29 November 2009

Judges 19: Gang rape, dismemberment, and body part messages

I was going to skip over this story, since it is so damned disgusting and God seemed to have nothing much to do with it (other than inspiring it, that is). And yet, it's in the Bible, so it must be important to him. Maybe a believer that can explain why God likes it so much.

It seems to be based upon Genesis 19, where the just and righteous Lot offers his virgin daughters to a crowd of angel rapers.

This time, though, the visitor that the men of the city found so attractive was a Levite, not a couple of angels. (As always, see the Brick Testament for the details.)

Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. Judges 19:22

Can't you just picture it? All the men of a city come to a house and demand to have sex with the new guy in town.

So what do you think the host did when he answered the door? Well, he offered the mob his virgin daughter (and his guest's concubine), of course! It's the polite thing to do. Any just and righteous man would do the same.

Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. Judges 19:22

But the the men didn't want his virgin daughter, so he gave them the concubine instead.

But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning. Judges 19:25

The next morning, the concubine came back to the house and collapsed at the door.

The Levite opened the door, saw the concubine lying there, and told her to get up. But she didn't answer. So he put her on his donkey and went home.

And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. Judges 19:29

Did you catch that? The Levite cut the concubine into twelve pieces and sent the bloody body parts to the twelve tribes of Israel. (As Brucker points out, the text doesn't even say whether the concubine was alive or dead when her body was dismembered.)

Now that is a strange way to send a message! Someone from each tribe of Israel got a rotting piece of flesh in the mail. What the fuck were they supposed to make of that? (Oh, look Martha, here's a stinking hunk of putrefied abdomen that arrived in the mail parcel post!)

The story ends with this advice:

Consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds. Judges 19:30

Those who do consider it will immediately reject the idea that the Bible was inspired by God. Hopefully, they will then speak their minds.


There is nothing in this story that indicates that God disapproves of:
  1. A man having a sex slave (concubine)
  2. A father offering his virgin daughter to a sex-crazed mob
  3. Chopping up bodies (dead or alive)
  4. Sending messages with body parts
It's just a stupid, nasty story that was put in the Bible because it is a stupid, nasty story.

47 comments:

skanksta said...

Weird how this story gets repeated - it MUST be important - great stuff Steve.
It's been a long 8 days wondering what absurdity you're bringing us next....

busterggi said...

Yahweh sends messages like the Mafia does.

Of course, there are other similarities too.

twillight said...

The strangest part for me was "all the men of the city" went to gangbang their "holy man".

According to the passages they were 700 man. They all fucked the concubine. If all spent 1 minutes with the woman, that'd be 700/60 = 12 hours.
I'm not familiar with lenght between sundown and sunrise (and from that you'd have to deduce the time they spent raming the door), but how did they done it? They entered in a queue, grabing they "testicles" like rolling a porn-movie, or what?

Tim Atheist said...

Shanksta, I'm betting the story is repeated because such a damn disgusting Bible chapter deserved reviewing.

I wonder what the average Christian response is to this section... probably something like "well this was the society back then." This is so pointless and so brutal that someone should go through all the "Christian bookstores" and glue the pages together at this section.

Steve said...

To be honest, the average Christian does not know their Bible & most likely would not be able to offer up a convincing defense of these passages based on personal critical thought; most Christians repeat their pastor's conventions.

It would be interesting to see if prominent Christian apologists, like Josh McDowell, have addressed this issue.

Also, the reason that these atrocities could be committed to women is because the Bible ensconced the idea that a woman was a man's property. A man could do with his property as he pleased, whether it was land, a donkey, cows, his concubines or wives. The whole story of Job demonstrates this by providing a list of property that Job first loses to test his faith and then gets better ones as a reward for keeping that faith.

Disgusting is the only word that comes to mind.

matt311 said...

This story was highlighted in a book I read as an adolescent, The Day They Came to Arrest the Book; it immediately piqued my interest, so I went searching for it...

...and found so much more. Thanks for highlighting this hideous story, Steve.

Kirk Yetton said...

Dead right, there's nothing in this passage that indicates that God disapproves of a man having a concubine, nor of a father offering his virgin daughter to a sex-crazed mob, nor of chopping up bodies, nor of sending messages with body parts. But then, here's nothing in this passage to suggest that he does.

Pretty much everyone in the book of Judges is sinful and depraved and does not have God's approval of their actions. Read the book as a whole in its context. To assume that God approves because his approval isn't expressed is a pretty poor judgement. I know many, many, many people who have never said, for example, that the shooting at Columbine was wrong. By you logic, I should assume that they approve of it, right? Take the book of Judges in context and your assumptions are even more absurd.

