He swore an oath to his God whose help he called upon in battle. Now Jephtha, victorious, must keep his promise to sacrifice the first creature he meets on his return home – his daughter, Iphis, his only child. Father and daughter struggle with their cruel fate, with themselves, their love, and their faith, and finally submit to the agony of the inevitable.
The gripping story of judge Jephtha, who offers his daughter as a human sacrifice, is one of the most mysterious accounts in the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible. Handel composed the work for a libretto written by Thomas Morell. A representative of the early Enlightenment, Handel completed the work in February 1751, despite his suffering bitterly from rapid loss of eyesight. The oratorio touches on the fundamental conflicts concerning faith, community, and reason that permeate the lives of mortals. The work has often been described as the composers »testament«. With jubilant tones and melancholic passages that exhibit occasional »romantic« aspects, the work seems to anticipate the sounds of later generations. In contrast to Semele, Jephtha enthralls the listener with reflective and stirring chorus passages, the most famous of which is dedicated to God’s dark decrees. In the end, to affirm a contradictory world: »Whatever is, is right!«.