Judges 11: 1 – 33
This narrative has a man named Yiftach as the central figure. Yiftach was the son of Gilead and a prostitute. He was driven out of the family by his half brothers- the “legitimate” sons of Gilead who said they did not want to share the land inheritance with him. When the Ammonites made war against B’nei Yisrael, the sons of Gilead called their half-brother Yiftach to lead them to battle as he was a great warrior and was known as being a good leader. Yiftach made an oath to G-d that if he won the battle he would sacrifice the first thing that crossed his path when he returned home- but that’s another story. A tragic story that is not included in this week’s haftarah.
Naturally I wanted to paint Yiftach leading the fighters into battle. I tried to find images of Jewish warriors in ancient paintings, medieval hagaddot and early manuscript paintings but there didn’t seem to be any images of Jewish soldiers. I came across this beautiful picture from
The “Duke of Sussex Pentateuch”. It was painted in 13th C. Southern Germany, and shows the Jews dressed as soldiers in Crusader dress of the period.
It is intriguing that the Jewish artist had painted the leaders of the tribes of Israel as crusaders, but I assume that was the only context the Jews of Germany had for soldiers. But I liked that the Jews were portrayed as warriors. I gave them weapons and the flag of the Tribe of Menashe.
The “Duke of Sussex Pentateuch” can currently be found in the British Library.