I’m telling you: chapter 19 of Judges is totally bizarre. So much so that I am forced to write about it.
This chapter tells the story of a Levite, one of the holy guys who were supposed to take care of the tabernacle. His concubine has dumped him for another man, then run back to daddy’s house.
The Levite goes to retrieve his concubine and there’s this long discussion about how the girl’s father keeps the Levite at his house partying for several days. Every time the Levite tries to leave, he’s asked to hang around for another day. I can’t quite understand what this whole section has to do with the story….
Anyway, the Levite with servant and concubine finally head on home, decide not to spend the night in a foreign city and land instead in Gibeah where the descendents of Benjamin live. An old man kindly invites them to spend the night in his home. Strangely, this guy is NOT an Israelite himself (they offered no such hospitality).
And here’s where it turns truly bizarre – and bloody.
Wicked men from the town – presumably Isrealites – demand that the old man send the Levite out of the house so they can rape him. Seriously.
The old man says to a member of the crowd:
No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing. Judges 19:23-24 NIV
“My friends?” Seriously.
“Don’t do THIS vile and outrageous thing” – instead, rape my daughter and his concubine? Seriously.
The next morning the Levite decides to head home apparently without his concubine, but surprise...
When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. vs. 27-38
“Oh, there’s my concubine lying in the doorway, well better wake her up so we can be on our way.” Seriously.
…but there was no answer. The Levite was surprised? Seriously.
The Levite takes his now-dead concubine home, and, get this, cuts her up into 12 pieces and sends a piece to each of the 12 tribes of Israel, and they respond:
Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up! vs. 30
You bet, we must do something. Seriously.
What shocks me is that the other tribes of Israel go after the tribe of Benjamin (that’s next in Judges), but the sins of the Levite and old man are overlooked. I can’t even imagine how blind and evil these two are in this story! Not to mention the rapists… It’s particularly appalling as a woman to see how the women were treated.
The whole thing brings back memories of another story in Genesis 19 – the one where wicked men want to rape God’s representatives who are staying with Lot. And that righteous guy Lot (NOT) offers up his daughters… Fortunately, God protected the girls.
My ESV study Bible says the writer of Judges drew parallels to that infamous event to show that Israel had slid all the way back into the sin patterns of Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s a long way to backslide.
There’s a bit of an explanation in the first verse of the chapter: “In those days Israel had no king.” Israel had never had a king, it’s king was the LORD. But the nation had effectively jettisoned God as their King with catastrophic moral results.
My study Bible kindly points out that when this story is over (after the battle with Benjamin is finished in Judges 21:25), the Scripture brackets this saga with: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”
Today’s Readings: Judges 17:1-19:30, Psalm 51:6-9, Proverbs 14:33-35, Luke 18:26-43. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).