Later Jewish tradition (for example, pseudo-Philo) called her “Sheilah,” “The Dedicated One,” from the Hebrew root, SH‘L, “to ask, to dedicate, to require.”


C.E. (Common Era), used by this author, is the alternate designation corresponding to A.D. often used in scholarly literature.


The Talmud (tahl-MOOD) is a collection of rabbinic writings (first-seventh centuries C.E.) constituting the basis of religious authority for traditional Judaism. It has two components: the Mishnah (a written summary of the Oral Law) and the Gemara (an explanation of, and commentary on, the Mishnah).


Baruch Margalit, “Why King Mesha of Moab Sacrificed His Oldest Son,” BAR 12:06. But see also Bradley Aaronson, “Whose Son Was Sacrificed?” Queries & Comments, BAR 16:03.



Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from Tanakh, A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society [JPS], 1985).


Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), pp. 1, 93.


Abraham Shoshanah, Derekh Binah (Cleveland: Ofeq Inst. 1988), p. 173 (in Hebrew).


Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 5.7.10, transl. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1978), p. 118.


Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities 40:1–8, in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1985), vol. 2, p. 353.


Shoshanah, Derekh Binah, p. 176.


Midrash Rabbah, cited in A. Cohen, Joshua and Judges, Soncino Books of the Bible (London: Soncino, 1982), p. 258; Ellen Frankel, The Classic Tales (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1989), p. 184; and Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Phiiadelphia: JPS, 1941), vol. 4, p. 46.


Midrash Rabbah, in Cohen, Joshua and Judges, p. 258.


J. H. Hertz, Pentateuch and Haftorahs (London: Soncino, 1985), p. 201.


Cohen, Joshua and Judges, p. 257; Shoshanah, Derekh Binah, p. 173.


Trible, Texts of Terror, p. 97.


See Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), pp. 164, 165; also Trible, Texts of Terror, p. 104.


Trible, Texts of Terror, p. 116, n. 59.


Adin Steinsaltz, Biblical Images (New York: Basic Books, 1984), p. 101


If Jephthah’s daughter was “given to Yahweh” as living sacrifice, rather than as a dead one, by her dedication to the sanctuary in perpetual virginity, what, would she do there? Were not all the functions assigned to men? Traditionalists think so, but the Bible suggests roles for women. Exodus 38:8 mentions “the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting” (NIV; NJB; New RSV). The New JPS version has “the women who performed tasks at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting,” while the James Moffatt translation of the Bible (Harper & Row, 1935) reads “the women caretakers,”

The Hebrew root for “service” in these passages is TZVA. It meant to “wage war” in a secular sense, or to wage “spiritual” warfare by divine service. It is the same word applied to the work of the Levites in Numbers 4:3, 23, 30: “the Levites,…all who are subject to service [TZVA]… for the Tent of Meeting.”


Francis Brown et. al., Hebrew and English Lexicon (Lafayette, IN: Associated Publishers, 1978), p. 1072; R Laird Harris, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1980), vol. 2, p. 2526; Menahem Glenn, Hamillon Hamaasi (New York: Hebrew Publ. Co., 1947), p. 460.


M. Friedlander, Principal, Jews’ College, London, The Jewish Family Bible, 1881 edition; also Tanakh (JPS, 1917), King James Version and RSV.


NIV New English Bible.


Tanakh (JPS, 1985).


Marginal reading, King James Version; Robert Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (Edinburgh, 1898; reprinted by Baker Book House [n.d.], Grand Rapids, MI)


Shoshanah, Derekh Binah, p. l77.