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Of the Picture of Jephthah Sacrificing his Daughter. The hand of the painter confidently setteth forth the picture of Jephthah in the posture of Abraham, sacrificing his only daughter. Thus is it commonly received, and hath had the attest of many worthy writers. Notwithstanding, upon enquiry we find the matter doubtful, and many upon probable grounds to have been of another opinion; conceiving in this oblation not a natural but a civil kind of death, and a separation only unto the Lord. For that he pursued not his vow unto a literal oblation, there want not arguments both from the text and reason.4
For first, it is evident that she deplored her virginity, and not her death: “Let me go up and down the mountains and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows."
Secondly, when it is said, that Jephthah did unto her according unto his vow, it is immediately subjoined, et non
4 For that he pursued not, &c.] The observations of Dr. Adam Clarke on this very interesting question, are so spirited and satisfactory, that I must insert them. Judg. xi. 31.—"The translation of which, according to the most accurate Hebrew scholars, is this I will consecrate it to the Lord ; OR, I will offer it for a burnt-offering :' that is,
if it be a thing fit for a burnt-offering, it shall be made one : if fit for the service of God, it shall be consecrated to him.' That conditions of this kind must have been implied in the vow is evident enough; to have been made without them it must have been the vow of a heathen or a madman. If a dog had met him, this could not have been made a burnt-offering : and if his neighbour's or friend's wife, son, or daughter, &c. had been returning from a visit to his family, his vow gave him no right over them. Besides, human sacrifices were ever an abomination to the Lord ; and this was one of the grand reasons why God drave out the Canaanites, &c. because they offered their sons and daughters to Moloch, in the fire ; i. e. made burnt-offerings of them, as is generally supposed. That Jephthah was a deeply pious man, appears in the whole of his conduct; and that he was well acquainted with the law of Moses, - which prohibited such sacrifices, and stated what was to be offered in sacrifice,—is evident enough from his expostulation with the king and people of Ammon, verse 14 to 27. Therefore it must be granted that he never made that rash vow which several suppose he did ; nor was he capable, if he had, of executing it in that most shocking manner which some Christian writers (tell it not in Gath) have contended for. He could not commit a crime which himself had just now been an executor of God's justice to punish in others.”
cognovit virum, and she knew no man; which, as immediate in words, was probably most near in sense unto the vow.
Thirdly, it is said in the text, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to talk with the daughter of Jephthah four days in the year; which had she been sacrificed they could not have done: for whereas the word is sometime translated to lament, yet doth it also signify to talk or have conference with one, and by Tremellius, who was well able to judge of the original, it is in this sense translated: Ibant filiæ Israelitarum, ad fabulandum cum filia Jepththaci, quatuor diebus quotannis : and so it is also set down in the marginal notes of our translation. And from this annual concourse of the daughters of Israel, it is not improbable in future ages the daughter of Jephthah came to be worshipped as a deity, and had by the Samaritans an annual festivity observed unto her honour, as Epiphanius hath left recorded in the heresy of the Melchisedecians.
It is also repugnant unto reason ; for the offering of mankind was against the law of God, who so abhorred human sacrifice, that he admitted not the oblation of unclean beasts, and confined his altars but unto few kinds of animals, the ox, the goat, the sheep, the pigeon, and its kinds. In the cleansing of the leper, there is, I confess, mention made of the sparrow; but great dispute may be made whether it be
properly rendered. And therefore the Scripture with indignation ofttimes makes mention of human sacrifice among
the Gentiles; whose oblations scarce made scruple of any animal, sacrificing not only man, but horses, lions, eagles; and though they come not into holocausts, yet do we read the Syrians did make oblations of fishes unto the goddess Derceto. It being therefore a sacrifice so abominable unto God, although he had pursued it, it is not probable the priests and wisdom of Israel would have permitted it; and that not only in regard of the subject or sacrifice itself, but also the sacrificator, which the picture makes to be Jephthah, who was neither priest, nor capable of that office ; for he was a Gileadite, and as the text affirmeth, the son also of an harlot. And how hardly the priesthood would endure encroachment upon their function, a notable example there is in the story of Ozias.
Secondly, the offering up of his daughter was not only
unlawful and entrenched upon his religion, but had been a course that had much condemned his discretion; that is, to have punished himself in the strictest observance of his vow, when as the law of God had allowed an evasion; that is, by way of commutation or redemption, according as is determined, Levit. xxvii. Whereby if she were between the age of five and twenty, she was to be estimated but at ten shekels, and if between twenty and sixty, not above thirty. A sum that could never discourage an indulgent parent; it being but the value of a servant slain ; the inconsiderable salary of Judas; and will make no greater noise than three pounds fifteen shillings with us. And therefore their conceit is not to be exploded, who say that from the story of Jephthah's sacrificing his own daughter, might spring the fable of Agamemnon, delivering unto sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia, who was also contemporary unto Jephthah; wherein to answer the ground that hinted it, Iphigenia was not sacrificed herself, but redeemed with an hart, which Diana accepted for her.5
Lastly, although his vow run generally for the words, “Whatsoever shall come forth, &c.,” yet might it be restrained in the sense, for whatsoever was sacrificeable and justly subject to lawful immolation; and so would not have sacrificed either horse or dog, if they had come out upon him. Nor was he obliged by oath unto a strict observation of that which promissorily was unlawful; or could he be qualified by vow to commit a fact which naturally was abominable. Which doctrine had Herod understood, it might have saved John Baptist's head, when he promised by oath to give unto Herodias whatsoever she would ask; that is, if it were in the compass of things which he could lawfully grant. For his oath made not that lawful which was illegal before; and if it were unjust to murder John, the supervenient oath did not extenuate the fact, or oblige the juror unto it.
