Judges is a fun book in the Bible. It depicts a time period in Israelite history that was less than stellar. For more on that time period you can read –>this<– post on Samson. Right about when Samson was leaving the scene the Bible records a story that is possibly one of the most gruesome of all religious texts.
The main character of the story (besides the victim) is unnamed, as is the victim. We will call them “the Levite” and “the Concubine.” The Levite makes the Bible Jerk Hall of Fame for possibly being the worst husband/slave owner ever, and for sure for being the worst Levite in Israelite history (except for maybe the sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu).
Why he is a jerk
- Breaking Levitical marriage laws (Leviticus 21:13-15)
- Being a horrible husband/slave owner (and a horrible human being)
- Giving his concubine to an angry crowd to be raped and abused all night
- Dismembering his concubine and mailing her body parts (pretty much the same thing Luka Rocco Magnotta did to his ex-girl)
- Provoking the largest civil war in biblical history that nearly wiped out all of the Benjamin tribe
The start of the story in Judges 19 paints a picture of a Levite and his concubine, that starts out a bit messy. We learn in Judges 19:1-2 that a Levite living outside Ephraim in the hillside, has a concubine that for one reason or another went off and slept with another man. There are a few things already wrong with this picture.
- Levites were supposed to holy priests and take wives from their own tribe. This Levite has a concubine, which is not a wife. In fact, often in the OT a concubine is nothing more than a servant who also provides sexual services. This would have been true of this concubine. Later in the story she is even refereed to as a maidservant (Judges 19:19). In judges 19:19 she is not even labeled as special among the other servants. She is just one of the bunch….which the Levite happens to sleep with.
- Most women in the OT period needed a man for security and survival which is one reason why being a concubine was acceptable. Most wives wouldn’t leave their husband and concubines certainly wouldn’t leave their master. They have absolutely no status in culture and leaving their master means they enter into a life of prostitution or they go back home to the parents. This concubine for one reason or another “played the harlot” on her master (Judges 19:2). To me, this says that he was probably a horrible master to his servants and she was probably nothing more than a sex toy, which becomes clearer later in the story.
- In Judges 19:3 the Levite takes an offering and an apology to his concubine’s father’s home in hopes to gain her back again (when she cheated on him she ended up moving back home). This tells me that she ran away from him because he was abusive or she just got sick of the life of being a sex object. He wanted her back probably because she was expensive to obtain initially and he wanted his investment back. She was also probably very gratifying to him.
The Levite returns with his concubine
The story starts on a bad note right from the get-go. From there it only gets worse. After the Levite persuaded (with little effort) the concubine’s father to return the woman to him, they depart to go back home. On the way home they run into a conundrum; dark is approaching and they have nowhere to sleep for the night. In Bible times this meant that you slept in the open square which is public and in view of other occupants of the city or you find someone to stay with for the night.
One of the the servants suggested turning into Jerusalem for the night (Judges 19:11-15), but since that city was not yet part of the Israelite territory the Levite decided that it was not a safe place to stay. Instead he chose to travel north a bit to Gibeah and stay there where the Benjaminites lived. Being that the tribe of Benjamin was part of their own people it was not a bad choice….in theory.
The bad night gets worse
Once they get into the square at Gibeah an older man finds them and urges them not to sleep in the square because it is too dangerous. Sound familiar? If you already started to think of the story of Lot you would be correct, except this one ends worse.
After some reasoning the Levite decides that it would be safer to stay with the old man. Although, I think that the offer of free wine might have had something to do with the Levite’s agreement to stay with the old man.
The rest of the story is almost too unbelievable to tell it to you myself. You can read the events of horror below. I would advise reading with some preparedness; it is not a pretty story.
While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him (Gen 19:4-8). ”
23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 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.”
25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man (the Levite) took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
27 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. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
If you didn’t catch it yet, the concubine AND the old man’s virgin daughter were offered to the mob of men. The mob of course didn’t really want either of them so the Levite (or possibly the old man) shoves the concubine out the door and never looks back. And while the Levite and old man are safe inside partying and eventually sleeping, the concubine is being beaten and raped to the death.
Verses 25-27 tell that it was an ALL night ordeal of abusing and she was found in the morning with her hands on the doorway of the house. She was probably clinging at the door knob for hours on end while yelling and pleading for her master to defend her and save her life.
But the spineless coward stayed in the house amidst the screaming and raping of his concubine. I like to make a lot of jokes on my blogs….but this guy really just makes me mad. So mad that I don’t even wanna make fun of him; I just want to do very unchristian things to him.
Proving his true colors
His next feat of Jerkery was in the morning when he wakes and is prepared to make his journey home. He opens the door of the house and nearly steps in his concubine laying at the threshold. Rather than check on her and see if she is OK and apologize profusely for being an absolute jerk-face, he just coldly says to her “get up; let’s go.”
Much to the reader’s surprise (but not the Levite we assume) she does not answer. She is dead. Stone dead from the beating, abusing, and raping all night. Rather than mourning in sackcloth and ashes like most people would have in that day, he decided to toss her on the donkey and just head home with her.
The worse gets somehow worse
After the Levite arrives home he decides that he needs to do something about the abuse and rape of his most expensive possession. He cuts her body up into 12 pieces and sends them to the 12 regions that belong to the 12 tribes. This of course was done in an effort to arouse retribution on the tribe of Benjamin for their behavior at Gibeah.
What ensues next in Judges is the start of the biggest civil war in all of the Bible. The angry Israelites assemble to address the matter and this is what the Levite has to say about it.
I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night.5 During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They raped my concubine, and she died. 6 I took my concubine, cut her into pieces and sent one piece to each region of Israel’s inheritance, because they committed this lewd and outrageous act in Israel.
Notice that the Levite never mentions that he willingly offered his concubine to the angry mob. That just wasn’t important to the story I guess. The Israelites take up arms against the Benjaminites in Judges 20 and eventually strike them with an assault that kills at least 25,000 men. That would have been quite a kill.
In summary, because the Levite was a jerk-face, the concubine gets raped and killed, and more than 50,000 Israelites lose their lives in battle. All over one Levite’s refusal to protect his concubine. What a worm!
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