Bible Snaps: Episode 25 … Her Sacrifice

Thrillers, Chillers & Sci-Fi Killers. Whether you believe the bible is true or not true, it contains stories that trigger imagination.

Her  Sacrifice

When she was six, she saw him injured for the first time. Her mother sent her away while servants tended his wounds.

Later, she brought him her sheepskin cover. “To help you sleep, daddy.”

The next day when his head throbbed, she went to him with her little jar of oil and rubbed it on his temple. He said she was his best medicine.

“I’m not medicine, daddy. I’m a girl!”

“So you are, my sweet. The best daughter a father ever had.”

The words flooded her soul like sunshine. She took out her tambourine and sang for him, and he fell asleep for a very long time.

She waited for him to wake up, and when he did, he told her not to worry. “These are just flesh wounds,” he said, letting her peak under his bandage. “The men were cowards. I’ve survived much worse.”

“What’s worse than this, daddy?”  She reached to pat his headwrap. Her girlish heart wanted to know the measure of his strength.

He did not give an answer but instead snatched her hand away and kissed it.

His quickness usually made her laugh, but today, she searched his face with serious concern. “You can tell it, daddy.  I’m brave. Was it an animal that stalked you in the night?” She couldn’t imagine anything worse.

“Not an animal. It’s nothing you need to worry about.  It happened long before you were born.”

After he got better, he went back to fighting battles of his own choosing.

Ten years later some strange men came to their home. They asked her father to lead them in a battle against the Ammonites.

It took some convincing. Years ago the same men had driven her father out of his land refusing to let him take part in his father’s inheritance, because he was the son of a prostitute.

“Forget the past. As God is our witness, we promise to make you the head over all of us.” The leader of the men persisted.

Her father finally agreed. She was scared to see him go away. But she did what she always did when he went away. She took out her tambourine and worked on a song to sing for him when he came back.

When the day finally came, she ran outside and began to dance and play her latest song to celebrate his return.

But instead of looking pleased with her, he started yelling. He ripped apart his clothing and shouted. “My daughter! You’ve brought great disaster and ruin to me, for I’ve made a vow to God, and I can’t take it back.”

Shocked at his violent greeting, she wailed, “What did I do, daddy? What?”

He clamped his mouth shut and refused to say anymore. Her mother led her away, sobbing.

Bewildered, she prodded the servants to tell her what was wrong with her father. Their answer was strange. It twisted about as snakes in her mind. “Your father made this vow. “Whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites, it shall be the Lord’s and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

It was impossible. Her father loved her.  Her would never sacrifice her.

Would he?

She tossed and turned in her bed trying to find the answer. The moon offered no counsel, and the stars gave light but no insight. She heard his sobbing through the walls and wanted to soothe his sadness away with a song, but now she could not move.

Death sat in the darkness between them. It whispered what she knew so well.  Her father was a man of his word. He was a leader of men. Even if he did withdraw his vow, then perhaps another man would take action. The vow was sworn before God.

Did God want her dead? What kind of a God requires a vow like this? The thoughts made her angry and caused her strength to return. She thought of a plan.

In the morning she went to her father with all the sweetness of an obedient child and said, “You have made a vow to the Lord; do to me as you have vowed, since the Lord has taken vengeance for you on your enemies, the Ammonites.”

“No. Wait. Please. Not yet.” Her mother begged on her behalf.

She remained steady. “Father, I would ask just one thing. Let me alone to go to the mountains for two months with my companions so that I may grieve, because I am a virgin.”

She knew her words were a blow. Inside her, a child, not yet conceived, lay waiting to become form and born. Her father’s vow would take away all hope of a lineage.

Her parents held onto each other and then reached out for her, but she moved to the doorway and stood alone waiting for his response.

Finally she heard it. A  gruff anguished syllable came from his mouth. “Go!”

She went.

Everything after that unfolded as if she were hovering outside her body. The real person inside her was numb. Her arms and legs moved quickly to pack provisions. With a hurried pace, she visited her friends at their homes, had conversation to persuade their parents, and then led her friends to build a camping place in the hills of Judah.

