Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Judges 11:29-39

In case anyone is wondering I do actually still read my bible. For the last few weeks however I have been stuck living with this the same girl and same passage in Judges 11. I tried to move on but I couldn't. Before I explain why, I better have you read it. Be forewarned though, this is one of the most awful, horrible, scriptures in the bible. And yes, I am totally projecting some of my "issues" onto this passage when I read it. I know that but this post (which a wrote a couple days ago) felt cathartic to write anyway.
Judges 11:29-39

...And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."

Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."

"My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request," she said. "Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry."

"You may go," he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.

From this comes the Israelite custom that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.
Now I don't know why I'm so stuck on this passage. You would think considering what's going on in my life I would be reading and thinking about biblical passages on homosexuality or how much God loves me. But no.

Instead I wonder things like: How old was she? Was she smart? Had she ever kissed anyone? Did she kiss a girl while she was up in the hills weeping? She was going to die anyway. Why did the biblical writer need to mention her virginity three times in such a short passage? Do Jewish young women still commemorate this daughter? Why aren't there any biblical passages about men staying virgins? How come when Isaac was sacrificed God provided a substitute but when this girl was sacrificed there was no substitute? Do you think she felt angry when he said "O my daughter you have made me miserable and wretched"? Do you think she really said "OK just kill me?" Or was that the writer of the passage and his bias? How do you think they killed her? Was she scared? Did she cry or scream? Was she beautiful? Did he know his daughter might be the first thing out of the door?

In spite of how much anger I feel when I read this I don't hate God or scripture because of this passage. But this is just one of the many reasons I read scripture with more of a historical-critical approach and not a literal one. Well, that and the fact that through out history the bible has been used to justify everything from the murder of Galileo because he said the Sun did not revolve around the earth, to the slavery and murder of African Americans just because of the color of their skin!

There are other passages and blog posts about them I've read in the last few months that bring up similar reactions in me here...



Or all of these: Bible Gateway verses keyword: virginity

And yes all this has caused me to write a poem! It's really not about the passage but what the passage triggered. Um. I was a bit emotional when I wrote it so...

Virginity poem number 2: Judges 11

I am not that girl of Judges 11:29.
I just want to live.
Do not sacrifice me on your virgin alter to God
"It's scriptural" you say. I made "a vow to God" you say.
I can kill and cut my own damn self, thank you very much, and I chose not to anymore.
Instead I am going to live.
So I kissed someone, a girl.
I think kissing really was a lot better than death.
O and yes, I'm still a virgin,
but I won't be sacrificed in fire.
Because I am not that girl of Judges 11
I actually am the fire.


~Dawn said...

Would you be offended if a woman wanted to go be a nun or a man a priest?

I see these verses as the same kind of thing. She is going to cast-off the worldly desires so that she can focus on God and the people around her.

Being married, having a family, definitely can distract you from an undivided attention on God

Zuzu said...

How interesting. The girl in Judges did not sacrifice herself for God. To the contrary, her father murdered her in order to keep a blood lust vow to God in order for him to win against his "enemies." Were these the enemies of God, or simply the enemies of a single man? I think the moral of the story is when you make pledges based in hatred and violence, you lose what is most precious and dear and "innocent" about yourself. I thought the moral of the story was to come up with other ways to deal with your enemies that don't cost you so dearly.. ? - Zuzu

just me said...

Dawn I think I need more information on what part of this you are referring to. I emailed you as well.

zuzu - You gave me a idea. Maybe I can view this scripture like a type of therapy where all the parts in the story or the dream are representative of parts of myself. Like maybe I am captured by this passage because I feel like I long for "other ways" to keep these parts of myself. Hmmm. This is kindof tricky I may be stretching it too much. But I did like your thoughts.

JJ said...

Wow, you know, I really need to go back into the Old Testament... I've been rereading the epistles for a while now. I forget about all the history.

I'm not really sure what to make of that story.

I like your poem, though. :)

Zuzu said...

I think that there are other ways to keep these parts of ourselves. I mean, "virginity" is a nice metaphor for purity, innocence, etc., but I think the entire body of Romantic poetry (Wordsworth, Blake, etc.) was about retaining/reclaiming/finding/holding innocence/purity, etc... and their vehicle for the endeavor was nature. er... but we're half of them drug addicts - absinthe wasn't it? Oh well... so nature or some elicit drug - I choose nature! - Zu

just me said...

jj - Sometimes I ignore the OT because I think that it's, well, old. But there are sometimes passages that I find sit with me whether I want them to or not. Thanks for the compliment on the poem. :)

zuzu - I think this topic would be a great verbal conversation sometime. I'm only half understanding what you are meaning here in your last comment. Maybe you could write a blog post about it. :)