THE TRIAL OF JEPHTHAH

Jephthah, the biblical military commander, made a vow before God: “If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 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” (Judges 11:30-31). Upon his triumphant return, his daughter, Jephthah’s only child, came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances. After telling her about his vow, she accepted her fate, and asked for two months to bewail her virginity. When she returned, Jephthah “did with her according to his vow which he had vowed” (Judges 11: 39).

 

In the scope of this workshop, Jephthah stood trial for the unlawful killing of his daughter, where the participants were to cross-examine him. 

In this workshop, the biblical text was perceived as the defence version of events. The cross-examination sought to understand the factual chain of events, as well as Jephthah’s criminal thought. Based on the statement of the defence, the participants were invited to analyse Jephthah's story, interpret it, locate its gaps and weaknesses, and then present their questions to Jephthah. Jephthah, portrayed by Kfir Lapid, had to answer these questions on the spot, without reviewing them in advance. The participants were given several attempts at cross-examination, and were asked to listen and adapt their lines of interrogation according to the answers given by Jephthah as well as the follow-up on questions posed by their fellow participants.

The workshop took place at the James Arnott Theatre at the University of Glasgow, Scotland on May 19, 2022.