3D said...

Blogger Kirk Yetton said...

>>I know many, many, many people who have never said, for example, that the shooting at Columbine was wrong. By you logic, I should assume that they approve of it, right?<<

Wrong. Regular people don't have the power to smite people on the spot for sin. God does, and he does it all the time in the Bible, but never for having concubines.

God's Bible also gives tips for proper care and maintenance of slaves. You would think that wouldn't be an essential portion in the book of a god who is anti-slavery, but it is.

Also, God refers to guys who offer up their daughters to be gang raped as "just and righteous men" so it doesn't get any more condoning than that, does it?

benl2345 said...

Kirk had a good response. If you read chapter 19 from any book and expect to know what's going on you'll miss out. Judges keeps saying that "each man did what was right in his own eyes." The implication was that these were historical events during a wicked time period. That's why they did such vile things. And the point of the hypocritical man cutting up his concubine was to show what they had done to her was wrong (course he let his concubine be raped all night and die to spare himself). Read Judges 20 to see that was when armies gathered to take out the city.

Richardhg said...

Eeeeeeek! Eeeeek! Eeeeeeeek! Flee for your life.

Mike said...

To my fellow Christians who would try to convince this person or those swallowing his lies, I give you this advice...

Revelation 22:11 (NIV)

"Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."

Maybe we should simply follow he instruction given to the 12 when Jesus sent them out and said to "shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town as a testimony against them." Do not return to try and convince them otherwise. They bring about their own condemnation. These people have received the Word and called it evil, and have so committed blasphemy. You will not see another post from me, as I take my own advice.

Hebrews 10:30-31

Kirk Yetton said...

Steve, you've just completely ignored my point.

3D, the Bible condones slavery as it was at the time of writing. This is not slavery as we think of it today but rather bond slavery. If we employed this idea of slavery to modern times anyone who has a job would be considered a slave. Slaves became slaves voluntarily. There's a passage in the New Testament (I'm sorry, I can't remember which it is, I'll get back to you on that) where Paul condemns kidnapping and where the original text is thought to mean slavery as we think of it. Once again, it's all about reading in context, you can't take a text written 2000 years ago and read it with a modern mindset.

I might also point out the Wilberforce fought in parliament for the abolition of the slave trade because of his Christian faith; he believed that, as all are made equal under God, no one had the right to enslave anyone else.

Regards,

Kirk

Abeille said...

From what I understand, Christians will view this as the man making a sacrifice. While some Christians feel that this was wrong and he should have offered himself instead, they honor the concubine because HER sacrifice brought about change. The reason he sent out the body parts is to send a message that this particular city had wronged him. Not exactly sure how rotting body parts would have conveyed this, but it did. My question - Wasn't it a bad thing to NOT bury the dead properly?

skanksta said...

Kirk does NOT have a good response!

How dare you say that Steve (or any of us) is (are) "taking the bible out of context!"
Let me spell it out.....
HE'S STARTING AT THE BEGINNING AND GOING THROUGH ALL OF GOD'S KILLINGS UNTIL THE END.

What could be fairer than that ?

We've now reached Judges and I'm starting to get 'a context' for how God and his favourites behave. So are the other readers and it isn't nice....

DJ said...

Your article is written as though it should be taken as a truism, and thus is a demonstration of willfully biased ignorance. You had an agenda, and it’s clear, but if you would allow me to comment…

There is nothing in this account that indicates God’s disapproval (or approval) of these actions, but you can easily find moral prescriptions for them if you care to look and approach the Bible in a meaningful way. A common fallacy of atheistic bias towards scripture is the assumption that because something is recorded in the Bible then it is automatically esteemed by God to be morally righteous. This is obviously not the case and it takes a clear agenda to read these things into scripture, it’s known as eisegesis.

That being said, a concubine was a member of the family, respected, and protected by law, not a sex slave as we see in modern Asia or India. The account refers to the man as her husband which denotes responsibility not simply mastery over her. He went to get her back and seems to have been emotionally attached to her. If merely a sex slave he could just buy another…

There is no explicit moral indictment towards the offering of a virgin daughter to a mob of sexually depraved lunatics because the responsibility of a father in Hebrew culture was well understood. The original audience would have been well aware that this was morally reprehensible based on the writings of Moses.

