I was going to rant about Judges 19-21

… and then I got the sock shoved down my throat.  And then I got prayerful, and I think I’ve at least partially learned a lesson.

One of the seedier stories in the OT, Judges 19 opens with a man and his concubine.  Well, sort of it does.  She’d run off with someone else, then gone back to daddy’s house, and he’d come to get her.  They’d partied with dad too long, and then got back on the road.  When they got to an unfamiliar city, we get a replay of Sodom and Gomorrah… a host takes them in, and the men in the city demand to “know” them up and personal.  The men stay inside, the concubine gets tossed outside.

This is where my cultural misappropriation gets in the way.  Why was this so common?  Is this some weird cultural thing?  This seems like it would really discourage visitors… ?  But Sodom was a thriving city, so was this city.  What gives?

Anyway.  She’s dead when the dude comes out, and he doesn’t really notice until after he tells her to get up and get going.  I get all ranty at this point, because … well, you’d think that would be pretty messy, being raped to death.  Is this how you tell your concubine from your wife, that you offer her up for rape and poke her with your sandal in the morning? (I have no way of knowing that he wouldn’t have done this to a wife though).

But he must have cared about her – he went after her.  She was a defiled concubine.  You know what David did to his concubines after they were defiled?*  Absolutely nothing – for the rest of their lives.  So… he does like her.  And then he cuts her up and mails her off and tens of thousands die and the tribe of Benjamin is nearly completely wiped out and then more women get force-married and… yikes.

And all *I* can think of is “wtf, dude?  You let a woman die a horrible death in your place?”  But no chivalry back then, you know?  Revenge, yes.  Chivalry, no.

Did he not think they would kill her?   How did he not know that she was seriously damaged before he told her to get ready to leave, when the Bible describes her as reaching towards the threshold of the door that was barred to her.  Didn’t she scream?  Wasn’t there blood?  But I guess “let’s get out of here” isn’t unreasonable, considering the night that went before.

Something is going on here.  And while I have every right to be seriously disturbed (it’s in the Bible to show us what humans will get up to when we all do what is right in our own eyes) I don’t think I have the right to plug in as much as I have been all these years.  There were TOTALLY different cultural definitions of right and wrong… and I am *missing* something.

-shakes head-

It’s still a terrible, terrible thing.

Then again, so is most of what’s on the news today.  -sighs-

Humans *suck*.


*I likewise don’t read about any babies from David’s first two wives after they got carried off by the invaders and then rescued.  Babies before that happened, but no babies after.  But this is the rule in many places – you get raped, you are defiled for life.   I always liked Abigail, and it bummed me out when I did the math.  I guess it’s cool to take another man’s wife, but not to take your own back after someone else comes in?  (That is actually Biblical – you’re not supposed to remarry after you’re divorced if she remarried in the interim).


** I notice that she’s his concubine, but he’s her husband.  What’s that about?  Anyone?

23 thoughts on “I was going to rant about Judges 19-21

  1. donalgraeme

    This story was one that was not included in my religious education growing up. I can’t imagine why. When I did finally come across it, it was a bit of a shock. Not that you would be surprised by that, mind you. Let me see if I can answer a few questions and throw in my two cents.

    ** I notice that she’s his concubine, but he’s her husband. What’s that about? Anyone?

    A concubine is a second-rank wife. Technically one that a bride-price wasn’t paid for. She was still technically a wife, but one with lower social standing, which was applied to her children as well. So he would still be her husband, and the children still legitimate.

    I guess it’s cool to take another man’s wife, but not to take your own back after someone else comes in? (That is actually Biblical – you’re not supposed to remarry after you’re divorced if she remarried in the interim).

    As for the first question, I don’t think it makes a huge amount of sense. She wasn’t a virgin to begin with, so its not like there isn’t some “contamination” or what have you (If you were her one and only before the rape, then I could see a rationale for not wanting to sleep with her afterwards). But rape wasn’t equated with marriage in the bible, although if you raped a virgin you were supposed to marry her. Those women wouldn’t have been divorced, so that prohibition wouldn’t have counted. My guess is that there was some understanding of purity at stake that doesn’t translate into modern culture as much. Probably the fact that it was rape- there is something inherently disturbing about it that puts off men.

