Discussion of the Good, Clean Funnies List
gcfl-discuss at gcfl.net
Sat Apr 1 08:26:19 CST 2006
Has anyone ever looked at Judges 11 (in any Greek, Latin, English, or
other European translation) and wondered how it could be acceptable in
any way shape or form for a man to sacrifice his own daughter as a burnt
offering, or how a just and merciful G-d, not to mention one who keeps
his own word, could have allowed or accepted such a thing, several
centuries AFTER Abraham was told to withhold the knife from Isaac?
greenBubble probably knows the answer, but since we never asked, he
didn't think to mention the subject. I am informed, by another Orthodox
Jewish man, that no such thing ever happened. And no, the Bible does not
lie, but the translators can get very confused.
I am informed that Jeptha (Yiftach ha-Gil'adi -- to put his name into its
proper form) made the following rash vow: "Im nathon titten eth bnei
Ammon b'yadi, v'haya ha-yotze asher yetze mi-dalthei beythi li-qrathi
b'shuvi b'shalom mi-bnei Ammon, v'haya la-Shem v'ha'alithihu ola."
In order to err on the side of over-precision in translation, the rabbi
gave the meaning as: "If giving you shall give the sons of Ammon into my
hand, it will be that the exitor who/which will exit from my house toward
me on my return in peace from the sons of Ammon, will be Ha-Shem's and I
shall elevate him/it an elevation."
The term ola (root ayin-lamed-hei) refers to any object or person
elevated to a status of enhanced sanctity, such that something or someone
possessing that status may not serve or be used for any secular purpose.
In the case of an animal raised to such a state, this means that it may
not be milked, sheared, bred, worked, eaten, or have its hide used for
anything; hence, it is burnt up on the altar (assuming it is free of
blemish), because nothing else can be done with it. If it has a blemish,
it simply lives out its life in pasture, in isolation from others of its
When Yiftach saw his only child, his daughter, coming out of his door, he
was upset, because the girl was unmarried, and now would never be
married, and so he would never have any grandchildren; his line would
end. For this reason, he tore his garment.
Personally, I found the error in translation understandable, since the
common practice might well have been to offer almost anything else so
"elevated" as a burnt offering. Asking further I received the following
I discovered that your conjecture was correct, and that the Greek verb
used to translate the Hebrew he'ela (which really means "elevate") is a
specific reference to making a burnt offering. Whoever is responsible for
the received Greek translation of Judges (it is of unknown provenance)
plainly misunderstood the text.
I found this clarification something of a relief, and also a useful
cautionary tale on the errors that can arise from simple
misunderstandings in translation. Handel wrote a whole opera for nothing.
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