There is no reason to believe that the woman was alive. Being abused overnight (likely physically and sexually) by hundreds of men is all but certain death. Her being non-responsive is also a reason to think that she was dead…

I can’t recall anything in the Bible regarding the chopping of bodies being right or wrong… We do this all the time today as well. We amputate limbs and use cadavers all the time for our own purposes. I think you would have to reject an important aspect of medical science to hold your case here.

I’ll grant that mutilating a dead body for the wrong reasons (IE: Dahmer) and delivering body parts to send a message seem ridiculous, however we are unjust to say that it is being commended at all here because the Bible is silent on it.

When he says to consider this, he is asking them to consider the horror that took place in Gibeah and how to respond. If you read on it leads to the avenging of the women and the Israelites dominate the men who started it all.

All the best.

uzza said...

I should know this, but is there any intelligent reason why
"that we may know him" is interpreted as meaning they want sex with him?

skanksta said...

Ok, Dirk, Kirk, DJ etc...

OMG !! You guys really are an eye-opener...*


re: slavery, rape, stoning, genocide etc. - Can you just stop all the "custom at the time," relativism please v?

This book is THE BIBLE.

It is written by the creator of THE UNIVERSE.

The creator who invented, black holes, mathematics, evolution, particle physics, language DNA, music, sunrise, sliced bread, rainbows and embryology.

As Sam Harris puts it so beautifully,

"HOW good do you think his guide to humanity would be!??"

Do you not think this book SHOULD have transcendence ? Do you not think it should have ADVANCED morality ?

And yet....

you get THIS tome of limiting brutality. This sordid collection of jealousy, random violence and rank unfairness.

Slavery is assumed, stoning is a given. Homophobia is enshrined and genocide is everyday. There is no conception of modern, evolved, compassionate morality, No transcendent inspiration, no challenge to a morality of the future, no inkling of science to be discovered....

It's almost as if it was written by limited bronze age men!


*(We NEVER get people like this in Europe. This must be your 'bible belt' we keep hearing about, lol! How MANY of these people ARE there in the US!? Why aren't they EMBARRASSED to say these things in public ? So fascinating....

Kirk Yetton said...

skangsta, the problem is that the killings in Judges are not God's killings. If you can't see that, you're either not reading contextually or you're not reading it carefully enough. Could it be you're reading into it what you want to read into it.

There are killings in the Bible, some of them quite brutal, which God condones, but those in Judges are not among them.

Brandon said...

To be fair, in the following chapter (judges 20) the Lord made it pretty clear that he wished for all the tribes of Israel to go to war against the Benjaminites, Gibeah being a city of theirs, for vengence. They did so, and nearly wiped the Benjaminites out. That is what the discussion is for: for the tribes to discuss and decide whether to go to war or not.

Of course, the part about offering the women to save the man is rather savage, and I don't mean to defend that, or the cutting up of the concubine later. I'm not even a Christian. I just think you should present the whole story.

matt311 said...

I think he'll get to that in his next update, Brandon.

Damn... I'm gone for a few days, and the Bible-bashers go to town on here; what is it with these nuts? Don't they realize how foolish their attempted rhetoric makes them look?

Brucker said...

Steve: It would be interesting to see if prominent Christian apologists, like Josh McDowell, have addressed this issue.

I found a fairly good (although not deeply analytical) commentary that covers this chapter:
Gibeah's Crime by David Guzik. He points out that the Bible does condemn this event, albeit in the book of Hosea. And of course, at the risk of overdoing it, I repeat the link to my own analysis, in which I share my suspicions that what's going on here is even worse than a surface reading will give you.

Steve: Also, the reason that these atrocities could be committed to women is because the Bible ensconced the idea that a woman was a man's property.

In O.T. times, this was indeed largely true, unfortunately.

skanksta: How dare you say that Steve (or any of us) is (are) "taking the bible out of context!"
Let me spell it out.....
HE'S STARTING AT THE BEGINNING AND GOING THROUGH ALL OF GOD'S KILLINGS UNTIL THE END.


Just because you're using context doesn't mean you're using it correctly. Case in point:

skanksta: We've now reached Judges and I'm starting to get 'a context' for how God and his favourites behave. So are the other readers and it isn't nice....

You're reading right through it with the rest of us, but I don't see where it says that God did anything in this story, nor that these particular people are God's "favourites".

skanksta: Do you not think this book SHOULD have transcendence ? Do you not think it should have ADVANCED morality ?

Sometimes you have to teach morality by giving examples of morality gone wrong. Actually, there's a lot more of that in the Bible than much of anything else, especially in Judges.

busterggi said...

The apologists are out in full force.

