Friday, December 05, 2008

Like a Virgin

Judges 11:37, "...Let me wander two months through the mountains with my friends and mourn my virginity."
This is the story of the Judge, Jephthah. Jephthat is getting ready to go to battle against the Ammonites, and he makes this vow with the Lord, "...whatever comes out of my house to greet me when I return in piece...will belong to the Lord, and I will offer it as a burnt offering."
Upon Jephthah's return from battle, the first thing out of his house is his daughter. He must hold to his vow so, in despair, he explains the vow, and what must happen, to his daughter. Judges 11:37 is her final request.
Upon reading this passage I was first struck by the fact that Jephthah would have to kill/sacrifice his own daughter, why would God allow that? But, as I studied the passage I became even more intrigued by this passage (Judges 11:37), and the importance of being a virgin in the Old Testament times.
Throughout the O.T. we see many examples of the importance of virginity. We read the story of Tamar being raped by Amnon (her half-brother). After the rape Amnon sends her away. Tamar is more upset by this than anything else. You see it would have been better for her to marry a wicked person like Amnon than to go through life, disgraced, as an unmarried woman who had lost her virginity.
Even in the face of death,the thing Jephthah's daughter was most concerned with was her virginity. In the Israelite culture women "regarded the preservation of virginity until marriage as central to her identity."
As I studied the part of the passage where Jephthah must sacrifice his daughter I found that sacrifice does not mean iminent death. A person could be redeemed with money, or be given to the sanctuary in service to the Lord. Jephthah's daughter would have to remain a virgin for life. She would never be able to be given to a man in marriage.
This was worse than death. To be an unmarried non-virgin, or to never be able to be given in marriage as a virgin.
We've come a long way, today. Now it seems just the opposite, the lack of virginity is central to peoples identity. It's unusual to finish your high school years as a virgin. Most people in our culture form their identity by their sexual habits. How many times? How many people? What kind of situation? etc.,etc.
What a far, far cry from our generation and culture today.

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