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The Destruction of Women


Authors: Jo Milgrom and Yoel Duman







Introduction

In this portion of our discussion of the women of the Book of Judges, we will deal with two nameless and victimized women – Jephthah’s daughter and the Levite’s concubine. These two stories epitomize one of the chief trajectories of the Book of Judges – the destruction of women by men. Both stories are found in the second half of the book, after we have already met a series of strong, assertive women. In some of those stories, men were the casualties – but here we will be dealing with the lives of women as tragedy.








Jephthah`s Daughter

The Judge Jepthah (Judges 11 -12) is tainted from the outset – the son of a prostitute, he is disinherited by his brothers, gathers a gang of “low characters” and proceeds to live on the fringes of society as an outlaw. Because of his reputation as a “tough”, he is invited back to face the threat of an Ammonite attack. Stung by his initial rejection, he drives a hard bargain for his services. His ego inflated, he makes a rash vow:

If You deliver the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me on my safe return from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s and I shall offer it as a burnt offering.
As fate would have it, this promise backfires, when he returns victoriously and is greeted by his own daughter. Here begins our exposition of the story within the story, the fate of Jephthah’ daughter, one of the many unnamed women in the book of Judges.
35 “On seeing her, he rent his clothes and said, “Alas, daughter! You have brought me low; you have become my troubler! For I have uttered a vow (lit. opened my mouth) to the Lord and I cannot retract it.” “Father, she said, you have uttered a vow to the Lord; do to me as you have vowed, seeing that the Lord has vindicated you against your enemies, the Ammonites. She further said to her father, “Let this be done for me; let me be for two months, and I will go with my companions and lament (lit descend) upon the hills and there bewail my maidenhood.” “Go,” he replied. He let her go for two months, and she and her companions went and bewailed her maidenhood upon the hills. After two months’ time, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed.

Following this laconic account of the events connected with Jephthah’s daughter, we return to the main story, Jephthah’s career as Israel’s judge. He is a divisive force in Israel, and incites internecine carnage. Thus, the biblical text itself is covertly critiquing Jephthah and his leadership.
Midrash is much more blatant in its criticsm. Jephthah’s rash vow was invalid a priori. Furthermore, when it turned out to have dire consequences, it should have been annulled, but the egos of Jephthah and the “spiritual” leader, Phineas the High Priest, prevented this and Jephthah’s daughter paid the price
.

The 13th century St. Louis Psalter begins its treatment of this story with the encounter between Jephthah and his daughter.


St. Louis` Psalter, Latin 10525 f. 53v, c. 1270

St. Louis` Psalter, Latin 10525 f. 53v, c. 1270


Tambourine in hand, the daughter greets her returning father, who tears his shirt in the agony of mourning. The two halves of the illumination express contrary moods: on the right, Jephthah’s daughter and her friends, on foot, joyously greet the warriors; on the left, as his steed tramples the joyous scene, Jephthah is distraught. The decorative orange and blue rectangles of the margins are reflected in reverse in the sunny rondel on the right and the gloomy one on the left.


Baroque artist Jacob Hogers places Jephthah’s daughter dead center festively robed and garlanded, extending her arms to her father, bearing the laurel wreath of victory and a large feather for his cap.


J. Hogers, Return of Jephthah, c. 1629

J. Hogers, Return of Jephthah, c. 1629


An ensemble accompanies her, moving through an imposing urban scene of arches and towers. The celebratory stream of musicians occupies two thirds of the painting. Their power is undermined by the oath of the single figure on the far left. The victorious Jephthah, tears his robe – he cannot face his daughter and looks askance; even his horse is horrified. These two, most likely, would like to flee the scene. Joy becomes sadness and power is crippled.

The two following 19th century portrayals of the same scene are so involved with the lusty women that they miss the point.


J. Tissot,  Jephthah`s Daughter, 1896 -1902

J. Tissot, Jephthah`s Daughter
1896 -1902


J-P Laurens, c. 1899, Wonders: Images of the Ancient World

J-P Laurens, c. 1899
Wonders: Images of the Ancient World


Tissot poses Jephthah’s daughter framed by an arch, undulating for a victory photo-opp, wearing a headdress of tambourines and playing a drum. There’s no hint of the coming fall. Laurens portrays a group of girls doing some last minute rehearsing before the curtain rises. Jephthah’s curvaceous daughter, seen from the back, dances through the doorway, while one entirely naked friend peeks over the windowsill and waves to the miniscule silhouette of the approaching troops. These might as well be scenes from the Song of Songs and not the moment before disaster.