Of course, if their god wasn't a homicidal, genocidal, sacrifice-loving, slavery-condoning monster then they wouldn't have to be apologists.

Kirk Yetton said...

skangsta, anything written in history needs to be read in the context of what was meant in that particular period. If you don't do that than your idea of world history must be somewhat bizarre. Don't let your hatred towards Christians and the Bible get in the way of reasonable thinking.

Steve Wells said...

Kirk,

the problem is that the killings in Judges are not God's killings.

Do you want to revise this statement now that you know that it isn't true?

Kirk Yetton said...

Are mostly not God's killings.

Steve Wells said...

Kirk,

You say (now) that the killings in Judges are mostly not God's killings. Which of the 15 killings that I have attributed to God do you think shouldn't have been included?

You say that God was involved in Samson's killing of 30 guys for their clothes (to punish them for their vanity). Do you also agree that God was involved in the other 14 killings that I have attributed to him? If so, how do you figure that "the killings in Judges are mostly not God's killings?" Is 0 out of 15 most?

skanksta said...

Kirk,
I don't hate Christians - I'm European, (British) so we don't really have any!

Those that we DO have are generally lovely souls that spend their time comforting old ladies, feeding homeless people and restoring churches.
For eg. Verger @ my sister's local church, (she still has such a thing, cos she lives in remote rural area - no such thing in London) asks my sister why she doesn't come to church ? Sister replies, "don't believe in God."
Verger, "I don't think I do really, it's just nice for the community."
Hence sister now goes to church with family and discovers it's just a social thing, for bell ringing and using the village hall. Percentage of congregation that BELIEVE is about 20 apparently. Very high for actual believers, but like I said, she lives in cultural desert in rural North Wales.

It really IS an eye-opener to discover that so many people in the US actually, really BELIEVE and further, that they're not embarrassed by this.

I'm no angry atheist - I love the bible, it's got sex, violence humour, war, drama &c. but I GENUINELY had no idea that people actually BELIEVE it, actually wrestle with their consciences trying to justify it's horrors, actually try and assimilate and understand such brutal bronze age nonsense in to the lives.
Why can't you just pay it lip service and wheel out the good parts for special occasioans - a bit like what we do with the Queen ?

Now, back to this context thingy....

"skangsta, anything written in history needs to be read in the context of what was meant in that particular period."

Yet, funnily enough, I bet you don't let Mo off shagging 9yos so easily ?

God kills a lot of people, accepts huge numbers of sacrifices, (incl. the odd human, lol), starts a few wars, tortures millions with random cruelty.

That is either wrong, or not.

feralboy12 said...

"This is not slavery as we think of it today but rather bond slavery. If we employed this idea of slavery to modern times anyone who has a job would be considered a slave. Slaves became slaves voluntarily."
Does this mean it's OK to beat your employees, as long as they don't die right away? (Exodus 21:20.) If they live for a day or two, there is no punishment, "for the slave is his money."

paul said...

Certainly throughout time men have distorted the stories of any event. I have no doubt that many parts of the records of these events are incomplete. Along with that multiple interpretations of the meanings of these stories, real or imagined are presented leaving the majority to rely on their on learning and understanding.
Even in our day men sacrifice women by abusing them for the men's own lustful purposes or gain. Use of drugs, need of food and shelter, even force is used to get women to submit to acts they would not ordinarily do.
We as a society are slowly making our way to an acceptance of vial practices which will ultimately doom us and our posterity.

Jackie said...

The Book of Judges is a summation of what is what like in those days ... there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes. To infer that God condones these heinous acts is dangerous (for you). Sin has entered the world and death through sin. The creation groans for a time yet to come when God will restore His creation. But, this is only through the Rule of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I wish those who have torn God's character apart based on this hard to understand and repulsive section of Scripture would be as avid in reading the entirety of the Bible. In Judges 19, you get a glimpse of man at his worst .... Yet, in spite of man's horrific condition, God so loved the world that He was willing to give His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him (Jesus Christ) would have eternal life.

Lilliana Grey said...

I didn't read the comments so somebody else might have mentioned this. The story doesn't end in that chapter. It goes on to the next. Remember the chapters in the verses were added thousands of years later. Always read the whole book so that it can be taken in context. Chapter 20 and 21 are part of this same tale. The people try to set right what happened. (Not that they succeed.) The last verse of the last chapter sums up the whole book. "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." Meaning the whole book of Judges is about people do stupid evil stuff if they have no guidance. That's why it is in scripture. That's its point.

Azael said...

