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. (Judges 11:30-40).
The Bible is a dangerous book: a mixed bag of gore and grace, of sordid detail and sublime poetry. Its covers enfold such potent stories that a lifetime spent probing their depths would be only a breath of beginning. One of Scripture's most compelling and chilling stories is that of Jephthah's daughter-a young woman to whom scripture does not even give a name.
The Israelite warrior Jephthah survived a difficult childhood: born to a prostitute and cast out by his half-family due to his heritage, he was later called back when his fighting skills made his half-brothers forget his father's faithlessness to their mother. Though Jephthah confronted them with their hypocrisy, he returned when they promised that, should he defeat the Ammonites, he would become ruler.
Jephthah moved into position to attack the Ammonites. Crazed by a desire to conquer and to rule, Jephthah made a rash vow: "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return victorious from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's to be offered up by me as a burnt offering."
Jephthah defeated the Ammonites, destroying twenty towns. He began journeying home, his mind filled with dreams of power. Did he ever wonder, as his feet carried him nearer and nearer to his family, what would come of his vow?
Ecstatic at her father's safe and victorious return, Jephthah's daughter-his only child-snatches up her tambourine and dances out the door in welcome. She could not have known that her innocent act of love would be the last free and joyous exercise she would be permitted. A young woman in a violent, male-dominated culture, she was without recourse to stop what would come. Her father, spying his only child as she emerges from the door, is grief stricken. Whom did he think would wait and watch, then race out the door to greet his return but those who loved him best? In agony, Jephthah tears his clothes, yet he lays the blame for the atrocity at the innocent feet of his virgin daughter: "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break." His words bear the tone of an abusive parent: "I will hurt you and it is your fault. How could you make me do this?"
Jephthah's daughter receives the news of her truncated life with more maturity than her father displayed in articulating it. Apparently, it does not even occur to her that God would not require such bloodletting from women. Denied a future by her own father, she requests two months' leave to wander the mountains with female friends and mourn the loss of her life and dreams. Her father concedes-even now she must request and await his consent. Into the mountains she journeys, accompanied by members of her culture who share her vulnerable status. They alone can companion her grief. What these women did in the mountains Scripture does
not relate, except that they roamed the hills and wept. For that short season, the friends wandered free and gave one another the gifts of womanhood and of friendship. They shared the daughter's sorrow, listened to her terror and perhaps to her rage, sang songs of mourning that her ears might hear their grief, and named imaginary children she would never conceive or bear.
And when the two months ended, Jephtheh's daughter returned home to her execution. Scripture is sketchy on the details of the death, stating only that Jephtheh "did to her as he had vowed." Jephthah carried out his oath to kill his own child. Whether he burned her alive or had compassion enough to end her life before he charred her body we are not told. And God sent no angel to stop Jephtheh's hand as God had done when Abraham's only child lay in peril years before. Thus, Jephtheh's daughter accompanies the questions of all who ask why some perish while others are rescued. God, of course, had not required Jephtheh to commit the obscenity that this man-who knew firsthand what it was to suffer from a father's choices-felt bound to carry out. Jephthah had created for himself a bloodthirsty God, a God, perhaps, cast in Jephthah's image.
Jephthah's daughter dies unnamed by a culture that could find no way to save her. And yet she is remembered, for each year young women retreat to the hills and grieve for her. And as they grieve for a young woman robbed of her future, they grieve also for themselves and for all the ways they remain at the mercy of violence, ignorance, and agencies of power that value acquisition and domination over commitment and love.
As I read this wrenching story, I find myself strangely gifted. Its women speak to me, their eyes filled with sorrow and longing and a message they hope I will understand. Without question, Jephthah's daughter and the women who accompanied her are the heroes of the story. They began something that I must continue. With the small freedoms Jephthah's daughter possessed, she honored what life remained to her. The young woman's courage astounds me. And the women who accompanied her continued to honor her life after violence had stolen it. How can I choose to do less?
I want to be the kind of woman who can go into the hills with another woman and invite her to live fully whatever life this shadowed globe affords her. I want to be the kind of woman who can companion a woman in sorrow, allowing her to feel whatever she feels. I want to be the kind of woman who honors the unnamed of my gender just as much as I honor the famous.
At the same time, the story frees me, in my seasons of sorrow and loss, to invite to my mountain only those who can do these things for me. I needn't feel any guilt in leaving behind those who have chosen to ignore me or to treat me with disrespect. Because I am a woman whose story God chooses to tell, I may take to my mountain women who honor my life with theirs and who will remember me to God even when I am beyond hearing.
