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With Grotius against Grotius: Jephtha’s “Appeal to Heaven” in John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government

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Chapter Summary

Jephtha's recurring presence in the Second Treatise becomes a decisive element for understanding John Locke's theory of the appeal to heaven, or the appeal to divine judgment that precedes the resort to force against an aggressor who threatens to destroy the life and freedom of another person. John Locke was aware of the difficulties involved in the adoption of Jephtha example to support a doctrine that distanced itself radically from the generally accepted interpretation of the doctrine of conquest exemplified in that Old Testament passage. Hence, one may hypothesise, at the end of the Chapter in the Second Treatise, rather than provide an alternative reading of Jephtha's diplomatic argument, he preferred to cite another biblical figure, Hezekiah, to reject the universal character of the right of conquest which would be testified by the scriptures.

Keywords: divine judgment; Hezekiah; Hugo Grotius; Jephtha; John Locke; Old Testament; Second Treatise



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