    Never thought about the impact on Abigail, or that she might have been (and probably was) raped. Probably because, this being the OT, I would have figured they would have said as much. Especially given how it is explicit elsewhere.

    This is where my cultural misappropriation gets in the way. Why was this so common? Is this some weird cultural thing? This seems like it would really discourage visitors… ? But Sodom was a thriving city, so was this city. What gives?

    Yes, it was. There have been some pretty messed up beliefs when it comes to sex throughout human history. Don’t even ask about what Oceanic tribe believed, it is beyond the pale. Heck, think of what we belief know- in Africa there are those who believe if you have sex with a virgin you will be cured of AIDS!

    And all *I* can think of is “wtf, dude? You let a woman die a horrible death in your place?” But no chivalry back then, you know? Revenge, yes. Chivalry, no.

    Yup, no chivalry, or the sentiments found in Eph 5 or 1 Peter 3. But lets be honest here- after what she did to him, he probably wasn’t in the mood to die for her. I mean, she did betray him, which he could have disowned her for. Or had her killed, if she was found in the act.

    As for how he didn’t know of her injuries, they might have been internal. Since she moved to the house, she would have been raped and abused elsewhere, so if there was blood most of it would have been lost there.

    As a Levite, he would have been involved in helping prepare sacrifices, right? I guess that would help him with the part about cutting her up, because honestly, that is the most disturbing part of the story in my opinion.

    1. hearthie Post author

      Thank you for such a good reply.

      I had a sock shoved in my mouth until I was ready to think about this and not JUST emote about it. Rape has a visceral response for me (as for most women I know) and being raped to death is shudder inducing. So much pain… 😦

      If you have a source handy to explain this particular habit, I’d be interested in learning about it so I can stop with the flinching (and understand the OT a great deal better).

      1. donalgraeme

        Rape has, or should have, a visceral response to everyone. It isn’t surprising that it would provoke an emotional response from you, it sure did from me when I first read that passage.

        No particular source in mind, only a knowledge that sexual habits in the past (and even today) are mighty perverse. One example would be the origin and development of modern day theater, which has such a connection back in ancient Greek history. As Bubba explained,I don’t think the plan was to rape her to death, it just happened that they were so violent she died as a result. Many of the perversions have to do with notions of power, and of taking it from others through sex acts. I surmise that this particular incident was based on such a practice. It only goes to show that the Benjaminites had fully embraced the local practices at that point. Which only goes to show the cost of their failure to obey the Lord’s command to wipe the land of Caanan clean of them.

        I know that Maeve mentioned avoiding the OT because of the unpleasantness, but frankly we need to admit that there is plenty of darkness in the world. There always has been, and always will be. And some of it is so vile it not deserves to be wiped out, but justice demands it.

  2. ballista74

    I think Donal probably got the whole wife/concubine stuff laid out. But to add to that, remember that we are given Scripture as examples, and we tend to miss those if we take too much of a micro-view on certain things (my frustration in most public discussion of the OT). (Ironically my Messianic Jewish OT commentary leaves off at 16, as a few others.) This one (along with 17-18) are good stories of the result of compromising with evil, and the general results of apostasy. The lesson for us is one of the importance of holiness. The problem of a non-holistic view of the entire Scriptures comes out in this one today – holiness trumps faith hope and love. Those three can not truly exist without being set apart for God.

    What Dr. McGee will tell you about it (since I know you might appreciate it):

    Chapters 19 — 21 — This period is similar to the former in that it reveals compromise, corruption and confusion. This episode centers about the tribe of Benjamin. This tribe engaged in gross immorality which led to civil war. It began with the men of Benjamin abusing and finally murdering a Levite’s wife. The other tribes try to exterminate the tribe of Benjamin. This period ends in total national corruption and confusion, and with this the Book of Judges concludes:
    In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

    III. Results of era of the judges (confusion), Chapters 17 — 21
    A. Religious apostasy (the temple), 17, 18
    B. Moral awfulness (the home), 19
    C. Political anarchy (the state), 20, 21

    A larger detailed examination of these themes is found within The Prophets. FWIW, McGee spends 8:49 on these three chapters in his TTB show. Really not much to know about 19-21 beyond knowing that it’s a whole bunch of evil and people are confused so much about it that lawlessness is not seen for what it is.

