After I told the story of Jephthah’s daughter in Songea, we split into groups to discuss five questions. They’re ones Arthur and I have used before in storytelling and we like them because anyone can answer them, no matter their theological background.
The questions are:
- What do you like about this story?
- What don’t you like about this story?
- What does this story tell us about humans?
- What does this story tell us about God?
- What will you change in your life as a result of this story?
Predictably, people didn’t like the vow of the father, but they liked the obedience of the daughter. There was a discussion about whether this obedience was warranted and the group was split between believing this to be her duty, and thinking that she should have called her father on his false view of God. Perhaps this highlights the double tragedy of the story, that it’s likely the whole society was so sold out to pagan ways that daughter did not have the theological resources to recognise how unfaithful her father’s vow and its fulfillment were.
Everyone in the group was very affected by the mourning of the women. They all spoke about how the sin of one person in the community affects the whole community. The thing that stuck out about God was that he is faithful and that it’s better to trust him than to try to get the better of him. Doing things your own way doesn’t work.
Most comments about what to change were about giving an appropriate sacrifice, and knowing God well enough to be able to do so. Interestingly, the story of Abraham not sacrificing Isaac was used as evidence that God detests human sacrifice. One leader in the group added that one thing we must know about God is that he is the God of the little ones, and his followers ought to speak for the voiceless.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.