(Part 1 of 2)

My take on this is a bit different, having investigated this particular event

extensively given its extreme importance as the catalyst that caused all the

Tribes of Israel to do the absolutely unthinkable: gang up and slaughter an

entire Tribe (with the exception of only about 600 men). This genocide of

Benjamin included all men, women and children... no one was spared! And all

because one man claimed his concubine was (gang)raped by a bunch of hoodlums in

one small town? The more one examines this story, the more it unravels before

your eyes.

The concubine, we're told, plays the "harlot" against her husband (meaning she

found a beau/lover) and left him, apparently for this beau/lover. Yet... he knew

instead that she had gone to her own parents' house in Bethlehem. And apparently

the husband knew this because he traveled straight there to get her... thus

indicating he knew she hadn't "eloped" or gone off with anyone. Thus... this was

an apparent lie. Further, the most plausible reason why a wife (concubine =

lesser wife) would leave her husband and return home to her parents is if she

were dissatisfied with married life. And given the importance of marriage there

and how powerful the patriarchal system was, it is reasonable to assume she must

have been extremely dissatisfied of his treatment of her to risk bucking the

system to that degree.

Next, we are told the father greets him warmly and is happy that he has come to

recover his daughter ... and yet, he goes to great pains to try to delay as long

as possible their departure... by at least a few days. And he initially

succeeds. This would seem to indicate that despite the Biblical narrative, the

father was not at all happy to see the husband and wanted to delay as long as

possible her return with him to the life she had with him. Both her leaving him

and the father's doing all he can to delay her return to/with him would seem to

evidence that she was not treated well and perhaps had suffered abuse.

Next we find the (loving) couple returning home and ending up in the town of

Gibeah... with nowhere to sleep. Darkness has already fallen and both he and his

concubine simple sat in the town square in the center of the town... for all to

see. And in all the time they sit there, no one bothers them at all. No

hoodlums are mentioned cruising the streets looking for a convenient gangrape.

Nothing! Then an old man happens by and invites the couple into his home.

Then we find the real meat-and-potatoes of the husband's story (remember... all

of this is his account, only, as he claimed things happened!). While

"celebrating" with the old man inside the house, these "sons of Belial"

mysteriously appear and demand to have sex with the husband. So... as they

apparently hadn't seen the couple when they were right there in the town square

and didn't accost them when they were going to the old man's house, how the hell

did they know where this visiting couple was after they had already entered the

house some time before and were, at the time, "celebrating" with food and drink?

Anyway... let's keep going.

Azael said...

(Part 2 of 2)

These apparently gay hoodlums are then offered both the concubine and the old man's virgin daughter... and they are fine with this and take the concubine and rape her all night long. In the morning, they let her go and she walks back to the old man's house and falls down at the door where she remained until "full daylight." Only then does her husband awaken, apparently having slept fitfully all night long and without a care in the world (so we're to believe), opens the door, walks out, sees her on the ground and tells her to get up so they can go. The account doesn't say she is dead, only that she doesn't answer him and is apparently either asleep or too traumatized to reply. So... he picks her up and "placed her on the donkey" (implying she rode the donkey and was not a corpse laying over it).

This "loving" husband then travels back home with her and, upon arrival, grabs a knife, hacks her into 12 pieces and sends one piece of her to each of the 12 Tribes of Israel. When the outraged Tribes ask him to explain what happened, he claimed the "men of Gibeah" (not just a few of them) tried to "kill" him (not have sex with him) and then blamed them for killing his concubine when it had been he who hacked her into pieces.

The Tribe of Benjamin... apparently knowing all of this was a lie... refused to deliver up the men accused of doing this by this one man. Most likely, they had already spoken with the old man and with others in Gibeah and knew it was all a concocted story and weren't about to let this one man's lies result in the execution of many innocent men.

And based on that alone... all the other Tribes ganged up on the Tribe of Benjamin and slaughtered EVERYONE in all the Benjamite cities until only 600 men remained. Only then did they realize what they had done and stopped the slaughter.

All because of an abusive husband who couldn't stand that one of his many wives (she was a concubine, thus one of his lesser wives) had "dared" to leave him... and so had gone to her childhood home, to which he knew she had returned, demanded her back, which her father would have had to comply with though he did all he could to delay her departure... and then as soon as he had her in his custody and returned home, he murdered her out of vengeance and spite... and then, so as not to run afoul of the Law of Moses, he blamed it on strangers... and deliberately and slyly concocted a story highly reminiscent of Genesis 19 (when "angels" entered Sodom, also were to spend the night in the town square, also were invited to spend the night in Lot's home, and also were accosted inside the home by gay rapists to whom Lot attempted to offer his virgin daughters). This husband knew if he could concoct such a story well enough, everyone would view the men of Gibeah with the same fury and hatred they already did for those "Sodomites" whom God destroyed.

