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).
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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?