Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Concubine in Judges 19

I think this is the most horrible story in the entire Bible but I feel that it is really important to talk about this woman and all the women like her in the world today. Please be forewarned that this post contains some graphic material and is not appropriate for young readers.

Judges 19 by Mario Moore

Judges 19

Background:

After the capture and death of Samson by the Philistines Israel was without a judge. There was no one to unite the tribes of Israel and in Judges 17:6 it says that "...every man did that which was right in his own eyes." This meant that there was no law, no accountability, and that wickedness was rampant. The book of Judges is filled with examples of how women suffered because there was no structure to protect them.

Facts about her:
  • She was the concubine of Levite who dwelt in Ephraim (vs. 1) ;
  • She "played the whore" against her husband and left him. She went to back to her father's house in Beth-lehem-Judah. She was there for four months before her husband came looking for her "to speak friendly unto her and bring her again" (vs. 2);
  • When her husband showed up her father rejoiced to see him and encouraged him to stay for three days. When the Levite wanted to leave with his concubine the father convinced him to stay another night and "let thine heart be merry". The father tried to convince them to stay another night but the Levite insisted on leaving even though it was getting really late in the day (vs. 3-9);
  • She traveled with the Levite to the city of Gibeah, which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. They got there after dark and there was no place for them to stay. They were sitting on the road when an old man saw them and invited them to stay with him that night (vs.10-21);
  • While the old man and the Levite were "making their hearts merry" the sons of Belial (belial mean "wicked" or "worthless") came to the door and demanded that the old man "Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him", meaning they wanted to rape him (vs.22);
  • The old man tried to convince them to not do something so wicked and instead offered his daughter, who was a maiden, and the Levite's concubine to them instead. When the sons of Belial refused the Levite took his concubine and gave her to them (vs. 23-25);
  • The sons of Belial took her and "... and knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place." (vs. 25-28)
  • The Levite then took her dead body back home and cuts it into twelve pieces. He sent each piece to the different tribes of Israel as a testament to the Benjaminites wickedness (vs.29);
  • When the children of Israel saw and heard what had happened to her they said, " There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day." (vs.30)
  • Urged on by the Levite the children of Israel revenge her death by banding together and fighting the Benjaminites-- over 65,000 men die in the battle (Judges 20).
Speculations about her:
  • The word translated as "played the whore" in this chapter is the Hebrew word zanah. This word has the primary meaning of being a harlot. However, according to Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros the word also can mean “to be angry, hateful” or to “feel repugnant against.”source Some scholars have wondered why, if the concubine had indeed committed adultery, her father would have welcomed her back home seeing as honor killings were common and adultery was usually punished by stoning. It also seems strange in this culture that the Levite would come to "speak friendly to her" and want her back after she had committed adultery. In view of these paradoxes some scholars think that a better translation would be his concubine became angry with  him.
  • It is also ironic to me that in verse 3 we read that the Levite went "to speak friendly unto her" but that he deals mostly with her father. In fact the only words we ever hear him speak to her are when she is laying dead on the threshold and he tells her,"Up, and let us be going." I can't help but think things would have been much different in this story if he had actually taken the time to talk to her in the first place instead of treating her like a piece of property.
My Thoughts:

Not long ago I was reading Carol Lynn Pearson's play "Mother Wove the Morning" and when I got to the vignette about Judges 19 I broke out into uncontrollable sobs. They racked my whole body and for ten minutes I couldn't stop. It wasn't the first time I've cried over this story but reading it again, now that I have my own little girl, just drove home the nail deeper into my heart.

I hate this story.

I wish it had never happened.

Yet it did

and it is still happening... every day.

Only a few days ago I was listening to NPR while making dinner and heard a story that turned my stomach. They were talking about the Democratic Republic of Congo and how rape is being used as a weapon of war there. So many women have been raped, mutilated, and abused in Congo that it is now being called "The War Against Women." They estimate that millions of women and girls have been raped, usually gang raped, and that this violence is still on the rise. Just a month ago the news reported that 200 women and 4 baby boys (ages one month, six months, a year and 18 months) were raped within miles of an U.N. peacekeeping base:
"...There was no fighting and no deaths, Cragin said, just "lots of pillaging and the systematic raping of women." Many women said they were raped in their homes in front of their children and husbands, and many said they were raped repeatedly by three to six men," Cragin said. Others were dragged into the nearby forest. "We keep going back and identifying more and more cases," he said. "Many of the women are returning from the forest naked, with no clothes." He said that by the time they got help it was too late to administer medication against AIDS and contraception to all but three of the survivors."