Dierdre Luzwick, 1979

Dierdre Luzwick, 1979


As opposed to the luscious virgins of the 19th century, Dierdre Luzwick imagines Jephthah’s daughter as a 1st-grader on a tricycle and her father as a World War II vet. Her look is quizzical, “Who is this man?” So Luzwick retells the story as a modern Midrash – the plight of the returning soldier and his uncomprehending family. Long-term separation has sacrificed the family to political exigencies.

The most frequently treated scene in the story of Jephthah’s daughter is the fulfilling of Jephthah’s vow. Both literary and visual Midrash generally depict this fulfillment as the slaying of the daughter and this would appear to be the obvious intent of the biblical narrative.


Jephthah`s daughter, BSB Clm 14159, 1170

Jephthah`s daughter, BSB Clm 14159, 1170


Akedah, Kaufmann Mishneh Torah, 1296

Akedah, Kaufmann Mishneh Torah, 1296


The two medieval illustrations above, show a parallel between the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter and the sacrifice of Isaac. Although created over 100 years apart, they demonstrate that the sacrifice of Jephthah`s daughter was conceived similarly to the sacrifice of Isaac.


In most Midrashim
, Isaac is portrayed as a willing martyr who urges his father to complete the act; since there is nothing in the biblical text of the Akedah to indicate such willingness, these Midrashim may actually derive from the explicit willingness of Jephthah’s daughter in the biblical account. A text from theBabylonian Talmud draws the parallel between Jephthah and Abraham, without comment. Pseudo-philo likewise refers to the Sacrifice of Isaac in his retelling of the story of Jephthah’s daughter, holding up the midrashic Isaac as a model of piety. Thus there is a web of interconnections between the stories of Jephthah’s daughter and Isaac.

Christian theology goes a step further. The akedah as a prefiguration of the crucifixion is an ancient pillar of Christian thinking; occasionally, the sacrifice of Jepthah’s daughter is also likened to the crucifixion, as in the writings of Ephraem the Syriac. A 7th century visual representation of this parallel is found in the chapel of the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai. As a result, Jephthah becomes a positive figure in some Christian thinking, as opposed to the negative evaluation, overt in the Midrash and implied in the Bible.

For example, the 14th century Queen Mary’s Psalter is the only manuscript we found in which the kneeling Jephthah is seen making his vow to God. The two figures on the left are paralleled by two figures on the right. Here, Jephthah is no longer humble, but stands aggressively over his daughter to fulfill his vow. The kneeling figure now is the pious, submissive daughter, whose hair is pulled into position for the descending sword. “He did to her as he had vowed.” Jephthah is the model here of the pious king and his daughter is nothing more than the mute casualty.


Queen Mary`s Psalter, Jephthah and his Daughter

Queen Mary`s Psalter, Jephthah and his Daughter


In medieval Jewish commentary, a radical and surprising new interpretation appears, in the commentary of
R. Abraham ibn Ezra: lo and behold, the fool doesn’t do it. Ibn Ezra discovers an ambiguity in the text and reads Jephthah’s vow as,


Whatever comes out of my door will be the Lord’s or I will offer it up


What other commentators understood as a single outcome in two phases should be read as two different options. This reading is based on the assumption of traditional scholarship that each biblical phrase has its own distinct meaning. The upshot of this reading is that if what comes out to greet Jephthah be appropriate for sacrifice, it will be sacrificed; if not, it will be otherwise dedicated to God. Since, as it turns out, Jephthah’s own daughter greets him, she obviously (!) cannot be sacrificed. Therefore, concludes Ibn Ezra, she was consecrated to a life of meditation and prayer. The great Jewish commentators
Radak, Ralbag, Abravanel and Malbim accepted this reading, while the Ramban rejected it out of hand. Only Nicholas of Lyra, among Christian commentators, accepted the view that she was not sacrificed, apparently following Radak; as it turns out, Nicholas was a Jewish convert to Christianity!


Church history contextualizes Ibn Ezra’s novel interpretation. Between the years 1000 and 1300, the number of convents in Europe increased tenfold. Since no such institution existed within Judaism, this increase may have been the model for the new interpretation of Jephthah’s vow.


We have only a single work of art that illustrates this surprising new interpretation:


Alba Bible, 1430

Alba Bible, 1430


In the 15th century Alba Bible, a joint Jewish-Christian commentary, the story is presented as three scenes. The returning cavalry headed by Jephthah on the left fills more than a third of the picture. At center, Jephthah’s daughter herself is the single white-clad figure, attended by black-robed “virgins of Israel” mourning for her. On the right, Jephthah’s daughter appears again; this time she is framed by the window of her new residence– apparently a convent, identified by the its rose window. The doorway of the building is a strange dark silhouette in the shape of the one who will never exit. Thus it appears that R. Moshe Arragel, the advisor for this translation-commentary, adopted Ibn Ezra’s reading for the Alba Bible.


