dont understand the story of Jephthah and his daughter. Why did God
stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac but then allow Jephthah to sacrifice
his daughter? It doesnt seem fair.
hen God told Abraham to sacrifice
Isaac, God had no intention of allowing the sacrifice to be completed. It
was all a test, meant to teach Abraham total trust in God, so as to get the
chosen peopleAbrahams descendantsstarted off on the right
foot, so to speak.
The story of Jephthah is, well,
a different story.
The Story of
The story of Jephthah isnt
very well known to most persons, but it does occur in the readings for the
weekday Mass. In fact, it occurred the day before you asked this
In this story, Jephthah, on his
own initiative, without Gods asking him, made a
vow to offer a sacrifice if he were successful in
battle. To understand what that vow signified, and what happened as a result
of it, lets examine the underlying psychology of the characters
Jephthah had been born as the
illegitimate son of a harlot, and the legitimate members of his family
disinherited him. Doing what many persons do when feeling
victimized by their families, he acted out his
disobedience, taking up the life of a rogue
bandit. Harboring a grudge against his family, he held them in no esteem,
and when they came to him in need, asking for his help, he said, Are
you not the ones who hated me and drove me from my fathers house? Why
do you come to me now, when you are in distress? (Judges
Considering this attitude, we
can understand the vow he made. Outwardly making it seem like an act of
thanksgiving to God, he really imagined that his vow to offer in sacrifice
whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me would be
a perfect opportunity to inflict revenge on his family. He was hoping that
the victim of his sacrifice would be a nice pay back for his
own injuries. Remember, it never entered his mind that this
victimthis cunning revenge for his having being
victimizedwould be his own beloved daughter, rather than some
Now, speaking of Jephthahs
daughter, lets look at the psychology of her demise.
of Jephthahs Daughter
On hearing the news of her
fathers victory, Jephthahs daughter made a flamboyant show of
triumph with dancing and musicmuch like
sports fans do today when a favorite sports team
wins a game. It was this show of vanity that doomed her, for if she had stayed
quietly at home giving thanks to God in modesty
and humility, things might have been
In the end, the vow had to be
fulfilled. God didnt let Jephthah off the hook. Why? To make a point
about two grave sins: triumph and revenge.
When Jephthahs daughter
mourned her virginity (Judges 11:37), she had to reflect on the fact that
she would die childless. She had to lament the fact that her vain show of
triumph had denied her father his progeny. And Jephthah had to lament the
fact that his desire for revenge had denied him his own progeny. Thus, unlike
Abrahams sacrifice that set his progeny off on the right foot,
Jephthahs sacrifice put an end to his progeny before it got
of Christs Sacrifice
In this story, then, the deep
meaning of Christs sacrifice is foreshadowed. On the cross, Christ
put an end to triumph and revenge, and He left us a Bloodless Sacrifice to
sustain us in our journey to our own crosses.
And how sad it is that many so-called
Christians today reject the cross as socially
irrelevant and blindly send themselves
to their own doom by continuing to imitate Jephthah and his daughter in their
vanity of triumph and revenge.
Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition
by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
A treasure of a resource for psychological
and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites is now available at your fingertips
in book form with a comprehensive index.
Psychological defenses help to protect us from
emotional injury, but if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your
childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest
for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and
conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull:
So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your
enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you.
You will go where you desire.