Jephthah's daughter, dancing through the door with song and tambourine, reminds me that acts of love cannot be cheapened, even if the recipient of that love refuses the gift. When we hear the story, it is the vision of that daughter's dancing form, the sound of her youthful voice raised in song, that resounds in our hearts as real and right. We know, somehow, that even when a loving soul is slaughtered, that something lasting has been born into the world. We have been challenged to carry the love forward. Because Scripture gives Jephthah's daughter no name, she wears my name and she wears yours. The women of Israel must feel the same as they make their way each year up the mountain.
Jephthah's daughter reminds me that our stories do not end with our last breath for they possess more power and mystery than our short season of life can expend. Our stories go on and on, around the world, across the ages, and into the souls of other women. And God, our Mother, Sister, and Friend, roams the mountains and sings our story into the Great Story that knows the worth of all souls alike.
Everyone welcome........Mr. Blue Jeangles says.
E V E R Y O N E.
ALL are welcome.
Now I see more the meaning of Jesus lives.
As a child I only knew Jesus lived in my heart -
a rather solitary experience.
In an imperfect faith community
my journey has led me to where
HE lives in company with others.
How unlonely.................at last.
In gratitude to God and His servant Rick Diamond,
Dina E. Montgomery
Sunday, July 1, 2007
The Holy Spirit is wafting thru the air as I travel in a busmoving ahead at a steady pace, with its twists and turns, I lose sight of the Holy Spirit. But when I sense its presence drawing near, I am filled with peace.
Like the old man coveting the ring (Lord of the Rings), I desire to contain this security. But I must journeymake choicesand keep coming back to Himthe Holy Spirit.
How magnificent it must be for God to have made a creation that chooses;
Chooses to love,
Chooses to share,
Chooses to care,
Chooses to embrace each other and the creative
Humans carry this creative force within them;
Recreating the creative force from which they
And yet so static are our human creations, just a shadow of the creative force;
So lovely and yet so small,
So fixed and unchanging,
So beautiful and unable to choose,
A reflection of the unfathomable creative force of
You try to excuse me. You needn't. I have sinned and I have paid. You suggest that I bathed innocently on the roof of my home, that I believed my cleansings were private. You are wrong.
That day when Uriah my husband was away at battle, I ordered the servants to carry the washing basin to the roof. They floated almond blossoms in the water and poured in the heady oils and spices. I plaited my hair, slipped into my night garments, and climbed alone to the roof. There, I stripped off my garments and slid, naked, into the water.
You suggest that I did not know the king stood on the palace roof, overlooking my bath. You are wrong. I hoped he was there. I counted on it.
As I poured water over glistening arms and stretched my naked body in the warm liquid, I hoped he was watching.
So your words have now changed. I am no longer innocent victim, but harlot. So be it. Truly, I wanted the king for his beauty and his seed. But I am a woman living in dangerous times. And I am without child. Uriah and I have been married these many years. I have seen friends grow round with child and suckle their sons gratefully to their breasts. They know that when age steals their eyesight and rots their bones, their sons will care for them. Every mother of a Hebrew son breathes a sigh of relief on the birthing stool.
When a messenger announced the sovereign's desire to see me, I knew the reason. I had planned for it. How often had I seen him pacing the roof of his palace, his body richly muscled and his hair a mass of dark curls. I knew he had many wives. He had fathered many strong children: many sons. Already, I longed for him. I needed only to make him want me with the same fever. I am beautiful. Even as a child, the men had looked long at me. Mother kept me close to her side. She feared one would violate me before I could be safely married away. I chose to violate myself after marriage.
My husband was a good man. He loved me, but his first love was Israel. I would feel my womb grow ripe while he was off in battle. I knew I could carry life in this body, but as my friends and the servants began to whisper of barrenness behind my back, terror stole my faith. I am beautiful and desirable now. How long could I wait for Uriah to give me a child for my old age? Each time he went to battle, I paced the courtyard, begging YHWH to return him so I could have another chance. Each time he returned, I would pray for a son's seed to be planted. Nothing.
I went to the king knowing what would happen, hoping that he who had fathered so many children could plant a seed in me.
At last I embraced my fear and went to David. We gave ourselves over to desire. Soon, life stirred in my womb, but Uriah was, again, at battle. I sent word to David. He was kinghe could bid my husband to return. Uriah the Hittite would believe he had fathered the child I knew was a son. But Uriah loved Israel best and would not sleep with me. I left all choice to David, for he was sovereign and could decide all. Did I know he would murder my husband? I suspected it, but Fear is the cruelest emotion of all and I was terrified.
With my husband dead, I became David's wife. When my son was born, I breathed a sign of relief. Now I would be protected in old age. But I had planned without God. I had knotted the cords of my life in my own pattern. God is the great unraveller.
I prayed and wept as my son's body grew still, then cold. Today, my eyes are dry. I face my sin and embrace the God who took the son borne of my fear.