If you are brave enough this 60 Minutes interview is a powerful and heartbreaking glimpse into what some of our sisters around the world are suffering.


I've really struggled to make heads or tails out of all this suffering but it seems so pointless, brutal, and without meaning. How can there be anything good to learn from such wickedness? How can God stand it?

As I've thought and prayed about this concubine's story, and the stories of all the women like her in the world, one thought keeps coming to my mind...

When men are wicked, women suffer.

This may seem like an overly simple explanation for such an enormous problem but when you think about it there really isn't much more to it than that. Please don't misunderstand me and think I am trying to say that women are perfect, because they aren't and there are many wicked women. Yet when we look at some of the greatest reasons for women's suffering in the world-- war, rape, abuse, gender inequality, abortion, infanticide, pornography, prostitution, incest-- we see that a most of them stem from some sort of unrighteous dominion or wickedness on the part of men.

It is interesting to note that the story of the concubine in Judges 19 greatly parallels the story of Lot and his two daughters in Genesis 19, in which Lot invites two angels (the Hebrew word can also mean "messengers") to stay at his home. During the night the men of Sodom (where Lot is dwelling) come to his house demanding the two men and his daughters so they can rape them. In Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 19:8 it says that Lot said,

"Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, plead with my brethren that I may not bring them out unto you; and ye shall not do unto them as seemeth good in your eyes; For God will not justify his servant in this thing; wherefore, let me plead with my brethren, this once only, that unto these men ye do nothing, that they may have peace in my house; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof."
The men of Sodom were angry with Lot and tried to break down the door but the two angels of God protected Lot and "...they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door" (Genesis 19:11). Then they told Lot that God had commanded them to destroy Sodom because of its wickedness but that they would take Lot and his family to safety. Lot tried to warn his son-in-laws but they wouldn't listen and so it was only Lot, his wife, and his two daughters whom the angels lead out of the city and into safety (Genesis 19:23). Not long after they left Sodom was destroyed by fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24).

The circumstances of Lot's daughters and the story of the concubine in Judges 19 are pretty much the same, yet the outcome is completely different. The main difference between them is that Lot's daughters were surrounded by righteous men who protected them and valued their worth. The concubine on the other hand was surrounded by men who were not willing to protect her and valued their safety above hers. As her husband, a man professing to follow God, the Levite should have protected and valued his concubine's life and fulfilled the mandate given to husbands to "... love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25). If Christ had been been there that night in Judges 19 he would have acted just like the holy men in Lot's story. He would have protected her, he would have put her safety above his own, and if it had come down to it-- he would have sacrificed himself on her behalf. Christ is the ultimate husband.

***
The feminist in me hates to admit it, but I don't believe that any amount of "empowering women" in the world will ever change any of the suffering women face until men cease being wicked and live up to their foreordained stewardship. True, we could overturn the balance of power and place women in control and men underneath but that has been attempted before and it hasn't ever made women's lives any easier. Women usually just end up replacing men as the tyrants. We could also take the approach that women don't need men and that they are better off without them. Yet the truth is that women will always love and need men, that isn't going to change, so no matter how we try to arrange things differently the truth will always be...

As long as men are wicked... women will suffer.

This woman's story has helped me see that one of the most important things we can do to improve women's status in the world and to prevent more suffering is to bear, raise and support righteous boys and men who love women like Christ loves women. Imagine how different the world would be for women if all men loved their wives like Christ loves the church and fulfilled their duties as fathers, brothers, and sons with righteousness and exactness. That would be a world in which it would be safe to be a woman.

I believe that the most "feminist" act any one can do is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ for nothing will have more power or influence for good in the lives of women.

It really is as simple as that.

What We Can Learn From Her:
  • When men are wicked, women suffer;
  • Abuse is intolerable in the eyes of God;
  • The righteous family, where husband and wife are equal partners, is the greatest source of protection and empowerment for women there is. The break down of the traditional family and society where "...every man [does] that which [is] right in his own eyes" leaves women vulnerable and unprotected;
  • As women it is important that we strengthen, support and teach men and boys to be righteous and to follow God's laws. If not women will suffer;
  • The most "feminist" act you can do is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ for nothing else will improve the status and lives of women more than that.
  • At the end of this woman's story the author of Judges entreats the reader to "consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds." God does not expect us to be silent on such matters. He expects us to speak out, to stand up, and not ignore the profound suffering of his children on this earth, especially his daughters.
Questions to Think About:
  • How do you think this woman's story could help women who have been abused or raped? What sort of lessons do you see in her story and how do they apply to your life?
  • Why does God allow such wickedness? How does he stand to see his children hurt and kill one another? How does he stand the suffering of his children?
  • Where do we place the blame in this story? Is it on the concubine for being a harlot? Is it on the Levite for turning her over to the men? Is it on the men who gang raped her? Is it on the father for letting his daughter go with a man he knew she didn't want to be with?
  • How can you strengthen the men in your life to be righteous men of God? How can you teach them to be true husbands? To love women the way Christ loves women?

