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But, by what follows, it appears, that our famous Adventurer was, as yet, more than half a Pagan; for thus he proceeds-So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispodeljed the Amorites from before bis People Israel; and Bouldest thou polless it? Wilt NOT THOU POSSESS THAT WHICH CHEMOSH, THY GOD, GIVETH THEE TO POSSESS ? So whomsoever the LORD, OUR GOD, Shall drive out from before us, them will we pofSess *. This was said, on the Gentile principle of local tutelary Deities, in all the grossness of that notion ; not yet refined and rationalized by our Adventurer, on the ideas of the Law. But when he resumes the civil argument, he again reasons better : and very folidly pleads the general law of PRESCRIPTION, in defence of his People. While Israel (says he) dwelt in Hefbbon and ber Towns, and in Aroer and her Towns, and in all the Cities that be along, by the Coasts of Arnoì, THREE HUNDRED YEARS; Why therefore did ge not recover them WITHIN THAT TIME ? But the force of this Argument niaking no impression, the negotiation ended in an appeal to arms. Jephthah leads out his Troops against Animon. And, in the Forefront, without doubt, were those faithful Bands, which he had collected and disciplined in the Land of Tob.
* Judges xi. 23, 24.
t Judges v. 26.
The first step he takes to invite Success, was the making an absurd Pagan Vow, that, if he returned with Victory, he would sacrifice, for a burnt-offering to God, whatsoever came first out of the doors of his house * to welcome his return. He came back a Conqueror ; and his Daughter, impatient to celebrate his Triumph, being the first who met him, was, for his Oath's sake, (though with extreme regret, because, besides her, he had neither son nor daughter of) sacrificed for her pains, according to the then established custom of Idolatry; which, on such occasions, required a Sacrifice of what was most dear or precious to the offerer. For, I hardly believe that Jephthab was, at this time, so learned in the Law, as even the Poet Voltaire ; or that he had proceeded, like him, so far in the sacred text, as to misunderstand or misinterpret this fanious twenty-seventh Chapter of Leviticus, in support of so impious an action. The unhappy father appears, at this time, to understand so little of the Law, as not to be able to distinguish what it had in common with Paganism, (namely the custom of offering eu. charistical Sacrifices, on every great and fortunate event) from what it had in direct oppofition to it (viz. that dire impiery of bumán Sacrifice). * Judges V. 31
+ Ver. 34
The account here given appears to be the natural explanation of a plain Story. But Commentators, full of the ideas of Papal, ra
ther than of the Mofaic times ; and paying a 'blind reverence to the character of a Judge of
Ifrael, make the Daughter, to save her father's honour, return vow for vow; and so consecrate herself to a Virgin State. Solutions like these expose Sacred Scripture to the scorn and derifion of unbelievers.
But against our account of JEPHTIAH's Vow, which makes the whole to be conceived and perpetrated on Pagan principles and practices, our adversaries,
1. Bid us observe, that the action is not condemned. A censure, they think, it could not have escaped, had the Sacred Historian deemed it an impiety.
2. That the text tells us further, that Jephthab went out in ihe Spirit of the Lord *; and therefore they conclude, that he returned in the same Spirit.
3. Lastly, that Jephthah is extolled by the Author of the Epislle to the Hebrews f, and numbered in the class of sacred Heroes.
To these objections, in their order.
First, They who lay so much stress on the Action's having passed uncensured, confider * Judges V. 29.
+ xi. 32. Y 4
neither the nature of the Composition, nor the genius of the Historian. The narrative itself is a brief Compendium, or rather extract from the Records of State, entered as things passed, and then laid up in the Archives of their Scribes, In this species of Composition it is not the wont to dwell either on the causes, the qualities, or the consequences of Actions, but simply to tell the naked Fa&ts.
Nor had the Writers of those times improved History into an art. They transcribed or abridg, ed, merely for the sake of the people's informa, tion in facts, of what they found recorded in their venerable Archives. This was the case in the Story of the lying Prophet, in the affair of the Altar of Bethel *. His crime is neither condemned, nor is his punishment recorded, Had the History been a Romance, forged at pleafure, both these particulars had assuredly been dwelt upon at large.
Besides, as the nature and quality of actions are best seen by the Laws and Customs of the people concerned ; and the action in question was well understood, both by the Writer, and his. Readers, to be condemned by the Mofaic Ritual, it less needed a Censure. The faithful Followers of the Law, for whose service this
adventure was recorded, wanted no historian of prophetic Authority to tell them, (after they had seen human sacrifices execrated in almost every page of their History) that Jephthah's sacrifice of bis Daughter was either an impious imitation of Pagan practices, or an ignorant presumption in the half-paganized Votary, that he was here complying with the famous precept of the Law in Leviticus *, when indeed (as we have shewn at large) it related to quite another thing.
But further, it is not peculiar to this story, to furnish an objection (such as it is) from the sacred Writer's not interposing with his own judgment, concerning the moral quality of the action related. Scripture abounds with instances of this sort ; a silence occasioned by one or other of the causes here explained.
2. But Jephthah (which is the second objection) went out in the spirit of the Lord, and therefore (they conclude) he must needs return in the same spirit.
Now though, on a less important occasion, I should be tempted to acquiesce in the Criticism, though not in the spirit, of Spinosa, that this expression was to be put to the account of the sacred phraseology of the Jews; and to mean no more than the strength, the courage, and