O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou!
What a treasure had he, my lord?
'One fair daughter and no more,
The which he loved passing well.'
[Aside] Still on my daughter.
Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah?
If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter
that I love passing well.
Nay, that follows not.
What follows, then, my lord?
'As by lot, God wot,'
and then, you know,
'It came to pass, as most like it was…'
the first row of the pious chanson will show you
more; for look, where my abridgement comes.
The Book of Judges is the seventh book of the Old Testament. It covers the time between the conquest detailed in the Book of Joshua and the establishment of a Kingdom during the Book of Samuel. Generally the narratives within the Book of Judges follow a similar pattern - people are unfaithful to Yahweh and He therefore delivers them into the hands of their enemeies, and then when they beg for mercy He sends them a champion or ‘judge’. This judge delivers them from oppression, and the Israelites prosper again, before falling away from God again and re-starting the cycle.
Jephthah has been an inspiration in many artforms, most interestingly in music. There is a beautiful cantata by Carissimi (which I had the joy of staging in 2014), and also a longer oratorio by Handel, featuring some very famous arias. Both are very much worth a look!
Connie J. Beane’s Reconsidering the Jephthah Allusion in Hamlet is the article I mentioned in this episode. It’s a brilliant read, and you can find it here.