    1. hearthie Post author

      Yes. Lawlessness comes to its fruition. That’s a theme throughout the Bible. In Judges, in Genesis pre-Flood, and the sins of Canaan had to come to their full fruit before God had the Israelites come through and slaughter the lot of them. Likewise, after the removal of the bulk of the Church, we pre-Tribbers expect that this world will get pretty evil before the return of our Lord.

      I’m feeling the lawlessness recently – this week has offered up the Black Mass (see yday’s comments) and the girl who filmed her own abortion. You think, “how much worse can we get” and… unfortunately I think Judges is an answer to that question. 😦

  3. Maeve

    You know, Hearthie, some time ago (several years I guess) I was chatting with a friend about reading the Bible and what we read more often, etc., and I commented that I almost never read the OT; she asked why and I said that it was just full of so many disgusting people doing disgusting things that I always felt like I needed a shower afterwards. So I focused on a couple chapters of Exodus and then jumped pretty much to the NT. She pointed out folks still doing plenty of disgusting things in the NT, and I said yes, but they tend to be in the background and our Lord and his goodness are in the foreground.

    1. hearthie Post author

      I perpetually read through the Bible, else I’d skip most of the OT too. The books of Moses read like a soap opera in a few places, and Judges is bad… but what really gets me down is the destruction of Jerusalem. All those kings, so many bad choices. And it’s covered at such length! The examples of others are there for us to learn from.. I don’t suppose there’s any rule that that be pleasant.

      1. Maeve

        No, you’re right about that – there is no rule that the examples need to be pleasant. I do find, however, that I end up coming away with a profound revulsion for the individuals in question – probably not the correct reaction, but there it is. The barriers go up and then I find that I can’t pick up what’s probably the lesson there. (of course, I also tend to sway to “everything I need to know can be found in the Gospels”) – is that limiting? yes – but that’s where I find myself (at least for the moment).

  4. Elspeth

    Did I bring this on?

    I’ve read it twice now and waited to comment until I’d digested it. I agree with you frankly. There are lots of cultural chasms that can’t be bridged which makes it nigh impossible for us to really *get* a lot of what happened in the OT.

    What we do come away with is that sinless perfection never existed in the good old days that never were, even amongst the most devout, even the one who was a man “after God’s own heart”. That the love, mercy, and grace that is ours through Christ looms larger than ever in the context of what was before (loved Maeve’s comment, by the way).

    1. hearthie Post author

      You brought it on, but it’s one of my favorite mental rants. That’s why I got a sock shoved in it the first night I was going to write about it. I had to go and pray and got some perspective – like the Levite must have loved her to go get her from her father’s house after all those months.

      It was hard, to take that step back from the visceral response and get to, “okay, what’s really going on here?” It still bugs me, but in a more nuanced fashion.

      1. Maeve

        I rather wish I had your ability to do this – and maybe approach the topic with a measure of dispassion (Elspeth does this also and I admire it in her as well).

      2. hearthie Post author

        Um, I don’t think it’s my ability. As noted, I was ready to rant and given a VERY STRONG compulsion to not do so… after publicly saying I was going to write about it. Anything God sits on your head about isn’t *your* ability! :p And then the next day I was allowed to write this up, but it wasn’t until I was willing to do more than rant that that was okay’d.

    2. Maeve

      I like the way you put that Elspeth – “sinless perfection never existed…even among the most devout”.. And it still doesn’t. Maybe a couple thousand years from now, people will be looking at our current cultural norms and having the same reaction. Maybe part of the message is, don’t hold yourself up to them (their standards), hold yourself up to Him and His.

