Judges 19: The Levite’s Concubine

What do you say about a story like this?

A woman, given by her husband to an angry mob, raped all night, left for dead on the front porch, cut into pieces and sent to the tribes as a message.

What do you do?

Do you try to figure out what the point of the story is? Do you ask questions about why the writer of Judges included this particular story?

Do you share what you noticed as you read it? Do you wonder what it is about people from the Hill Country of Ephraim that makes them keep showing up in weird stories like this?

Do you feel terrible calling this a “weird story?”

Do you try to smooth out the horror by mentioning that most of the chapter is about people showing generous hospitality to total strangers?

Do you talk about how quickly the story switched from “pleasant enough” to “nightmarish?”

Do you share stories about girls all over the world who live in the exact same world as this woman? Do you give statistics? Do you direct people to the International Justice Mission website?

Do you try to make yourself feel better by saying you think she was dead before she got chopped up?

Do you try and rationalize how a man who chased after his missing bride to “speak tenderly to her,” something God does for Israel in Isaiah, ended up giving her over to be gang-raped?

I’m not sure.

I’m not sure you do anything other than let the horror wash over you. Let it seep into those places you don’t want to let it go.

Be shocked.

Be appalled.

Question your faith.

Get mad at God.

Scream.

Sob.

Whatever you need to do. Do it.

This story makes me feel things I don’t want to feel. It makes me ask questions I don’t want to ask. It makes me confront realities that I would rather pretend don’t exist.

So I am going to go sit, think, and pray.

I am going to remember this woman and be thankful that her story was told.

Because Lord knows how many women haven’t been that fortunate.

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6 responses

  1. Its a truly disgusting story, makes my stomach churn.. My brother has done some intensive study on this section of scripture..you can find some of his thoughts at hiddenwisdom.wordpress.com if you like.

  2. My stomach struggles to handle many of these OT stories, so I just think of it as tribal primal behaviour patterns many of which still exist among the Afghan tribes. It belongs in that time period along with concubine, chopping off people’s heads, dashing kids on stones, Gen 34 story, Japhthah, etc. All of these I think were not approved by God, just like the Golden calf worship by none other than Aaron himself (albeit he gives the excuse that the people asked him), but just human deviance found among the Israelites. When the adrenalin kicks in, people forget God and just act.

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  4. I’ve been working on this story like FOREVER. The first time I read it, I got so mad that I couldn’t stand it. That was probably about the time this blog was written. Anyhow, these are some of the thots and questions I’ve had so far: First, What’s with the concubine and a Levite?? Shouldn’t a Levite just have one wife? I mean, wasn’t a Levite supposed to be an upstanding example? Hmm… Why did his concubine run away? Four months, no pregnancy and hangin out at dad’s… was it domestic violence or did she really have an affair? What are the four months about? And then, why couldn’t this Levite plan a safe return? He sure did seem to get to his father-in-law’s without a hitch, all nicely planned with two donkeys and a servant. Perhaps he just left early in the morning and didn’t sleep in any towns on the way, not like on his return trip when he left so late in the day. Surely he was aware of trouble as evidenced by the fact that he didn’t want to stay in Jebus. Then we have the whole Sodom story EXCEPT that someone actually is thrown out to the orgy lynch mob. The commentary on the injustice of it seems as silent as the woman. You aren’t even told exactly when she dies. I mean, does he put a dying woman on the donkey and just let her die along the way? I love how he says, “Get up, Let’s get going.” I mean, does this woman have any value??

    What if the story is a prophetic one? What if the concubine represents Israel itself? What if Israel, having been entrusted by God to the spiritual leadership of Levites, was not being treated respectfully by the Levites–after all, in the chapter before, you have a Levite in the service of idols. Who knows, the Levite in this story could even be the same person as the Levite that performs rites for idols since there are no proper names given. At any rate, at this point in Israel’s history (and later of course) the Levites aren’t treating Israel as a prized wife, but rather as “that woman” (maybe something like Adam silently watching Eve getting deceived by the snake and then partaking of the fruit with her even though he knows better). Israel is the demoted concubine, not the beloved wife. Because the Levites were not following God, but rather going after other gods, Israel is being pulled down into darkness with the Levites profiting, eating and drinking, not giving a thought to danger or acting as the protectors against danger. They throw Israel into a haphazard existence, without enlightenment, and Israel is thrown out to the slaughter.
    That the concubine is cut into twelve pieces prefigures the future fate of Israel. In this very story, we already see the near demise of one tribe, Benjamin.

    Now let’s think about this Levite. If he had been a real man, he would have sacrificed himself to save the honor of the woman he loved. Instead, he sacrifices the woman to save his own honorless honor. He appears as a hired hand tending sheep–he has no problem leaving the sheep to the hungry lions and bears. Now who would have sacrificed himself for his bride? Would it not be Christ himself? Would not God call his bride out from the nations? Christ has not prepared an unfaithful concubine for himself, but rather calls a bride which is made pure and spotless by the blood of the lamb! That which was dismembered, cut into pieces, once unfaithful, would be called back to him!

    Without Christ, the story ends in hellish horror. But with Christ, we can see restoration and salvation even from the most hellish of places. It is only with Christ that something this terrible can be transformed into something beautiful.

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