Nevertheless, most artists continued to portray the scene as human sacrifice. In the Baroque sculpture of Massimilano Soldani, a cruel hand seizes the helpless victim, vaguely protected by the shadow of the virgins of Israel.


Massimilio Soldani Benzi, c. 1725

Massimilio Soldani Benzi, c. 1725


Jephthah’ daughter does not look at her father, but heavenward. Her left hand seeks in vain for support, while her right hand openly asks: why? It is fortuitous that Jephthah’s sword, originally at the center of the piece in his raised hand, has been lost at some point. Only his armor and other battle gear, retired to a barren tree, remain.


William Blake, 1803

William Blake, 1803


Romantic visionary William Blake places a diminutive, elf-like Jephthah’s daughter kneeling in prayer on a massive ionic altar, musical instruments beside her and reeds for the sacrifice behind her. Below her kneels her father, his arms outstretched in prayer; beside him smoke rises from the sacrificial fire. At either side of the altar stand lamenting companions and above, the sky is divided into darker and lighter halves. The entire picture is composed of triangles: blue and white clouds above, the sacrificial reeds, the prayerful hands of the daughter and the father, etc. These triangles could hint at hidden sexual interest. However, in a deeper sense the triangles enclose the tragic relationship of the father, the daughter and God.


Yafa Nevo, 2010

Yafa Nevo, 2010


Finally, in contemporary Israeli artist Yafa Nevo’s painting, Jephthah’s daughter carries her overnight bag to the place of her distant exile. The picture is framed by the tambourine from her original musical encounter welcoming her father. A landscape of fruit, whole and cut, carries the eye to a strange vanishing point. The picture is a lament for the wasted seed, the lost potential, of this heroic but nameless woman.


Morgan Bible, M. 638 f. 013v, 1250

Morgan Bible, M. 638 f. 013v, 1250


To summarize, we come back to a seemingly literal, normative reading, as represented in the 13th century Morgan Bible. On a single page, the artist deals with the three major scenes of the story of Jephthah’s daughter and then oddly moves on to another tale from Judges. At top left, portrays Jephthah’s daughter greeting her father in a manner similar to the contemporary rendition of the St. Louis Psalter; here his hands are clasped in grief, prior to tearing his cloak. The panel at top right illustrates the mourning of Jephthah’s daughter and her companions during the moratorium granted her prior to her demise. Our questions arise from the lower panel, where surprisingly the altar is unoccupied, although identified by a cruciform tree. Jephthah’s daughter kneels before the altar, her prayerful hands resting on a prominent rock. Her father pulls her hair, to expose her neck, raising his sword ominously, while her companions look on (prefiguring the women of Jesus’ entourage at the crucifixion). The mystery and surprise unfold in the lower right panel, out of place and seemingly unrelated; this is the scene from Judges 9 in which Abimelech slaughters his 70 brothers “on one stone”. Why has this scene been placed here? The answer is formal and theological: Jephthah’s daughter cannot legitimately be sacrificed on the altar, so she is executed on a stone, just as the 70 brothers are. A strong diagonal of raised swords also unites both panels, thus making the statement that the death of Jephthah’s daughter was not a pious sacrifice prefiguring the crucifixion, but a wanton murder. Thus what seemed to be a naïve normative reading of the story turns out to be subversive.