14 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. I used to volunteer to work at the Center Against Sexual Assault. It is very hard and tragic to see the many things that happen to women and children in our own country. I believe you are right, as long as their are unrighteous men, women will suffer. I am amazed and often ill when I hear of the things that are done to women and children. The scriptures only warn us. It is up to each of us to listen and learn.

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  2. You have given me much to ponder today...

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  3. The quote " everyman (does) that which (is) right in his own eyes" was enough for me to really start thinking about some things. I know I will be back later to reread this wonderful post.

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  4. Oh my...I had no idea this story was even in the bible! I did see the similarities with the story of Lot. It's so heart-wrenching to see the suffering that so many go through and have gone through over the generations. I am so thankful to be surrounded by righteous men and hope they'll always be around!

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  5. i can barely read as I sit here with tears streaming down my face. I am so glad I decided to blog today. Thank you for reminding me of just how blessed I am and just how easy those "hard" decisions in my life really are. My mind is going a millions miles an hour... I cant really put my thoughts together. All I can say is THANK YOU

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  6. dear heather! thank you so so much for your comment on my blog. yes this story sounds all too familiar. it's really too hard for me to take - i work with it all the time, in africa and now here, but i will never get over the gut-wrenching reaction (and i hope i never do).

    but i wanted to say that i loved your comment and agree whole-heartedly. when i watch these girls and their lives, i think oh! how none of this would happen if Christ's words where actually heeded. and this in a country with the massive statue of Christ overhanging rio de janeiro's beaches... you think it would mean something, yes? it's awful to see how it is all abused, His name and Gospel and the precious precious truths He imparted. i agree that without proselytizing i can share His Gospel though - and i hope it's working. (i'm trying reallyr eally hard :)

    in any case many many thanks for your kind comment. and congrats on 2 years of this blog! what a great work you are doing.

    all theb est!
    julianne.

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  7. Hello Heather
    I read your post and I went back and re-read Judges 19 with my husband. We were both stunned at the content of this chapter. I pondered about this all day. I read the entire book of Judges to find out the meaning of this particular chapter. I prayed over this too, because every book in our scripture has a purpose and is for us to learn from.
    We question in our hearts "How could God allow this? Or how can God stand this?"

    God's ways are not are ways, but here is wisdom, I noted that through out the entire book of Judges, there is a continuing thread of information that tells you what is really going on. There is no law, no rules. The children of Israel had turned their back on God, this behavior is continuing throughout the Old Testament.

    •Judges 21: 25 in those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
    •Judges 19:1 AND it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah.
    •Judges 17:6 in those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

    This sad and sorry state of the children of Israel was prophesied to Moses before he died

    •Deut 31:16 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shall sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.
    •17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?
    •18 And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.

    There is nothing new under the sun:
    Helaman 12:2-5

    These words are harsh; the stories are severe, almost like being slapped. But who is doing the slapping. In effect we are when we turn away from God.
    I am not a feminist, but I am a woman and a daughter of God. I know about the abuses of women in our day and in history. What can we learn from these scripture? First and foremost, we identify ourselves as sons and daughters of God. To love and obey him with all of our heart and mind and soul. We obey his commandments; we endeavor to keep our covenants we have made with him. Love our neighbors as ourselves. Teach our children, both daughters and sons how to love and respect each other. Keep marriage sacred.
    I feel that if we only take a part of a story, we miss the whole point. Every person mentioned in the book of Judges was a victim. The Levite was a victim, the concubines' family was victims, they entrusted their daughter to this man. As you read further is Chapter 20, there is vengeance to be exacted. A whole lot of people were slaughtered. But in the end, they still did not come back to God.
    I know this is probably a simple comment, but I know that our Heavenly Father loves us passionately. Because of this He allows us to choose who we will serve. When we choose Him, blessings follow. We have trials, we also have tribulations. But He has said that his plans for us are to prosper us, and not to harm us.
    I would ask, have you or anyone ever been in a situation where your life or theirs has been endangered by their partners/spouses? What help can you offer? What can you do? Figure it out and do it. This is how to save a life.
    Thank you Heather for this insighful and eye opening post.

