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.


Matthew Blanchette 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...


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...


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.

Anonymous 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..

Unknown said...

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

Steve Wells said...


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.)

Charles said...

The Bible gets an F not only in history and geography and astronomy and so on, but even in basic arithmetic. Assuming that 25,100 is the right number of dead Benjaminites (Judg. 20:35), how did they end up with 600 (20:47)? They started with 26,700 (20:15). 26,700 minus 25,100 is 1,600, not 600.

But 25,000 is NOT the right number. Per verses 44-46 another 25,000 "men of valour" are killed. So now the remaining Benjaminite men are not 600, not 1,600, but a negative 23,400!

Now negative numbers are ok in Arithmetic. We see them in budgets all the time. They just don't work very well with people!

Tiffany said...

Hello there. If you wouldn't mind, I stumbled across this page doing my bible study while at work tonight and would loHello there. If you wouldn't mind, I stumbled across this page doing my bible study while at work tonight and would love to share my thoughts! I apologize as I am hopelessly long winded so please bear with me.
A story's inclusion in the bible does not mean that God agrees with it or is saying that it is right. Like any history book, the bible records what happened. I think in this instance the story is included to show the declining spiritual state of even God's people in a time when they had no formal leadership. It's a chilling caution to any of us who love the Lord of the importance of staying close to Him and following Him. As Jesus says in John 15:5 "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches... apart from me you can do nothing." Staying close to God protects us from suffering such a spiritual decline as to have our cities over run by perversion, or to have no ability to resist those who would want to inflict evil on our loved ones. Sometimes God instantly shows his judgement in ways we can all see and sometimes it's reserved til after death. (Remember that a Christian believes this life is only part 1 of the story! The rest comes later ) In the Lord's wisdom, we still here on earth do no get to know yet what has happened to those who have already left. God certainly has a day of judgemen

Tiffany said...

Part 2
God certainly has a day of judgement coming for us all- believers and unbelievers alike- where all the good and evil we have done will be judged.

"Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades vwere thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." - Revelation 20:11-15

It's not that believers will always have so much more good that they have done than unbelievers that we "pass" so to speak and get into heaven. Indeed in many cases we may have more apparent evil that we have done than many unbelievers. But God doesn't grade on a curve. He requires perfection to enter into heaven. Those of us who have trusted Christ as savior and Lord will be allowed to enter heaven on no basis other than Christ's blood that paid the price we should have paid for our sins. That's why we say we are "saved." We are saved from the penalty of our sins by accepting Christ's payment for them.

Tiffany said...

Part 3
Going back to the passage. It's true God could have caused the earth to swallow up the evil men in this story as He has before, or rained down fire from heaven. Why He didn't at that time we can not know. That's where those of us who believe trust God's wisdom.

"“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:9
The same is true for today. God could continue to judge us all today including you and me, for everything we've done wrong. I tend to believe any time God delays judgement it is because He sees there is still some part of our heart that maintains capability for repenting. So God delays final judgement in His mercy, to give us space to repent. Because, truthfully, if God executed swift and immediate judgement on everyone 100% of the time our human race would be- well extinct.
" for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23

Tiffany said...

Part 4
We may not have all gang raped or cut the body of someone we were supposed to protect into 12 pieces. But we have probably raped other people's hearts with our pride and selfishness. We've wounded souls by failing to truly love. We've cut spirits with hurtful words and anger. We've violated relationships by talking about someone we claim to love behind their backs, or lying or lusting after someone we weren't married to. All this in Gods eyes is still deserving of death.
As I said above, the Lord promises that " ..it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" Hebrews 9:27
So we do not have to be bothered by someone doing evil and God seeming for the time being to be silent. His laws are stated throughout the bible. So any behavior of a person in the bible that contradicts His standard of love thy neighbor as thyself, we can be sure has God's disapproval.
Anyhow, just my thoughts. I must say, I am quite impressed that you are actually reading the Bible before disapproving of it. I rarely meet an unbeliever who has actually read the Bible before claiming to disagree with it. To me that says that you are truly seeking truth. I find that so many people do not really want to know truth, they simply want to feel comfortable doing and believing or not believing as they always have. In my humble opinion the main thing that keeps people from knowing God is the desire man has of being captain of his own ship. People want to be their own god, and make their own rules. Almost like my four year old people want to raise their fists to heaven and say "no, I'm doing it my way"
But if one lays down the rebellion for a minute and recognizes that God is not a harsh overlord desiring to enslave us, but a loving ,albeit just, but still amazingly loving creator who wants to be our Father. All of a sudden, submission to Him is such an amazing gift. It's exhausting trying to control one's own destiny all the time- especially when we don't really have the ability to do so. I encourage you to keep reading and have an open mind and a heart that truly desires to know the truth. Feel free to reply or email. I don't claim to have all the answers. I'm just a girl who loves Jesus and has been saved time and time again by Him so much that to deny Him would be as foolish as a fetus in the womb denying the existence of its mother whom he has yet to meet.