The Levite`s Concubine

The Book of Judges ends with a horror story. From the beginning of the book, violence is the default behavior of the people of Israel, in line with the familiar phrase: There was no king in those days and everyone did whatever they pleased. Nonetheless, there’s no hint at the depth of depravity that will unfold in this final story.
The main character of the story seems to be the concubine of a Levite from the hill country of Ephraim. But she turns out be a mere pawn. Like all the other characters in this tale, she is unnamed; but unlike the others (including entirely minor figures), she is not given a single word of speech. At the outset of the story, the concubine leaves her husband, for reasons not made clear, and returns to her father’s home in Bethlehem of Judah. Four months later (!) the Levite follows to reclaim her; day after day, his hospitable father-in-law delays their departure. Having finally left as the light fades, they decide against staying in nearby Jerusalem, fearing this city of foreigners. They arrive at the Benjaminite city of Gibeah in the dark, unwelcomed until an elderly Ephraimite offers them his hospitality. Local perverts surround his house and demand to have their way with the Levite. Instead, the concubine (!) is pushed out the door. In the morning, the Levite, unmoved to find her body on the doorstep, loads her on to a donkey. heads home, dismembers the corpse and sends the parts to the 12 tribes. Their fury is aroused and a civil war that ensues, in which Benjamin is decimated. For the sake of tribal survival, the remaining Benjaminites are given women procured by abduction.
In an early rabbinic discussion, the question of censorship is raised. It’s so horrible, maybe we should just not talk about it, remove it from the curriculum. But this option is rejected; the story, like other embarassing episodes (Lot and his daughters, the Golden Calf, Judah and Tamar) should be read and processed.
Another (disappointing) midrashic treatment of our story, juxtaposes it with the story of Micah’s idol (Judges 17). The rabbis conclude that Israel was punished for being more concerned about the concubine than they were about idolatry. But in fact, the implication of this “learning” is that the unnamed woman becomes even more marginalized than in the Bible.
The 13th century Morgan Bible, containing hundreds of images from the Hebrew Bible, devotes fully eleven panels to the grotesque concluding episode of Judges. The visual narrative opens with the hospitality offered at Gibeah and continues in the dining room.





Action proceeds as the the scene pictures the terrified concubine being delivered into the hands of the armed gang.
The artist then renders:

While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the town, a depraved lot, had gathered about the house and were pounding on the door. They called to the aged owner of the house, “Bring out the man who has come into your house, so that we can be intimate with him.” The owner of the house went out and said to them, “Please, my friends, do not commit such a wrong. Since this man has entered my house, do not perpetrate this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. Let me bring them out to you. Have your pleasure of them, do what you like with them; but don’t do that outrageous thing to this man.” But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and pushed her out to them. They raped her and abused her all night long until morning; and they let her go when dawn broke.



The artist mercifully spares us the details, ending this scene with the body of the concubine on the doorstep.

Twelve figures crowd the next double panel. The concubine, flung prone and faceless on the donkey, shocks the viewers. Pale and dismembered on an altar-like table, she is an ironic contrast to the lively animal in the adjoining panel. The use of the word ma’achelet (butchering knife) is a transparent allusion to the sacrifice of Isaac and the Levite’s posture is reminiscent of how Abraham is often portrayed. She is not even a sacrifice, but merely a call to arms, a symptom of Israel’s decay. Her dissected body is multiplied by 12, finally giving her at least a fleeting, symbolic role.




There is no repentance and no forgiveness. The extensive coverage of this awful story in the Morgan Bible is not unlike current mass media’s fascination with the ghoulish.


Four hundred years later, two Dutch artists chose to interpret relationships, rather than the grotesque.


G. van der Eekhout, The Levite at Gibeah, c. 1650

G. van der Eekhout, The Levite at Gibeah, c. 1650


Rembrandt, The Man of Gibeah, c. 1645

Rembrandt, The Man of Gibeah, c. 1645


ekhout and Rembrandt both portray the night scene in which the Levite and company are offered hospitality in Gibeah. The text is silent with regard to the concubine’s relationship with her husband. She leaves him; we don’t know why. It takes him four months to go after her; we don’t know why. Their reunion in the father’s house emphasizes only the gustatory delights. The two pictures above read this relationship very differently. Eekhout places the couple in affectionate proximity. Although her hand rests on his knee, his interest is focused on the potential host. In the Rembrandt scene, she sits separate among the suitcases, while the two men are in close conversation. Intimation of the coming disaster is missing from both pictures. The artists have chosen an isolated prelude.


In contrast, in Dore’s illustrated Bible of 1860, the focus is on the outrage and its inevitable consequences.



At the center of the picture, the Levite, silhouetted against the white town, rises vertically, extending his arm in a cry of fury. Isolated even in death, the concubine lies broken horizontally across the back of their donkey. She was nothing in life, and now she is merely the tool for his revenge.
The power of Janet Shafner’s Concubine of Gibeah is controlled within its geometric patterns. She writes that one painting evolved into three. Body parts and wolves dominate throughout. The wolf is Benjamin’s totem as described in Genesis 49, known as Jacob’s Blessings. But Shafner uses this biblical text as an ominous portent of the dehumanization of the people of Benjamin, in particular, and of Israel in general.