And that is exactly what happened... and the Tribe of Benjamin was effectively wiped out.

... and now you... the "rest of the story" (at least as the evidences would appear to reveal).

Azael said...

Of course, this still doesn't quite explain why all 11 Tribes would:

1. Believe this one man's account above all others and to the point of willingly slaughtering an entire Tribe

2. Consider the life of one woman of such importance that they would slaughter tens of thousands of their own kinsmen, kinswomen and their children to avenge that one woman (additionally, women weren't that important to them, any way... so why the outrage to that degree?!)


There were scandals and murders and rapes all the time in Israel... yet none ever prompted all the Tribes to gang up and slaughter another Tribe. So why now? And why Benjamin?

Was something else going on here? The evidences point strongly to that possibility... and one that links the Tribe of Benjamin directly with the descendants of the "Fallen Angels" were were alleged to have been living in Sodom and Gomorrah when "destroyed" ... and, thus, made the lie told linking the alleged "crime" with those same "Sodomites."

Metatron said...

I would then ask this...Is it unlike God to judge you, whereby you judge Him, in action or lack thereof, especially without the understanding of the times that these actions were condoned? You would seek to spite the Word, claiming you know more than a Christian, whereby citing lack of faith, you display faith? You believe those words true, but claim it all a fallecy? Were I to call you Brother soley on being of the same creator would be just as sinful as condemning you for the sins I commit myself. I would ask that our actions speak louder than the words we throw around carelessly. Hate only brings about more hate. In good faith I pray you find wisdom and serenity. Accept that which you have no understanding, if not to bring about peace, and just that. Rather than seeking to poison the well. I am devout to no faith, as man has made these twisted for profit and fame. I simply seek to make peace as all men and women should, if not for faith, than for humanity's sake.

paulus said...

Old man was bizarre and coward. Offering his daughter and Levite's concubine for the mod. Why didn't offer his own ass?

paulus said...

Read MOB and not "mod". OK?

Stephen Harris said...

(Apologies, I had a typo in my first comment, so here is the corrected version)

I can tell that I'm a little late to the thread here, but if it's helpful I would like to contribute a thought or two. I think that it's odd that you recognized that the Judges text is "based upon Genesis 19" while simultaneously holding that "there is nothing in this story that indicates that God disapproves of... (etc)." In biblical type-scenes, when elements of one story are intentionally reproduced in another, it also imports the themes and message of the previous account in order to juxtapose them over and against one another.

Having said that, the fact that the prelude to the Sodom story (Gen 18) and the destruction that follows (Gen 19) clearly reflects YHWH's judgment on the people of Sodom implicates the Israelites in Judges with the same judgment as their predecessors. Indeed, in the very next chapter the Benjaminites are destroyed at the hands of the other tribes (itself a juxtaposition against where the punishment came from in the former narrative.)

As several other commentators have noted on this thread, a major theme of the book of Judges is the depravity and political vulnerability of the pre-monarchic Israelites. As in any literature, it seems, to me, a bit shortsighted to demand an explicit statement by YHWH in the Judges account when the author is so clearly using his interaction with the Genesis 19 story as a rhetorical device to intimate the judgment of Sodom, and thereby judge the Benjaminites. The story is meant to be unpleasant, shocking, and “nasty,” but also familiar, and suspenseful.

To summarize:

The moral judgment on the actions of the Benjaminites by the author of Judges is explicit 1) through its dependence upon and allusions to the parallel story in Genesis, and 2) in that they shared a very similar fate to the Sodomites (cf. Jdg 20:38-40). All that aside, the takeaway of this story is not that it is morally permissible to have a sex slave, offering one’s virgin daughter to a sex-crazed mob, chopping up bodies, or sending messages with body parts. It is that Israel, or more specifically Gibeah, has been implicated in a crime akin to that of the Sodomites. This all fits in with the overall strategy of the author to paint a picture of Israel in the book of Judges in which “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.“ This is consistent both with Deuteronomy 17’s outline of Israel’s future political structure, as well as YHWH’s explanation for their necessity: namely, that they have cast YHWH aside from reigning over them (1 Sam 8:7).

Steve Wells said...