Up in the hills, the quietness of nature filled the air, and she drifted back into her body. Sensation returned. Like an unexpected predator, the sting of her beloved father’s betrayal ripped open her heart.

Her pain spilled out onto everything. Even the mountains that usually brought her peace were cruel. Giving dimension to her circumstance, they reminded her that she was as an ant, a creature of little consequence.

Her friends tried to cheer her and make her forget, but each day that passed was one day closer to her grave.

A vow, she believed, was a monstrous thing that paired with fickle destiny to tear a world apart.

There was nothing to overcome the vow. She hurt in the knowledge of her insignificance. All the memories of her father’s adoration lay shredded by the vicious thing.

Some moments, she briefly considered that her father must be hurting, too, but she knew he would not change his mind. His belief about vows had been carved, unalterable. His reason was fueled by the consequences he bore as an illegitimate son. A man is credited with respect when his words are upheld.

Her father wanted men’s respect.

She wanted to live.

On the final night she screamed in helpless silence. Is this true? A vow is to be the thief of my life?

She looked up to see shadows circling in the moonlight. Bird-shaped like eagles, the obscurities howled echoes of her pleas into the air.

Then she saw a wind funnel spiral upward into the heavens, and a great light poured out from an opening in the darkness made by the wind.

The light traveled as a beam, downward in her direction. Thinking she was dreaming, she shook her companions, but they were dead asleep.

A voice spoke from the light. “Do not be afraid. I am the One Who Hears All things, and I have heard your cries. This vow is not required by me, and you have a choice in the matter.”

“What do you mean?” She immediately felt as if her question was disrespectful, but the idea that she had a choice baited her curiosity.

“You can choose to run away and not return.”

“Would I survive?” She knew the wilderness was harsh and full of foes.

“For a time.”

A choice? “What if I don’t run away? Will my father change his mind?

“Your father, too, has a choice.”

The voice seemed to be hearing her thoughts. “What will he choose?”

“Daughter, your choice alone is all you have power over.”

“What if I choose to jump? Right now?” She spoke this aloud and walked to the dark edge of a nearby cliff.

“Yes.” The voice followed her. “You could choose to end your life by jumping, but is that what you want to be known of your life?” The question was a warm tickle in her ear.

She inched closer to look down from the edge, but a gust of wind pushed her back. She felt shaky and quickly sat on a nearby boulder.

The light stream widened and illuminated everything around her. She was torn in her focus. In awe, she wanted to surrender to it, but the darkness whispered more questions. “What difference will your choice make? Isn’t it all the same? No matter what you choose, you will die.”

“Death is the end of life on earth, but death is certainly not the end of you.” The voice sounded like rushing water.

The words soaked into her parched heart like a welcome rain. “Is that true?”

“I cannot lie.”

“Who are you?”

“I am the One Who Knows All Things.”

“What do you know of me?”

“I know this. The choice you make will be told to generations to come.”

The thought pleased her. Still, she did not know what she would choose, but somehow she was comforted.

“Please stay with me a while.” She felt an ease come over her.  It was similar to the comfort she’d felt with her father before the vow had come between them.

“My child, I am always with you. When you look for me, you will find me.”

The next day on the way down from the hills, she remembered the words of the voice who addressed her as “My child.”

When she stood before her father, her heart chanted them to her soul. On the way to the place of sacrifice, she whispered their comfort.

When the moment finally came, she opened her eyes to her real Father, and He pulled her to Him and carried her Home.

 The End

 

My fictionalized inspiration of this horrible story comes from the seldom told Bible story of Jephthah’s daughter found in Judges 11:29-40.  This terrible event shows how a father’s gain was falsely linked to a daughter’s sacrifice. God did NOT require the father’s foolish vow to bring success.

I believe this story is an important vehicle to show the foolishness and great harm that comes when men or women would “glory in the ignorance of sacrifice.”

Jephthah’s vow was an unnecessary grandiose human show. I say this because hundreds of years before Jephthah, God had restated his promise over and over- the promised land promise-His spoken and active intention to grant success to the Israelites over the acquisition of the very same land in dispute in this story.