On further examination, the artist numbered the paintings sequentially, leading us to view them as a triptych. This unified view reveals animal savagery intensifying diagonally, from top to bottom and left to right. A human-faced animal becomes a bloody tongued wolf with a repulsive coat. Finally, it multiplies into a vicious pack. Throughout, we barely see the concubine as a person, but only as body parts: 12 in panel 1, 12 in the upper part of panel 2, and 12 hands in panel 3. The central panel pictures the attacked and the attackers; a riot of bodies. The hands of panel 3, the only flesh-color in the triptych, are the victim, grabbing, scratching, pleading, surrendering. The art of the 21st century in its interpretive expressionism is a powerful contrast to the stylistic and realistic narrativism of the earlier works. Without Shafner, our treatment of this story would be dispassionate; her work makes ones blood boil.


We’ve dealt with four of the major extended units of the book of Judges: in two, women destroy men and in two. men destroy women. Plautus wrote in the 3rd century BCE: “Homo homini lupus”, man is a wolf to his fellow. In the book of Judges it could also read: man is a wolf with women.


Article Sources:

Jephthah`s Daughter
Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-Philo 39 – 40
XXXIX 10. And because the king of the children of Ammon would not hear the voice of Jepthan, Jepthan arose and armed all the people to go forth and fight in the borders saying: When the children of Ammon are delivered into my hands and I am returned, any that first meeteth with me shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord.
11. And the Lord was very wroth and said: Behold, Jepthan hath vowed that he will offer unto me that which meeteth with him first. Now therefore if a dog meet with Jepthan first, shall a dog be offered unto me? And now let the vow of Jepthan be upon his firstborn, even upon the fruit of his body, and his prayer upon his only begotten daughter. But I will verily deliver my people at this time, not for his sake, but for the prayer which Israel hath prayed.
XL. And Jepthan came and fought against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivered them into his hand, and he smote threescore of their cities. And Jepthan returned in peace. And the women came out to meet him with dances. And he had an only begotten daughter; the same came out first in the dances to meet her father. And when Jepthan saw her he fainted and said: Rightly is thy name called Seila, that thou shouldest be offered for a sacrifice. And now who will put my heart in the balance and weigh my soul? and I will stand and see whether one will outweigh the other, the rejoicing that is come or the affliction which cometh upon me? for in that I have opened my mouth unto my Lord in the song of my vows, I cannot call it back again. 2. And Seila his daughter said unto him: And who is it that can be sorrowful in their death when they see the people delivered? Rememberest thou not that which was in the days of our fathers, when the father set his son for a burnt offering and he gainsaid him not, but consented unto him rejoicing? And he that was offered was ready, and he that offered was glad. 3. Now therefore annul not anything of that thou has vowed, but grant unto me one prayer. I ask of thee before I die a small request: I beseech thee that before I give up my soul, I may go into the mountains and wander (or abide) among the hills and walk about among the rocks, I and the virgins that are my fellows, and pour out my tears there and tell the affliction of my youth; and the trees of the field shall bewail me and the beasts of the field shall lament for me; for I am not sorrowful for that I die, neither doth it grieve me that I give up my soul: but whereas my father was overtaken in his vow, [and] if I offer not myself willingly for a sacrifice, I fear lest my death be not acceptable, and that I shall lose my life to no purpose. These things will I tell unto the mountains, and after that I will return. And her father said: Go. 4.  1And Seila the daughter of Jepthan went forth, she and the virgins that were her fellows, and came and told it to the wise men of the people. And no man could answer her words. And after that she went into the mount Stelac, and by night the Lord thought upon her, and said: Lo, now have I shut up the tongue of the wise among my people before this generation, that they could not answer the word of the daughter of Jepthan, that my word might be fulfilled, and my counsel not destroyed which I had devised: and I have seen that she is more wise than her father, and a maiden of understanding more than all the wise which are here. And now let her life be given her at her request, and her death shall be precious in my sight at all times.
5. And when the daughter of Jepthan came unto the mount Stelac, she began to lament. And this is her lamentation wherewith she mourned and bewailed herself before she departed, and she said: Hearken, O mountains, to my lamentation, and look, O hills, upon the tears of mine eyes, and be witness, O rocks, in the bewailing of my soul. Behold how I am accused, but my soul shall not be taken away in vain. Let my words go forth into the heavens, and let my tears be written before the face of the firmament, that the father overcome not (or fight not against) his daughter whom he hath vowed to offer up, that her ruler may hear that his only begotten daughter is promised for a sacrifice. 6. Yet I have not been satisfied with my bed of marriage, neither filled with the garlands of my wedding. For I have not been arrayed with brightness, sitting in my maidenhood; I have not used my precious ointment, neither hath my soul enjoyed the oil of anointing which was prepared for me. O my mother, to no purpose hast thou borne thine only begotten, and begotten her upon the earth, for hell is become my marriage chamber. Let all the mingling of oil which thou hast prepared for me be poured out, and the white robe which my mother wove for me, let the moth eat it, and the crown of flowers which my nurse plaited for me aforetime, let it wither, and the coverlet which she wove of violet and purple for my virginity, let the worm spoil it; and when the virgins, my fellows, tell of me, let them bewail me with groaning for many days. 7. Bow down your branches, O ye trees, and lament my youth. Come, ye beasts of the forest, and trample upon my virginity. For my years are cut off, and the days of my life are waxen old in darkness.
8. And when she had so said, Seila returned unto her father, and he did all that he had vowed, and offered burnt offerings. Then all the maidens of Israel gathered together and buried the daughter of Jepthan and bewailed her. And the children of Israel made a great lamentation and appointed in that month, on the 14th day of the month, that they should come together every year and lament for the daughter of Jepthan four days. And they called the name of her sepulchre according to her own name Seila.
9. And Jepthan judged the children of Israel ten years, and died, and was buried with his fathers.
Babylonian Talmud Ta`anith 4a
R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Three [men] made haphazard requests, two of them were fortunate in the reply they received and one was not, namely, Eliezer, the servant of Abraham; Saul, the son of Kish; and Jephthah the Gileadite. Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, as it is written, So let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, ‘Let down thy pitcher, etc.’ She might have been lame or blind, but he was fortunate in the answer given to him in that Rebecca chanced to meet him. Saul, the son of Kish, as it is written, And it shall be, that the man who kills him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter. [He] might have been a slave or a bastard. He too was fortunate in that it chanced to be David.
Jephthah, the Gileadite, as it is written, Then it shall be, that whatsoever comes forth out of the doors of my house, etc. It might have been an unclean thing. He, however, was fortunate in that it so happened that his own daughter came to meet him. This is what the prophet had in mind when he said to Israel, Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? And it is further written, Which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it to my mind.Which I commanded not’: This refers to the sacrifice of the son of Mesha, the king of Moab, as it is said, Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead and offered him for a burnt-offering. ‘Nor spake it’; This refers to the daughter of Jephtha. ‘Neither came it to my mind’: This refers to the sacrifice of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
 
