Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jephthah's Daughter

Jephtah was a judge of the Israelites. In this function he led an army against the Ammonistes. To win the decisive battle he made a vow to sacrifice whatever comes out of the doors of his house when he returned in peace from the people of Ammon.

But when the victorious Jephthah came home the first what he met was his daughter, his only child. Jephthah teared his clothes and cried in grief, but finally he fulfilled his oath and sacrificed his daughter, who had only asked for two months' grace, "that I may go down on the mountains ... and bewail my virginity".

The story of Jephtah caused a lot of religious discussions. Some argued, that human sacrifice is forbidden in the Bible and because of that Jephthah's Daughter was spared at the end. The other side is represented by Martin Luther who wrote: "Some affirm that he did not sacrifice her, but the text is clear enough!"

Fortunately that’s not our problem. We will have only a look at the artistic interpretation. There it may be interesting if Jephthah's Daughter is sacrificed or not, if an artist depicts more the poor child or the grief of the father. For example in one of the most famous adaptations in Händel’s oratoria "Jephtha" the sacrifice is stopped by an angel.

Illustration from 1807 from “Antiquities of the Jews” by Flavius Josephus


  1. I have put a link to your blog on mine at Please check it out. You might find it useful.

  2. As it is an art blog, moreover topically very interesting I will put links too.