never so, that strangers should give commands to the indwellers. And they entered in with violence and took out him and his concubine and cast them forth, and they, `Let the man go, but they abused his concubine until she died; for she had transgressed against her husband at one time by sinning with the Amalekites, and therefore did the Lord God deliver her into the hands of sinners.
4. And when it was day Beel went out and found his concubine dead. And he laid her upon the mule and hasted and went out and came to Gades. And he took her body and divided it and sent it into all parts (or by portions) throughout the twelve tribes, saying: These things were done unto me in the city of Noba, for the dwellers therein rose up against me to slay me and took my concubine and shut me up and slew her. And if this is pleasing before your face) keep ye silence, and let the Lord be judge: but if ye will avenge it, the Lord shall help you. 5. And all the men, even the twelve tribes, were confounded. And they gathered together unto Silo and said every man to his neighbour: Hath such iniquity been done in Israel?
 
Tosefta Megilla 3:19
Some sections of the Bible are read and explained, others are read but not explained, and a few are neither read nor explained… The tale of the Levite`s concubine is read and explained.
 
Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 103b
Why did they not include Micah [amongst those who will not have a place in the world to come]? Because his bread was available to travelers, as it is written, Every traveler [turned] to the Levites. And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea.
R. Johanan observed: This refers to Micah`s graven image. It has been taught: R. Nathan said: From Gareb to Shiloah is a distance of three mils, and the smoke of the altar and that of Micah`s image intermingled. The ministering angels wished to thrust Micah away, but the Holy One, blessed be He, said to them, `Let him alone, because his bread is available for wayfarers.` And it was on this account that the people involved in the matter of the concubine at Gibeah were punished. For the Holy One, blessed be He, said to them, `Ye did not protest for My honor, yet ye protest for the honor of a woman.`
 
Babylonian Talmud Gittin 6b
Commenting on the text, And his concubine played the harlot against him,  R. Abiathar said that the Levite found a fly with her, and R. Jonathan said that he found a hair on her. R. Abiathar soon afterwards came across Elijah and said to him: `What is the Holy One, blessed be He, doing?` and he answered, `He is discussing the question of the concubine in Gibeah.` `What does He say?` said Elijah: `[He says], My son Abiathar says So-and-so, and my son Jonathan says So-and-so,` Said R. Abiathar: `Can there possibly be uncertainty in the mind of the Heavenly One?` He replied: Both [answers] are the word of the living God. He [the Levite] found a fly and excused it, he found a hair and did not excuse it. Rab Judah explained: He found a fly in his food and a hair in loco concubitus; the fly was merely disgusting, but the hair was dangerous. Some say, he found both in his food; the fly was not her fault, the hair was.
R. Hisda said: A man should never terrorize his household. The concubine of Gibeah was terrorized by her husband and she was the cause of many thousands being slaughtered in Israel.