Leviticus Rabbah 37:4
4. Four people began their supplication by making vows. Three of them made their request in an improper manner and the Holy One, blessed be He, answered them favor­ably, while one made the request in an improper manner and the Omnipresent answered him correspondingly. They are as follows: Eliezer the servant of Abraham, Saul, Jephthah, and Caleb... Jephthah made a request in an improper manner, as is proved by the text, Then it shall be, that what­soever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me ... I will offer it up (Judg. XI, 31). Said the Holy One, blessed be He: If a camel, or an ass, or a dog had come out, would you have offered it for a burnt offering? So the Holy One, blessed be He, answered him correspondingly by bringing him his daughter to hand. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes (ib. 35). But surely he could have had his vow disallowed by going to Phinehas? He thought: I am a king! Shall I go to Phinehas? And Phinehas argued: I am a High Priest and the son of a High Priest! Shall I go to that ignoramus? Between the two of them the poor maiden perished, and both of them incurred responsibility for her blood. As regards Phinehas, the Holy Spirit departed from him; as is proved by the text, And Phinehas the son of Eleazar was ruler over them, in times past the Lord was with him (I Chron. IX, 20). As regards Jephthah, limb after limb fell off his body and was buried separately; as is proved by the text, And was buried in the cities of Gilead (Judg. XII, 7). It does not say, In the city of Gilead but In the cities of. This teaches that limb after limb fell off his body and he was buried in many places. R. Simeon b. Lakish and R. Johanan hold different opinions on his case. Resh Lakish says that he should have given money for her and offered a sacrifice bought with it upon the altar. R. ]ohanan says that he need not have given money, for we have learned: An animal that is fit to be offered on the altar should be offered, while one that is not fit to be offered on the altar should not be offered.
 
R. Abraham Ibn Ezra, The mystery of the intercalation
That Isaac and Jephthah`s daughter were slaughtered is a conclusion derived from what is written. There is a secret teaching, however, that they were not slaughtered, as I have shown in my commentary.
 
R. Abraham Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 29:19
The Lord`s nose will smoke – The fire of His nose will burn so that smoke will appear. So that if he is alone, he will die immediately; and if it is a clan, all of these curses will come upon them. The meaning is that they will encompass the clan so that its name is blotted out. And if it is a tribe, the Lord will separate them for punishment. Similarly "it will be dedicated to the Lord and I will offer up a holocaust sacrifice" as I have explained.
 
