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.”