09 December 2009

A Holy Civil War (It had something to do with rotting, concubine body-part messages)

Remember the story about the Levite and his concubine? You know the one where the Levite and his concubine are staying at a guy's house when a mob comes and asks to have sex with the Levite, and the host says no you can't have sex with him but I'll give you my virgin daughter and his concubine instead, so the Levite gives them his concubine and they rape her all night and she crawls back to the house and dies the next morning, and then the Levite puts her body on his donkey and goes home and chops her body into 12 pieces and sends a piece to each tribe of Israel? Yeah that one.

Well, it's not over yet.

You see, when the 12 tribes got the pieces of decaying body parts, they immediately assembled before the Lord in Mizpeh, along with the entire population of Israel and 400,000 soldiers. (What else would you do if you got a hunk of rotting flesh in the mail?)
Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man ... unto the LORD in Mizpeh. And ... four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. Judges 20:1-2
When they arrived at Mizpeh, the Israelites asked the meaning of the rotting flesh messages. So the Levite told them the nasty story that is found in Judges 19, except that he left out the part about how he gave his concubine to the mob to do with as they pleased.

When the Israelites heard this, they all said together in complete unison:
This shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it. Judges 20:9
(God's just war theory: Since the town of Gibeah was where the incident with the concubine occurred, and the inhabitants of Gibeah were from the tribe of Benjamin, the other Israelite tribes must go to war with the Benjamites. This may not make much sense to you, but it does to God.)

But first the Israelites ask God what they should do. He tells them to go to war with the Benjamites, saying that the tribe of Judah should go first. (I'm skipping a bit here. See the Brick Testament for the details.) So they did that, but it didn't work out too well, and 22,000 Israelites died.

After their first defeat, the Israelites wept before God and asked him what they should do next. God said to go fight the Benjamites (again). So the next day they tried that, but it didn't turn out so well this time either. Another 18,000 Israelites were killed.

Once again all of the Israelites sit and weep before God, and ask him (for the third time) if they should attack the Benjamites. God give them his usual answer: Attack. This time he promised that he would deliver them into their hands.

And he did. It's not entirely clear, though, how many Benjamites were killed, 25,100, 25,000, or maybe both in two separate battles. But since there were only a total of 26,000 Benjamites soldiers, I'll just give God credit for killing another 25,100.
And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword. Judges 20:35
Still, it seems to me that God was also at least partly responsible for the 40,000 Israelites that were killed in the first two unsuccessful battles that he told the Israelites to fight. What do you think, should these be included in God's killings?

10 Dec 09: I've decided to add the 40,000 Israelite deaths to God's total. If you think I'm wrong about that, let me know in the comments.











13 comments:

matt311 said...

Yes; yes, they should.

Damn, this story is full of improbable events; who'd have expected this from the Bible? ;-)

twillight said...

All Hail Plancton! (= give 'im credit)

busterggi said...

The orders for war are credited to Yahweh so the deaths should be too.

Though as the Benjaminites were one of the 12 tribes of chosen people there are other issues raised.

Steve Wells said...

Thanks guys. I'll add another 40,000 to God's total.

skanksta said...

Steve, my life has been empty of biblical humour for AGES. Can you not just quit your job and blog this stuff all day for us ?

This one isn't even controversial - another 40k for Yahweh !

Kirk Yetton said...

Surely the very fact that God clearly punishes the Israelites here shows that they have not been in his favour and that previous killings in Judges which this blog has ascribed to God cannot actually be ascribed to him?

Steve Wells said...

Krik,

Surely the very fact that God clearly punishes the Israelites here shows that they have not been in his favour and that previous killings in Judges which this blog has ascribed to God cannot actually be ascribed to him?

So in Judges 14:19, for example, when the Spirit of the Lord came on Samson and he killed 30 men for their clothes, God had nothing to do with it?

God is proud of his killings, Kirk. Why are you ashamed of them?

Kirk Yetton said...

Perhaps I should have said most of the killings in Judges. And I'm not ashamed of them, merely pointing out facts (aside from the odd oversight).

Indeed, here God appears to be punishing the Philistines for their lack of humility.

Steve Wells said...

Kirk,

Perhaps I should have said most of the killings in Judges. And I'm not ashamed of them, merely pointing out facts (aside from the odd oversight).

OK, so far the score is 1 to 0. Let's try another one. Did God help Ehud kill 10,000 lusty Moabites in Judges 3:28-29?

Oh and I like your justification for God's helping Samson kill 30 men for their clothes. "Indeed, here God appears to be punishing the Philistines for their lack of humility."

What? God helped Samson kill the 30 Philistines because they were too damn proud of their clothes?

Kirk Yetton said...

The clothes had, in effect, become their god, meaning they were rebelling against God.

The Moabites also rebelled against God.

1minionsopinion said...

How come God doesn't punish the fashion folks today? Those people are insane for clothes. Who needs 30 pairs of shoes and bags to match? I mean really. Maybe someone should kill a pile of them and say god suggested it would be a good idea. It worked for Samson..

colinjames108 said...

The death toll here was actually 25,100 not 65,100

Steve Wells said...

@colinjames,

You're right about that. 25,100 Benjamites were supposedly killed in the last civil war battle. But since God told the non-Benjamites to fight the first two battles (where 40,000 were killed), I gave God credit for a grand total of 65,100.

(I've expanded it to show the original post.)