Tomorrow at this time, a burnt offering will be made, my father’s vow fulfilled. The candle of my life will be put out. I am the sacrifice to be laid upon the pyre.
The vow he made to God must be kept – it must be. I insist that he keep it. God raised my father, the son of a harlot, to lead Israel. Jephthah is his name. He must not lose favor with God or the confidence of our people.
When he returned victorious leading his army home to Mizpah, I ran out to meet him. Playing my tambourine, celebrating with the other girls, we were singing and dancing with utter abandon. Seeing me he shrieked in terror, silencing our revelry as surely as the unexpected roar of a lion in our midst. I did not know what I had done to anguish his soul, to mar his countenance with vivid distress.
He ran to me, flinging his armor aside, and fell heavily on his knees. Wrapping strong arms around me he placed his head on my breast and wept. “I never thought … I never thought you would come to meet me.
“I asked God for victory. I promised whatever came out of my house as an offering.” He wiped his eyes on the shoulder of his tunic. “God delivered us.” Struggling to his feet he pushed me back to arms length, his strong fingers digging into my slender shoulders. Tears welled in his eyes. With a firm, resolute voice he said, “I must keep my vow.”
Tomorrow will be my last day in the land of Gilead, the land of my birth. I have not traveled far, not nearly as far as my daydreams took me. I am a virgin, of marrying age. Alas! I shall never know a man. I shall never be a wife or a mother.
I am spending this night alone on the mountainside, having sent my friends away. For two months we have sung and danced and cried. This last day I must be alone, to think and remember. I must finish composing my soul for the journey.
This is the last time I will see the moon glide through the darkened sky, the stars dancing merrily in place. I hear the night sounds, the tiny rustlings, the belching of a camel, the braying of an ass, the soughing of a gentle breeze stirring the olive trees.
It is a cool night, refreshing after the stifling heat of the day. A pleasant odor of baked bread lingers, intermingling with the fragrance of grass and trees and stables. But, I am not hungry.
A rooster crows, another answers. Oil lamps twinkle through the window of every home. Jewish families never sleep in the dark.
In the morning I will bathe, apply eye shadow and perfume with care and put on the regal blue robe my mother purchased. Unblemished, wearing no jewelry, I will go to my father at the hour agreed upon. His heart will break, figuratively. Mine will be stopped, literally.
I think it best that I kneel before him at the altar, and raise my chin to await the quick slash of his sharp knife. He will not delegate that task. I know he won’t. I will listen for the whisper of his knife as he draws it from its sheath. I don’t know if I should keep my eyes open or closed, or if it matters? Whatever will be will be.
My blood will be caught and sprinkled upon the horns of the altar, poured out according to ritual. Afterward, I will become a sweet smelling savor, a fragrance wafting heavenward with the heat of burning logs.
My father will reign as judge over Israel, his reputation unblemished: a leader who kept his vow to God.
I am proud of my father.
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The above interpretation is fiction. It is based on the strange, interesting and hard to understand Bible story found in Judges 11 & 12.
Jephthah kept his vow and sacrificed his only child? Why? Perhaps Jephthah had in mind Leviticus 27:28 (NKJ): “Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the Lord of all that he has, both man and beast, or the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted offering is most holy to the Lord.”
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