Stephen Harris,

You say that "the takeaway of this story is not that it is morally permissible to have a sex slave, offering one’s virgin daughter to a sex-crazed mob, chopping up bodies, or sending messages with body parts."

Well, it may not be the takeaway of the story (there's nothing to "takeaway" from this story), but the biblical author (and presumably God, if you are foolish enough to believe it) had no problem with any of these things.

It was OK to have a sex slave, to offer her to a sex-crazed mob, or to chop up her body to send a message.

You say the point of the story was this: "It is that Israel, or more specifically Gibeah, has been implicated in a crime akin to that of the Sodomites."

And I agree with you. If the men of Gibeah had of accepted the Levite's concubine and the old man's virgin daughter, everything would have been fine. That, according to the Bible, is the just and righteous thing to do. (Genesis 19:8, 2 Peter 2:7-8) But no, the men of Gibeah wanted to have sex with the Levite -- and that is the real sin here. God can put up with a heterosexual gang rape/murder now and then, but homosexual sex makes him do crazy things -- like destroy entire cities, in the case of Sodom; and call a civil war with concubine body parts, in the case of Gibeah.

It's all about homosexuality. God hates homosexuals so much that he'll kill entire cities and tribes when people even consider committing a homosexual act.

That's the takeaway from Judges 19 and Genesis 19, isn't it Stephen?

Stephen Harris said...

Mr. Wells,

Thank you for your quick, and candid response. I am preparing a bit of a longer response to your reading of the text here. I just wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten to respond. In fact, would you prefer that I emailed longer responses to you, or that I just post them here? I don't want to weigh down your thread here too much with a longer post if that is outside of your interests for this blog.

All the best,
Stephen Harris

Steve Wells said...

Stephen,

A long response would be fine, either as a comment or, if you'd prefer, as a guest post. I am very much interested in your view of this story, which seems completely indefensible from believer's point of view. I don't think any of God's killings in the Bible are justified, but this story is especially nasty, cruel, misogynistic, and absurd (even though, God is not directly involved in the killing).

If you'd like to do a guest post on this story, send me an email with your response.

Stephen Harris said...

Mr. Wells,

Either of those sound fine to me. Would a guest post be like a separate blog post, where I would basically be a guest contributor? That would be fine by me.

All the best,
Stephen

Cassie said...

Just read the email next chapter to find out what God thinks of this. It's the first example of where he wipes out all the men of one of his own tribes in retribution. I'd say that's a big old disapproval right there.

Cassie said...

You can say it's about gays but where is your proof? This is not like Sodom (which was doomed for many reasons long before the men wanted to have sex with those angels). Horrific crimes occurred after theseeing men wanted to have sex with the levite, and it was after these crimes that the men, not the entire population, was murdered by fellow israelites, not by God himself. They are very different stories.

Stephen Harris said...

Cassie,

I sympathize with your objections here, and I'm in the process of preparing a longer guest post to Mr. Wells' comments here. My response will be addressing (among other things) the claim that this passage and Genesis 19 are dealing with homosexuality. That's not why I'm responding here though.

I'd like to address the second comment that you made about how similar or different that Judges 19 is from Genesis 19. The thematic and linguistic similarities between the two have been dealt with very well by commentators before, and it is these connections that give the Judges account its rhetorical power. To save myself the effort, I'll just copy and paste a brief summary of the connections between the stories, along with a link to a full article explicating them. I hope this helps.

-----

The parallels between Genesis 19 and Judges 19 are striking. At the thematic level we note:

1) A small group of travelers arrives in the city in the evening.

2) A person who is himself an alien observes the presence of this company.

3) The travelers have a mind to spend the night in the open square.

(5) The host washes the guests’ feet (implied in Gen 19:3 after the offer in v. 2).

(6) Host and guests share in a fellowship meal.

(7) Base men of the city surround the house.

(8) They demand of the host that he deliver his male guests over to them that they might
commit homosexual gang rape.

9) The host protests this display of wickedness.

10) When the protests prove futile the hosts hand over a substitute female.

But the connections extend beyond common motifs. The chapters also share a common vocabulary, particularly verbs: “spend the night” (Gen 19:2; 11 times in Judges 9, functioning as a Leitmotif tying vv. 1–9 to the events that happen at Gibeah), “to turn aside” (Gen 19:2; Judg 19:11, 12, 15), “rising early and going on one’s way (Gen 19:2; Judg 19:9), “to dilly dally” (Gen 19:16; Judg 19:8), “washing the feet” (Gen 19:2; Judg 19:20), “and they ate” (Gen 19:3; Judg 19:21). The substantives also correlate, as in “at evening” (Gen 19:1, Judg 19:16), and “house” (Gen 19:2, 3, 4, 11; Judg 19:18, 21–23).