  5. Bike Bubba

    It’s worth noting that the Hebrew word for “husband” is the same as the word for “man”. Many languages work this way–the very word “wife” is derived from an old German word for woman. My Hebrew isn’t that strong, but Judges 19:1 actually describes the man taking “a woman, a concubine”. You could translate it “a wife, a concubine” or “a wife, but one with the rights of a concubine”. So the phrasing in Hebrew may indicate that she was more to him than….OK, use your own phrase for a woman to be used and abused here.

    I tend to interpret this passage in light of the very pervasive fertility deities of ancient Canaan–remember the Moabite women incited by Balaam to commit ritual prostitution with Israel? The worship of Molech, Asherah, and the Ba’alim? Or even Artemis of the Ephesians in the New Testament and the ritual prostitution of Corinth.

    So my hunch here is that–really as Judges tells us elsewhere–the Benjamites were OK with ritual prostitution (including rape) and even infant sacrifice (Molech), I’ve got to assume that the man was thinking of a Genesis 19 situation for himself (and his concubine as well?) if he didn’t offer up his concubine.

    Yeah, nobody smells like a rose here, to put it mildly.

    1. hearthie Post author

      So, go do the ritual prostitution thing and we’ll all be fine. You’re not a virgin. Go get ‘er done. (?) That is less upsetting. It’s still sinful and sad and icky, but it’s not “go die horribly, k thanks bye”.

      I’m working towards having my eyes opened that what the Levite expected to happen and what actually happened were two very different events.

      1. Maeve

        Hearthie – I just went and re-read the (vomit-inducing) passages and it really is just as loathsome as initially read – and I think you had it right with – “go die horribly, k thanks bye”.

  6. Bike Bubba

    Hearthie, I’m thinking that the Levite fully expected his concubine to be brutally raped, but not to die. The question in his mind may have been “will I be brutally raped as well as she?” The fact that he spoke to her indicated he thought she’d be still alive.

    Notice that the man’s host actually proposed the arrangement, too. It apparently wasn’t the first time this had happened in Gibeah. Maybe a special time of the year for loathsome p****-worshippers?

    One thing about the Levite; they were supposed to be instructors in the word and porters for the tabernacle, but not to prepare sacrifices. However, another passage in Judges indicates that they had become de facto priests. So yes and no to preparing sacrifices.

    Regarding the ability to cut a human being up….well, most any man in that agrarian society would have cut up animals to eat. But this is a person–there are reasons there are buckets for “gross lab” for people in nursing or medical school, if you catch my drift.

    1. hearthie Post author

      One of the things I don’t get is why someone didn’t fight this. But again, that comes back to cultural expectations. We don’t go down fighting here – that’s quite clear.

      I cut up chicken all the time and sometimes grind my own burger, so the cutting up part didn’t upset me. Seems like he mailed limbs around, not torso/head. Even so, that’s nasty. Hot sun, weeks later… “what on earth is in that package?” And everyone who touches it is ritually unclean.

  7. Bike Bubba

    Well, if the man had a concubine instead of a wife, how firm is he in his Biblical convictions? The Torah makes no provision for concubinage, as the Hebrew word for concubine does not appear in Leviticus 19:20. So we can assure ourselves that this is not exactly a man tithing his mint and cumin, to put it mildly.

    Thankfully this is history that explains what happens when we ignore Him, and not prescriptive.

  8. Amanda

    David did take back Michal after she had been married for quite awhile to Paltiel. She wasn’t raped, though. They seemed to resume a husband/wife relationship for a time before he put her away for her mockery (if I’m remembering right lol). I don’t get the Abigail reference? Was she also taken captive and then put away by David? Lol I have read a One Year Bible now for probably about 15 years; I should know this.

    1. hearthie Post author

      Yes. If you read some of the latter episodes of David running around prior to becoming king, the wives of all of his band were stolen away – it’s the bit where you get the law that the guys that stay and watch the stuff get the same cut of the loot as the guys who go and fight. I noticed that neither of the first two wives of David (other than Michel – and you’re right about her) had babies before that happened, and never any babies after that happened.

    2. hearthie Post author

      I Samuel chapter 30 – Abigail and David’s other wife and the wives and children of his followers were all taken.

      Yes, about Michel. Seems to be odd….


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