Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of taking away the life of his only child, who appears to have entertained the utmost reverence and affection for him ; who, thoughtless of danger, came forth to meet her honoured parent, with every demonstration of joy and thankfulness to heaven for his success and preservation; expecting to be pressed to his fond bosom, and hoping to reward his toils with assiduous duty!

What must be the agitation of her mind, when she beheld him turning from her in an agony of distress, and heard him declare her unhappy fate, to which his own rashness had exposed her : for he had opened his mouth to the LORD, and could not go back ! .

Jephthah's daughter certainly was possessed of uncommon fortitude of mind; for she submitted to this sudden and heavy calamity with the utmost calmness and resignation ; willing to suffer any misfortune, rather than her father should be guilty of impiety to GOD; she only requested to be indulged with a short respite, in order perfectly to reconcile herself to the disappointment of dying without leaving a family, which was reckoned by the Jewish women the greatestdisgrace that could befal them; because every one hoped that she might be the mother of some great deli. verer at least, if not of the promised Saviour.

When the dreadful news was known to the young companions of this amiable young lady, pierced with severe grief, they doubtless threw aside the instruments of mirth, with which they came to welcome the con. queror, and changed their songs of triumph for tears and lamentations : willing to enjoy her conversation to the last, they accompanied her to a place of retirement, where she might effectually wean her thoughts from this world, and prepare for eternity.

Human sacrifices were strictly forbidden, particularly those of a person's own children : not only because

such

[ocr errors]

such cruelty is displeasing to a God of infinite mercy, but likewise on account of its resembling the horrid practice of the idolatrous nations. There was little chance that an ox, a lamb, &c. should be the first to meet their 'master; therefore it appears probable, that Jephthah had learnt during his exile, or before the last repentance of Israel, the sacrifices in use by the hea. thens, and really intended to offer a human victim : and that God taught him to understand the enormity of this horrid crime, by suffering him to be involved in such extreme distress; for he was under the necessity, either of taking away the life of his only child, of inflicting a disgraceful punishment on her worse than death; or else of exposing himself to the curse of God for breaking a vow, made with the utmost solemnišy.

This part of the history of Jephthah teaches us, that we ought to weigh well the lawfulness of any action, before we engage ourselves solemnly to the performance of it: had Jephthah done so, he would have recollected, that as there were certain species of animals, appointed by the Lord for sacrifices, any other kind of creature would have defiled the altar, because God had expressly named those he would accept.

Whatever was the fate of Jephthah's daughter, whe' ther she resigned her pious soul as a voluntary sacrifice in acknowledgment of God's mercy in preserving her father, and delivering her country; or whether (as is the general opinion) she relinquished the hopes of having an honourable offspring, and passed the remain. der of her days in solitary sadness, she certainly has left us an example of filial piety of the most exalted kind, and every dutiful child will read and admire it'; whilst those who are unmindful of their parents' hap. piness, and unthankful for the blessings which paternal love dispenses, ought to blush with shame and conM 4

fusion,

havine generalovering hero's mercy in oluntary sacritte

fusion, when conscience obliges them to draw a comparison, between themselves and Jephthah's amiable daughter.

SECTION LVII.

JEPMT HAH'S RESENTMENT AGAINST THE EPHRAIM

ITES HIS DEATH:

i . From Judges, Chap. xii.

And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire.

* And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands.

And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me?

Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim and the men of Gi. lead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim, among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites. .

And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites : and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped, said, Let me go over ; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite ? If he said, nay : then said they unto

him,

him, Say now Shibboleth : and he said Sibboleth ; for he could not frame to pronounce it right.

Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan : and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites : forty and two thousand.

And Jephthah judged Israel six yeers : then' died Jephthah, the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the: cities of Gilead.

ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.. Jephthah belonged to the tribe of Manassehgs with: whom Ephraim claimed kindred; it was on this ac-: count that the Ephraimites were enraged with jealousy ; for though they had not shared the danger, they were desirous of partaking the honour of the victory, and of dividing the spoils. As the Ephraimites began the quarrel, they had none to blame for the consequences of it but themselves ; their displeasure against Jephthah was extremely unreasonable, it proceeded from pride and envy; besides, there was impiety mixt with their crime; for Jephthah-assured them, that it was the LORD: who had given the victory, they should therefore have been thankful for the general deliverance of Israel, and ready to pay respect to that commander whom the LORD so highly honoured.

It must doubtless be very mortifying to Jephthah to be insulted in such opprobrious terms, by those from whom as a kindred tribe he might naturally expect pe-culiar congratulations.

Jephthah certainly carried his resentment to a great extreme; but though it is said that the Spirit of the LORD came on him, that is, strengthened him for the employment he was appointed to, we are not to suppose? that he was a perfect character, or in all respects in. M.5

fluenced

.

[ocr errors]

reasonable law of Mos Christians. this

Auenced by God; on the contrary, we lately read of a shocking instance of his precipitation. The quality for which he was eminently distinguished was valour. He appears to have had strong, but mistaken notions of piety; and as he was unacquainted with the law of God in one particular, it is likely he was deficient in all : if therefore he was led by the corrupt notions he had taken up from the heathens, to the intention of of-, fering a human sacrifice to the God of Israel, he might, from the same ignorance or false, principles, pursue the Ephraimites with too great inveteracy, therefore his example is unfit for the imitation of Christians. Had Jephthah lived when the law of Moses was the rule of life, we may reasonably suppose he would have been a faithful observer of it. He gives a striking instance of the degeneracy of Israel in his time.

It is most likely, that though badly educated, Jeph. thah was well inclined ; and that God, who knoweth the secret dispositions of every heart, selected him as the most proper person to have the supreme authority, and as we read of no more blameable actions, in all probability he spent the remainder of his life in reforming his own heart, and restoring the true worship of God.

Only six years Jephthah judged Israel ; perhaps grief for the loss of his daughter, which must have been severely felt when the return of peace gave leisure for the indulgence of domestic pleasures, shortened his days.

The meaning of the word shibboleth is river or stream. Though all Israel spoke Hebrew, each tribe might have. a particular dialect, as the different counties have

amongst us, so that persons who lived at a distance were: · often in a great measure unintelligible to each other, as is frequently the case in England. Let us remember that the crimes for which such sea

vere

« AnteriorContinuar »