Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth
Judges 11: Jephthah’s victory.
This chapter and most of the next are about the judge Jephthah. He was Gilead’s son by a prostitute, so Gilead’s other sons despised him, and drove him out from his homeland. He fled to the land of Tob, where he lived amongst reckless men. When the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to the land of Tob to ask if Jephthah would lead their army. At first, Jephthah challenged them, and asked why they would come to him for help after expelling him from their county. However, the elders swore by the Lord that they would accept him as their leader, so he agreed to go with them.
Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon, to ask why his people were attacking Gilead. The king said that Israel had taken away their land, but Jephthah recounted to them the history of Israel’s time in the wilderness, specifically pointing out that they not made war with the nations of Canaan. The only exception was the Amorite king Sihon’s attack on Israel, in which the Israelites defended themselves and defeated the Amorites. So, Jephthah explained that Israel had not taken land from the Ammonites. But the people of Ammon did not listen, and prepared for war.
While preparing his army against the people of Ammon, Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: if He would grant Gilead victory, Jephthah would make a burnt offering of the first thing which came out from his house upon his return home. Battle ensued, and the army of Jephthah utterly defeated Ammon.
When Jephthah returned home, his daughter – his only child – came out of the house to greet him with music and dancing. He tore his clothes in despair, and told her about his vow to the Lord. His daughter told him to keep his word, and asked to be left alone for two months to lament her virginity. Then, when the time came, Jephthah carried out his vow to the Lord.
Jephthah’s dealings with both the Ammonites and his own family show that serving the Lord leads us to seek peace, not conflict or war. His account of the Israelites’ struggles showed that his people had only defended themselves against other nations, but had not fanned the flames of war. We are to do the work of making peace in our lives, while upholding and defending what is true (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 1683).
The people of Ammon stand for knowing what is true, but then corrupting that truth to live a life based in falsities. For example, if we know the Lord regenerates us, and then tell ourselves that we no longer hold any responsibility for our eternal state, we have falsified the truth. This view completely distorts the truth: the Lord regenerates us as we work to live righteously (see Swedenborg’s work, Sacred Scripture 18).
The spiritual meaning of a ‘daughter’ is an affection for spiritual truths and the life they offer. Affection is the offspring of feeling delight in truths; as we develop these affections, we learn to recognize that they come from the Lord, for he is the source of all good things (Arcana Caelestia 3336).
Jephthah’s daughter was his deepest love, his greatest affection. She was a virgin, representing the spiritual qualities of purity and innocence. Her request for two months of solitude can be understood as our need to reflect during any giving to the Lord, to be sure that our intentions are pure, without any selfish expectations (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Providence 121).