Monday, May 14, 2012


Judges 11
[1] Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.
[30] And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
[31] Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
[32] So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.
[33] And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
[34] And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
[35] And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.
[36] And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
[37] And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.
[38] And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
[39] And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,

British Museum
The sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter
for Thomas Butts, 1803
Perhaps Blake was adding some of his own insights to the illustration for the Old Testament account of the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter. The symmetry of the image may be an indication that Blake was portraying a vision rather than illustrating an incident. The man returning from war offered to sacrifice to God not realising that the sacrifice would be his daughter. Metaphorically the daughter may represent all the love, joy and beauty in his life. The exchange Jephthah has made is power, success, and recognition for the light that has brightened his life.

Breakthroughs in understanding of what God requires of man, and what God offers to man occur at several points in the Old Testament. One is when Abraham realises that God will not require him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Another is when Job encounters God as an inner reality rather than an outward projection. There is no indication that Jephthah's sacrifice is such an occasion. The vision of God that Jephthah acknowledges requires obedience even if it means human sacrifice.

The assertion that the girl became a willing sacrifice may be the significance which Blake wishes to emphasise in his painting. To Blake the feminine relinquishes her independent existence to restore the wholeness of the masculine. The child, like Ololon, the virgin of twelve years in Blake's Milton, may be offering herself so that inner conflict may be resolved through reaching a higher level of consciousness.

Milton, PLATE 41 [48], (E 142) 
"These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains

Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration.

Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of despair

Is this our Femin[in]e Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female      
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro.
Hence arose all our terrors in Eternity! & now remembrance
Returns upon us! are we Contraries O Milton, Thou & I            
O Immortal! how were we led to War the Wars of Death
Is this the Void Outside of Existence, which if enterd into
PLATE 42 [49]                                      
Becomes a Womb? & is this the Death Couch of Albion
Thou goest to Eternal Death & all must go with thee

So saying, the Virgin divided Six-fold & with a shriek
Dolorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder!
Away from Ololon she divided & fled into the depths              
Of Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea."

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