Radak on Judges 11: 31
And I will offer him up as a holocaust sacrifice – The opinion of our Rabbis is well-known. But our teacher Abraham [ibn Ezra], may his memory be a blessing, explained that the vav in vehe`elitihu means in this case "or", and he explained it will be for the Lord as meaning "dedicated" – if it is not suitable for a sacrifice – or "I will offer it up" – if it is suitable. Similarly is the case of the vav in "one who strikes is father ve`imo – meaning "or his mother". And his explanation is felicitous. And thus it appears from the text that he did not kill her, and that the words "I will mourn" are an indication that he did not kill her, but rather deprived her of ever "knowing" a man as it is said "and she never knew a man". And further note that it says and he did to her as he had sworn and not "and he offered her up", as an indication that the meaning of the performing his oath was to dedicate her to the Holy One. Thus would appear from a close reading of the text.
Ramban on Leviticus 27:29
Now do not let yourself be misled by Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra`s empty words, when he says that the meaning of the expression and I will offer it up for a burnt offering is "or I will offer it up," as if to say: "if that which comes forth of the doors of my house be a man or woman, that person shall be holy to G-d, inasmuch as he will abstain from the ways of the world, to stand to minister in the Name of the Eternalin prayer and thanksgiving to G-d; but if it be something fit for an offering, I will make it a burnt offering." Accordingly [Ibn Ezra`s interpretation continues, since Jephthah`s daughter was the first to come out to meet her father], he built her a house outside the city where she resided in seclusion, and he provided her with sustenance all her days, and no man knew her, so that his daughter remained shut away [from the world all her life].
All this are words of emptiness. For if he vowed that [whatsoever comes forth of the door of his house] shall be the Eternal`s, this does not mean that he should be a recluse [from the world], but instead he is to be like Samuel, of whom his mother said, and I shall give him unto the Eternal, and he was a servant in the House of G-d, not a recluse. And according to the ordinances of the Torah, no man can utter a vow which will bind the persons who come out of the door of his house to live thereafter in seclusion, just as he cannot bring them as an offering. And if the matter be so [as Ibn Ezra put it] then Jephthah`s daughter would be bewailing her virginity with her companions with her, like harlots enhancing their hire! Heaven forbid that this be a custom in Israel, to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a yearbecause she did not marry and she worshipped G-d in purity! Rather, this whole subject is to be understood in its plain meaning [that Jephthah actually brought her as an offering], and his mistake was as I have explained.
Hamlet II, 2
Hamlet.  O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou!
Polonius.  What treasure had he, my lord?
Hamlet.  Why, `One fair daughter, and no more, The which he loved passing well.`
Polonius.[aside] Still on my daughter.
Hamlet. Am I not i` th` right, old Jephthah?
Polonius.If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.
Hamlet.Nay, that follows not.
Polonius. What follows then, my lord?
Hamlet. Why, 'As by lot, God wot,' and then, you know, 'It came to pass, as most like it was,'-- the first row of the pious chanson will show you more; for look, where my abridgement comes
 
St. Ephraem the Syriac: Hymn on Virginity
XXXII. Jephthah`s daughter who washed in her blood was baptized and she sent up from herself the pearl that rooted out fear, and to the treasure on high it ascended ; the girl that stretched out her neck to the slaughter of the sword, the pure pearl consoled her that went with her. And she that here destroys virginity, apprehension becomes her companion in the day of remembrance, and in the Resurrection fear becomes her leader before the Judge, though she have greatly repented.
XXXIII. Jephthah`s Daughter wished to die, so that the vow of her father might not be made void: do not thou make void with thine eyes the vow of virginity that thy mouth has vowed. Jephthah poured out the blood of his daughter ; but thy own Bridegroom, his holy Blood was shed for thy fault.
             Nisibean Hymns, 70
Praiseworthy was also the deed of Jephthah, the vine-dresser who plucked the virginal grape and offered it to the master of the vineyard.
He prevailed, offered his offspring, and he suppressed and ejected his love, and he became not insane in spite of his sorrow because his faith sustained him…A very strong consolation was the great example of Jephthah who with his sword offered the treasure of life to his Lord. His right arm Jephthah stretched out and offered the sacrifice. The dove saw him in his sadness and gave him courage through her voice Upright was the priest, who sacrificed with blood of his own offspring, so that he may be an example of his Lord, who sacrificed with his own blood.
 
The Levite`s Concubine
 
Targum Yonatan Judges 19:2
And his concubine despised him and went from him to the house of her father, to Bethlehem of the house of Judah, and she was there for four months.
 