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  8. Thank you for sharing the video. I reposted on facebook and have asked for prayers.

    God bless you

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  9. This story always bothered me. I remember reading it for the first time in jr high and being angry and skeptical. What kind of a worthless husband throws his wife out to be raped to death? But as you said when men are wicked women will suffer.
    Part of me is also a feminist. Although I think I am a feminist like you. I believe that the most powerful and influential women are mothers. Workplace equality is not high on my agenda, but I do believe that women should be valued and treated with kindness. They should not be degraded or abused just because they are women. Every woman is a daughter of God and should be treated appropriately.
    I love what you said about raising righteous men and boys who treat women the way that Christ would treat women, because He sees each of us as His sister and loves us. As always, Christ is the answer.
    Have you ever read the Princess Sultana series? It's about a princess in Saudi Arabia. It talks about some terrible things that go on there and her efforts to empower other women. It was very interesting, if you have time I think you might enjoy it.
    Thanks for writing this post. It was fantastic.

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  10. This meant so much to me personally. Thank you for speaking about a topic that not many people will acknowledge. It is empowering to me, and women who have gone through these same experiences, when someone stands up and acknowledges the evil in these acts, and the hurt and pain it causes women. I am a survivor of rape, and I have thought that question over and over in my mind. Why did this happen? Why did Heavenly Father let this happen to me? Not to blame him for it, but to understand. I don't have an answer. I may never have one. But I feel a peace about it. I imagine that it was incredibly painful for Him to see that happen to me, the same way he feels about every other one of his daughters when they experience such evil. I feel a peace because I know that everything will be made right. I don't understand how you can ever get justice for such a heinous, evil act, but I trust that He will fix everything.

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  11. Heather,

    I LOVED the point you made that "The most "feminist" act you can do is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ for nothing else will improve the status and lives of women more than that." I don't think it's the only thing we can do to improve the status and lives of women, but I agree that it's the most important. Pondering on this post made me so grateful that my husband's mother, who is not someone one would typically define as a "feminist," raised my husband in such a way that he does cherish and protect me. I hope some day I can raise a son to similarly sacrifice for his wife. If every mother had that goal, just imagine how much less women would suffer in the world.

    Thank you for this uplifting insight!

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  12. RGG's quote from Deuteronomy should be highlighted. It really is the moral to this story. When you live among people where "...every man [does] that which [is] right in his own eyes," you can expect similar things to happen as what happened to this girl. From the Levite's perspective, he no doubt thought it a fitting end that his harlot wife die via the very means by which she caused him pain. Was he justified in giving her to the dogs? Certainly not! But there is a lesson to be learned here. When you live life as you please, without any regard to God or his laws, God is under no obligation to protect you from harm.

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  13. I thank you for writing this I read Judges 19 and like others was stunned and confused about its content. However I need to point out one error. In Genesis, Lot offers his virgin daughters to the men of Sodom IN PLACE of the two messengers. He asks them to take his daughters instead and do whatever they wanted to them if they would only leave the two men alone. But the men of Sodom didnt accept that and threatened to rape Lot as well so the two messengers protected them all supernaturally. Lot was in no hurry to protect his daughters but in this case God had sent angelic messengers who protected them when their father failed to, if it weren't for that they would have ended up exactly the same as the concubine.

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  14. Jesus in effect said, "I Am Second". He alluded to it.
    2nd Fiery Snake on a Pole. 2nd Manna (Heavenly Bread).
    Those who eat the snake's flesh and drink his poison will live and not die.
    But also, Jesus is the 2nd Concubine (Judges chapters 19-21).
    How does the song go, "You make me feel like, I'm locked out of Heaven."
    Jesus was locked outside and ravaged by evil men. But God(the husband) was not shocked because Isaiah chp 53 says it was God's plan. The concubine was cut up into 12 pieces just as the 12 Disciples were cutoff from the main vine Jesus upon his death. Judas(Benjamin) was the betrayer. Not that 65,000 Israelites had to die to avenge for the death of one concubine, but rather, Jesus (the concubine) died for the many. A concubine is an earthly woman who belongs to a man and receives no inheritance, whereas Jesus was a heavenly man who belonged to God and inherited all things from God.
    Jesus said, "I Am" Perhaps he alluded to 2nd.

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