Is Jephthah the Anti-Abraham?

One of the most horrifying stories in the Old Testament is that of Jephthah, which is found in Judges 11:29-40. The gist of the story is that Jephthah is about to go into battle against the Ammonites, but before he does he makes a foolish oath before God that he’ll sacrifice as an offering the first thing that greets him upon his return from war. Sure enough Jephthah kicks all kind of Ammonite ass, but lo and behold who should he first see upon coming home? It’s Mizpah, his daughter, his only child. So Jephthah decides he has to live up to his vow and goes ahead and kills his daughter as a burnt offering unto God. Terrible story, just terrible.

There are a lot of intriguing questions here, such as Did Jephthah really kill his daughter? or Why did Mizpah submit to this insanity? or Is oath-breaking really worse than human sacrifice? However this story really appeals to me in light of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac; or rather, Kierkegaard’s take on Abraham’s story.

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