In the book of Joshua, God spoke to Joshua just after Moses died and said, “I have given you every place on which the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses.” (Joshua 1:3-4)

IF the Israelites were living faithful to God’s commands and moving to conquer the land that God intended/promised them (as Jephthah was in this instance), THEN THEY WERE SURE TO HAVE VICTORY- no human sacrifice required.  God assured them of this fact multiple times. He reviewed it when they crossed the Jordan river, when Jericho fell, and when Ai was conquered.

The gross error of Jephthah’s flamboyant and unnecessary “sacrifice” vow is not commented on in the text except for the emotional reactions and actions of the characters in the story.

The vow laws at that time (especially outlined in the book of Leviticus, chapters 5:5,6 and most of Leviticus chapter 27) allows for retracting a foolish vow.

Tradition back then stated that IF someone did vow to “consecrate a person to the Lord,” a “redeeming value” was to be paid to the priest in exchange for person. To “consecrate something” was an action done by men and it was different than “devoting something.”

In contrast, only God gave the LABEL that specified what men were to “devote.” The accompanying action that God specified to be taken with “devoting” included banning, cursing, destroying, or killing. A God-labeled “devoted thing” was not to be redeemed or sold.

Jephthah’s consecration vow WAS WRONG ( or ignorant without attempt to gain understanding), and the punishment he suffered was the consequence of his own error. The murder of his beloved daughter was on his hands. AND in her death, he also killed any future chance of lineage.

God did not ask for this vow that ended Jephthah’s daughter’s life.

Our “take away” lesson from this story?

It’s WRONG for men or women to proscribe or glorify inhumane or unreasonable sacrifice to achieve a goal.

Although the God of the Bible requires that we hold nothing dearer in our hearts than himself (all else is idol worship), the proof of our esteem for Him will never require the physical sacrifice (carried out) of another human. Yes, God did test the matter with Abraham, but make no mistake, God provided the sacrifice. Abraham & Isaac’s story clarifies this “sacrifice matter.” In a day when human sacrifice was not uncommon, God paralleled a culture that sacrificed humans by requesting this of Abraham, BUT then God distinguished himself as THE ONLY GOD THAT PROVIDED FOR THE SACRIFCICE.

This provision for the sacrifice is no small differential, and the value of this type of god (God of the Bible) MUST be seen for what it is and not mistakenly interpreted as a God who agrees to human sacrifice. This provision-for-the-sacrifice-god is consistent with the same god (God) who would provide Christ as the ultimate substitute sacrifice.

Vowing or bargaining with God is not something He favors, as seen in the texts throughout the whole Bible.

Making a habit of forcing sacrifice of self or others is abhorrent, and actually becomes a symbolic negation of what God has already provided (or plans to provide.)

Here are a few other Bible text supports the idea that God is unimpressed and weary of men’s high valuation of “sacrifice.”

Hosea 6:6 for example. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Isaiah 1:11 “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.”

1Samuel 15:22 “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the LORD. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.”

Mark 12:33 “the scribe replied. “You have stated correctly that God is One and there is no other but Him, and to love Him with all your heart and with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, which is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Matthew 9:13 “Then Jesus added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Psalm 51:16-17 “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

Proverbs 21:3 “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”

Psalm 147:10 “The Lord does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness.”

 

My blog series, Bible Snaps are short fictionalized accounts of the more chilling stories in the Bible. There may even be a few “science fiction” type stories that reference biblical disasters that seem to conflict with the laws of nature.

If you follow along, there’s a couple things you should know.

My “Bible Snaps” aren’t an attempt to settle the question, “is the bible true?” Each person must decide that on their own. My goal is to jump into the head of bible characters and try to imagine living the experience described in the story and then use fresh and personal words to tell it.

Why do I re-tell the “bad” or chilling parts of the Bible?

We live in rough times. People suffer under injustice. It’s good to see how the Bible, an old book that many value as true, contains helpful stories of people who were oppressed yet managed to live, survive, and thrive.

Don’t take my word or anyone else’s word about the Bible. Give it a read for YOURSELF. You may be surprised by what you find.

Thanks,

Ann Clark McFarland

 

 

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