The Darkest Vow

Our most recent assignment in poetry class was to write a poem, in any style, about the story in the Bible about Jeptha and his daughter. The story, found in Judges 11, is possibly one of the most gruesome tales the Bible records and has caused a lot of people to think that God is cruel and unjust.

The story is based during one of Israel’s darkest times, a time in which the people truly did not know God, nor did they really care to know Him. When Jeptha decides that he wants to defeat a group of people who are enemies of Israel, he makes a vow to God, saying that he will offer, as a burnt sacrifice, the first thing that walks out of his house, provided that God will give him the victory over his foes. After returning victorious from battle, Jeptha’s daughter, his only child, comes out of his house, dancing and playing the tambourine in celebration for her father’s victory. Jeptha remembers his vow to God and bewails his misfortune. There is a lot of debate over whether or not Jeptha actually does sacrifice his daughter, and I would suggest reading the actual story to get a better idea of what I’m talking about, but the ending of the story, or, rather, my interpretation of it, can be seen clearly in my poem. The last lines of the story in the Bible read: “After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin. From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite” (Judges 11:39,40, New International Version).

I will be honest, I forgot about the assignment until right before it was due, so I wrote this poem during poetry class. Possibly not the most striking of poems I’ve ever written, but it still gets the point across.

—-

The Darkest Vow

The black night rose on that fateful eve,
A tale of gruesome death to weave,
As tears flowed down with running blood
Like springtime’s rage in roaring flood.
Where once was met with tambourines,
There now is met with wails and screams.
The darkest day a man has met
To sacrifice and not beget.
You never know what is at stake
So be wary of the vows you make.

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2 thoughts on “The Darkest Vow

  1. I wonder about a teacher who would give this as an assignment. Though, it does get the message across about being careful of the promises one makes. It’s always good to make sure you can live with it in the end.

  2. I’ve always had trouble with this story too. I think you captured the issue quite well. It’s very powerful, even if you wrote it during class.

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