Now the ground at least which much promoted the opinion, might be the dubious words of the text, which contain the sense of his vow; most men adhering unto
5 Iphigenia, &c.] So the son of Idomeneus, on whose fate there is an interesting scene in Fenelon's Telemachus, book v.-Jeff.
Lastly, although his vow, &c.] First added in 2nd edition. VOL. II.
their common and obvious acception. " Whatsoever shall come forth of the doors of my house, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering. Now whereas it is said, Erit Jehovæ, et offeram illud holocaustum, the word signifying both et and aut, it may be taken disjunctively; aut offeram, that is, it shall either be the Lord's by separation, or else, an holocaust by common oblation; even as our marginal translation advertiseth, and as Tremellius rendereth it, Erit inquam Jehovæ, aut offeram illud holocaustum. And, for the vulgar translation, it useth often et where aut must be presumed, as Exod. xxi.; Si quis percusserit patrem et matrem, that is, not both, but either. There being therefore two ways to dispose of her, either to separate her unto the Lord, or offer her as a sacrifice, it is of no necessity the latter should be necessary; and surely less derogatory unto tbe sacred text and history of the people of God must be the former.
Of the Picture of John the Baptist in a Camel's Skin. The picture of John the Baptist in a camel's skin is very questionable, and many I perceive have condemned it.
7 in a camel's skin, &c.] Ross, as usual, supports the opinion which Browne attacks. “ It was fit the Baptist, who came to preach repentance for sin, should wear a garment of skins, which was the first clothes that Adam wore after he had sinned ; for his fig-leaves were not proper, and this garment also showed both his poverty and humility. For as great men wear rich skins and costly furs, he was contented with a camel's skin. By this garment also he shows himself to be another Elijah (2 Kings i.), who did wear such a garment, and to be one of those of whom the apostle speaks, who went about in skins, of whom the world was not worthy. Neither was it unuseful in John's time, and before, to wear skins; for the prophets among the Jews, the philosophers among the Indians, and generally the Scythians did wear skins ; hence by Claudian they are called pellita juventus. Great commanders also used to wear them; as Hercules the lion's skin, Acestes the bear's, Camilla the tiger's. John's garment, then, of camel's bair, was not, as some fondly conceit, a sackcloth or camblet, but a skin with the hair on it."
This is quaint and lively enough; but the most competent autho
The ground or occasion of this description are the words of the Holy Scripture, especially of Matthew and Mark (for Luke and John are silent herein); by them it is delivered, “his garment was of camel's hair, and he had a leather girdle about his loins.” Now here it seems the camel's hair is taken by painters for the skin or pelt with the hair upon it. But this exposition will not so well consist with the strict acception of the words; for Mark i., it is said, he was, évòkòvuevoç rpixas kauňkou, and Matthew iž., eixe to švòvua árò tpexūv kauýlov, that is, as the vulgar translation, that of Beza, that of Sixtus Quintus, und Clement the Eighth, hath rendered it, vestimentum habebat è pilis camelinis ; which is, as ours translateth it, a garment of camel's hair; that is, made of some texture of that hair, a coarse garment, a cilicious or sackcloth habit, suitable to the austerity of his life,—the severity of his doctrine, repentance,-and the place thereof, the wilderness,his food and diet, locusts and wild honey.8 Agreeable unto the example of Elias, * who is said to be vir pilosus, that is, as Tremellius interprets, Veste villosâ cinctus, answerable unto the habit of the ancient prophets, according to that of Zachary: “In that day the prophets shall be ashamed, neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive ;”+ and suitable to the cilicious and hairy vests of the strictest orders of friars, who derive the institution of their monastic life from the example of John and Elias.
As for the wearing of skins, where that is properly intended, the expression of the Scripture is plain ; so is it said, Heb. xi., they wandered about év aiyelous dépuaou, that is, in goat's skins; and so it is said of our first parents, Gen. iii., That God made them xiūvac oépparivous, vestes pelliceas, or coats of skins;” which though a natural habit unto all, before the invention of texture, was something more unto Adam, who had newly learned to die ; for unto him a garment from the dead was but a dictate of death, and an habit of mortality. * 2 Kings iii. 18.
+ Zach. xii. rities agree with our author in supposing John's garment to have been made of a coarse sort of camel's hair camblet, or stuff: and Harmer has given several instances of such an article being worn. & his food, &c.] See book vii. ch. ix.