Here's a link to the full article that has a pretty good bibliography for additional resources.

http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/wtj/judges_block.pdf

All the best,
Stephen Harris

FrostieFilly said...

I read this story again this morning, and wanted to investigate further. I want to say that this story is so much more powerful than I had given it credit for the first time I read it last year.

First, I want to say that Chapter 19 is not the whole story. It goes from Chapter 19 to the end of Chapter 21, sandwiched between the repeated phrase "...In those days there was no king in Israel..." So, in order to get the big picture, one must read the whole story, not just the introduction.

If one were to look at the big picture, one will find that this story is not about gruesome rapists, wicked husbands, or dismembering body parts. The big picture is this:

Israel was not following God: they were following idols and the wild whims of their hearts. This is the story that is sadly repeated again and again in the book of Judges. The land was full of evil and injustice.

Before I continue, there are three things you need to understand about God's character for this story to make any sense:

1.) God is holy, and he is completely opposed to evil. He has zero tolerance for evil.

2.) God is just, and he defends those to whom injustice is committed. Furthermore, God has every right to judge and execute judgment.

3.) God is jealous, and he loves his people with a jealous love. He does not just sit around and let his people "play the whore" with false gods. Idolatry incenses God to wrath, like a husband whose beloved wife has committed adultery. Or like a loving father whose daughter keeps running away with a bad crowd. God actively fights to bring his people back to him, no matter how many times they turn away, because he is jealously passionate for them.

Given that God is holy, just and jealous, it is clear that by Judges 19, an idolatrous and wicked Israel is due for a reality check. The Levite just so happens to be the spark that ignites the flame. His actions in casting his wife/concubine out to the mob are difficult to justify, so I won’t. The *point* is not justifying this dude’s actions, otherwise the writer of this story would have done so. The *point* is how this made the whole gruesome affair shockingly public.

*Continued in next post*

FrostieFilly said...

When the Levite carried his dead wife home, chopped her up and sent her to the twelve tribes of Israel, he was making a serious declaration about how low Israel’s morality had fallen. The dude, a Levite no less, was threatened and his wife raped to death! This kind of behavior was cause for God to utterly destroy the city of Sodom. I have no doubt that when the Levite’s servants presented the body parts and their master’s story to the twelve tribes of Israel, that the Israelites were hearkened back to Sodom and how God felt about the Sodomites.

Basically, it was an appropriately grotesque way of saying, “Look Israel! We’re just as bad as Sodom, and if we let this kind of crap happen in our cities, God’s going to do the same to us as he did to Sodom.”

This shocking message woke the Israelites out of their hedonistic slumber, and they immediately “gathered together as one man… unto the LORD in Mizpeh.” (20:1)

The Israelites forgot about their idols and playthings and turned to God. That’s another way of saying that they recognized their sin and repented. Then the Israelites, recognizing that their holy God would not tolerate evil in Israel’s midst, went to Gibeah to purge the city of its evil. (20:13)

The children of Benjamin refused to repent, and what followed were a series of bloody battles in which Israel fought to redeem themselves to God, ultimately resulting in the near-annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin.

The thing that must be noted is that this story’s emphasis continually turns to how “the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD… and asked counsel of the LORD.” (20:18, 23, 26… 21:2) The Israelites had gotten so serious about returning to God that they made an oath to kill anyone who refused to attend the congregation in beseeching the mercy and guidance of God. (21:5) This is like a 180!

Another cool thing to note is that God *responded.* He carried the Israelites to the point where they were so desperate for God that they were driven weep and fast. (20:26) And God showed up and “smote” the enemy, just as he had done in the past. (20:35)

Do you see where I’m getting at?

God is holy and opposed to evil. The evil within Israel at the time was disgusting and utterly inexcusable.

God is just and will execute judgment. It took a shocking message like rotting body parts to jolt the Israelites into realizing just how dire their situation was.

God is jealous and he actively strives to bring his people back to him. As the Israelites fought against the tribe of Benjamin, they became increasingly dependent on God and desperate for his salvation. They became so desperate that they swore to kill anyone who was not on board with suing for peace with God.

The long and short of it is that Judges 19-21 is not a story about an abominable God who condones wicked acts. It is a story about the spiritual revival of a wicked people who needed a particularly brutal wake-up call to drive them back to God.

I know this was a long one, but I hope it’s helpful.