11:31 then whoever is the first to come through 1 the doors of my house to meet me when I return safely from fighting the Ammonites – he 2 will belong to the Lord and 3 I will offer him up as a burnt sacrifice.”
11:39 After two months she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. She died a virgin. 4 Her tragic death gave rise to a custom in Israel. 5
1 tn Heb “the one coming out, who comes out from.” The text uses a masculine singular participle with prefixed article, followed by a relative pronoun and third masculine singular verb. The substantival masculine singular participle הַיּוֹצֵא (hayyotse’, “the one coming out”) is used elsewhere of inanimate objects (such as a desert [Num 21:13] or a word [Num 32:24]) or persons (Jer 5:6; 21:9; 38:2). In each case context must determine the referent. Jephthah may have envisioned an animal meeting him, since the construction of Iron Age houses would allow for an animal coming through the doors of a house (see R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 208). But the fact that he actually does offer up his daughter indicates the language of the vow is fluid enough to encompass human beings, including women. He probably intended such an offering from the very beginning, but he obviously did not expect his daughter to meet him first.
2 tn The language is fluid enough to include women and perhaps even animals, but the translation uses the masculine pronoun because the Hebrew form is grammatically masculine.
3 tn Some translate “or,” suggesting that Jephthah makes a distinction between humans and animals. According to this view, if a human comes through the door, then Jephthah will commit him/her to the
4 tn Heb “She had never known a man.” Some understand this to mean that her father committed her to a life of celibacy, but the disjunctive clause (note the vav + subject + verb pattern) more likely describes her condition at the time the vow was fulfilled. (See G. F. Moore, Judges [ICC], 302-3; C. F. Burney, Judges, 324.) She died a virgin and never experienced the joys of marriage and motherhood.
5 tn Heb “There was a custom in Israel.”