Tanhuma Vasheve 2
A proof of the power of excommunication is indicated by what occurred to the tribes that became incensed over what had happened to a single concubine at Gibeah but were not aroused by the idols made by Micah. Many thousands of the tribe of Benjamin were slain on three different occasions but after they repented and prostrated themselves before the Ark, the Holy One, blessed be He, become reconciled with them? Thereupon they made a pact of excommunication, that every Israelite (from the youngest to the oldest should come to the Lord (by doing good deeds), as it is said: For they made a great oath concerning him that came not unto the Lord to do good deeds, saying: He shall surely be put to death(Judg. 21:5). Though an oath was taken there, it was called a pact of excommunication to teach us that an oath and a ban of excommunication are identical. Because the men of Jabesh ­Gilead did not come unto the Lord, they were sentenced to death.
 
Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-philo – Chapter 45
And it came to pass at that time that a certain man of the tribe of Levi came to Gabaon, and when he desired to abide there, the sun set. And when he would enter in there, they that dwelt there suffered him not. And he said to his lad: Go on, lead the mule, and we will go to the city of Noba, peradventure they will suffer us to enter in there. And he came thither and sat in the street of the city. And no man said unto him: Come into my house. 2. But there was there a certain Levite whose name was Bethac.  The same saw him and said unto him: Art thou Beel of my tribe? And he said: I am. And he said to him: Knowest thou not the wickedness of them that dwell in this city? Who counselled thee to enter in hither? Haste and go out hence, and come into my house wherein I dwell, and abide there to-day, and the, Lord shall shut up their heart before us, as he shut up the men of Sodom before the face of Lot. And he entered into the city and abode there that night. 3. And all the dwellers in the city came together and said unto Bethac: Bring forth them that came unto thee this day, and if not we will burn them and thee with fire. And he went out unto them and said to them: Are not they our brethren? Let us not deal evilly with them, lest our sins be multiplied against us. And they answered: It was never so, that strangers should give commands to the indwellers. And they entered in with violence and took out him and his concubine and cast them forth, and they, `Let the man go, but they abused his concubine until she died; for she had transgressed against her husband at one time by sinning with the Amalekites, and therefore did the Lord God deliver her into the hands of sinners.
4. And when it was day Beel went out and found his concubine dead. And he laid her upon the mule and hasted and went out and came to Gades. And he took her body and divided it and sent it into all parts (or by portions) throughout the twelve tribes, saying: These things were done unto me in the city of Noba, for the dwellers therein rose up against me to slay me and took my concubine and shut me up and slew her. And if this is pleasing before your face) keep ye silence, and let the Lord be judge: but if ye will avenge it, the Lord shall help you. 5. And all the men, even the twelve tribes, were confounded. And they gathered together unto Silo and said every man to his neighbour: Hath such iniquity been done in Israel?
 
Tosefta Megilla 3:19
Some sections of the Bible are read and explained, others are read but not explained, and a few are neither read nor explained… The tale of the Levite`s concubine is read and explained.
 
Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 103b
Why did they not include Micah [amongst those who will not have a place in the world to come]? Because his bread was available to travelers, as it is written, Every traveler [turned] to the Levites. And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea.
R. Johanan observed: This refers to Micah`s graven image. It has been taught: R. Nathan said: From Gareb to Shiloah is a distance of three mils, and the smoke of the altar and that of Micah`s image intermingled. The ministering angels wished to thrust Micah away, but the Holy One, blessed be He, said to them, `Let him alone, because his bread is available for wayfarers.` And it was on this account that the people involved in the matter of the concubine at Gibeah were punished. For the Holy One, blessed be He, said to them, `Ye did not protest for My honor, yet ye protest for the honor of a woman.`
 
Babylonian Talmud Gittin 6b
Commenting on the text, And his concubine played the harlot against him,  R. Abiathar said that the Levite found a fly with her, and R. Jonathan said that he found a hair on her. R. Abiathar soon afterwards came across Elijah and said to him: `What is the Holy One, blessed be He, doing?` and he answered, `He is discussing the question of the concubine in Gibeah.` `What does He say?` said Elijah: `[He says], My son Abiathar says So-and-so, and my son Jonathan says So-and-so,` Said R. Abiathar: `Can there possibly be uncertainty in the mind of the Heavenly One?` He replied: Both [answers] are the word of the living God. He [the Levite] found a fly and excused it, he found a hair and did not excuse it. Rab Judah explained: He found a fly in his food and a hair in loco concubitus; the fly was merely disgusting, but the hair was dangerous. Some say, he found both in his food; the fly was not her fault, the hair was.
R. Hisda said: A man should never terrorize his household. The concubine of Gibeah was terrorized by her husband and she was the cause of many thousands being slaughtered in Israel.