An Outrage

Judges 19

Painting of the Levite’s Dead Concubine

We don’t know her name. She was from Bethlehem in Judah and the only daughter of her father. A Levite man saw her and took her to be his concubine. We don’t know long they were together before she cheated on him and left him. She returned to her father in Bethlehem. Four months passed and then the Levite went to Bethlehem to persuade her to return to him. He spoke kindly to her and succeeded in persuading her to go with him.

She brought him to his father’s house. The older man was happy to meet him and he invited him and his servant to stay for a while. Finally, after staying there longer than he planned, the Levite, his concubine and servant left on their journey to the the remote mountains of Ephraim where he was from. The concubine’s father had advised them to stay until morning and set off on their journey the following morning because the day was almost over but the Levite insisted on leaving.

It was getting dark so the Levite’s servant suggested that they stayed in the city of the Jebusites but the Levite refused, saying, “We will not turn aside here into a city of foreigners, who are not of the children of Israel; we will go on to Gibeah.” Instead, he decided that they would spend the night in spend the night in Gibeah or in Ramah. The tribe of Benjamin lived in Gibeah. The Levite, his concubine and servant were forced to stay in the open square of the city because no one would take them into his house to spend the night.

An old man saw them, inquired about them and invited them to lodge at his house for the night. He had a daughter. They were having a pleasant time when the men of the city, perverted men came to the house, surrounded it and banged on the door and demanded that the old man send out the Levite so that they could have sexual relations with him.

This idea was so heinous and repulsive to the old man that he was willing to send out the man’s his own virgin daughter and the man’s concubine for them to “humble them, and do with them as you please,” rather than do something so vile and wicked to the man who was his guest. The men refused to listen to him so the Levite took his concubine and brought her out to them. He probably figured it was either that or have them crowd break down the door and take him by force. It was either her or him.

These perverted men raped and abused this poor women all night and until morning. It was when the sun began to break that they finally let her go. Somehow, she managed to find her way to the man’s house as the day was dawning and fell down at the door where her master, the Levite found her.

We learn that the Levite arose in the morning which suggests that he had slept. How could he manage to sleep knowing what was being done to his concubine? He went out and saw her lying there door of the house with her hands on the threshold. What does he do? He says to her, “Get up and let us be going.” She doesn’t answer. She’s dead.

He still shows no outrage or sorrow. Instead, he lifts her onto the donkey and returns to his own home where he dismembers her, dividing her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sends her throughout all the territory of Israel.

I have a real problem with what happened to this poor woman. And I blame him. If he had listened to her father and stayed until morning, they would have made the journey without having to stop over and she would still be alive. If he had listened to the servant and spent the night in the city of the Jebusites instead of allowing his prejudice toward them to get the better of him, she would still be alive. It would have been better for her if he hadn’t gone after her when she left him. She would still be alive.

How could he have taken her and allowed those men of the city to gang-rape and violate her like that? And how could he so shamefully and dispassionately treat her like that when he saw her lying there the morning after her ordeal? Why didn’t he treat her kindly like when he tried to get her to go back to him and refuse to let any harm come to her? Why didn’t he take her body back to her father and let the old man give her a proper burial? Why didn’t he tell the other tribes of Israel what happened to her without dismembering her?

What happened to this woman was an outrage–and the outrage wasn’t only committed by the men of Gibeah but also by the man who was supposed to protect her. I can’t imagine what must have gone through her mind when he took her and put her outside so that those men could violate her. It was he whom they were after, not her and not the servant or the man’s daughter. How would he have liked to be abused all night until morning the way she was?

The woman felt that she would be safe with this man just as he felt that he would be safe among his own but they were both wrong. She was thrown out of the house and into the mob of perverse men. And as if the horrific rape wasn’t enough, she was cut up into twelve pieces and mailed out. How could he have stood there, taken his knife and done that to her? What kind of man was he? And how would her father who had been so hospitable and welcoming to him have felt if he had seen what he had allowed to happen to her and what he did to her afterwards. I hope that the old man never found out.

This is one of the most disturbing accounts in the Bible. What happened to the concubine was an outrage which should never have happened. She would still be alive if she had never met the Levite or returned to him. And it’s ironic that the people who received her limbs displayed more outrage than the Levite. His cold, dispassionate and callous response to her when she was lying there is most likely the reason why she left him in the first place. She shouldn’t have cheated on him, though. She should have just left.

And when he showed up four months later to ask her to reconcile, what promises did he give her? Clearly, she believed that things would be different between them. That he had changed but , unfortunately for her, she was wrong. There was no love on his part and that was obvious from the way he treated her. If she had refused to go back with him, she would still be alive.

What happened to the concubine was an outrage. She deserved better. Her death was avenged but what about the man responsible for what happened to her? I think he should have been held accountable somehow. Instead of throwing her to the wolves, he could have called out to God for help.

What this story has taught me is that people look out for themselves at the expense of others. They allow their prejudices to cloud their judgment. Instead of turning God, whom they profess to serve, they do what they think is right in their own eyes, even if that means giving into evil. A man’s honor is placed above that of a woman’s. Rather than have a man be violated, it’s better to have a young woman or virgin be abused instead. The rights of women were bypassed in favor of the men’s. Yet, the woman was made in God’s image too. Her rights should not be trampled upon but defended.

We don’t hear the concubine or the old man’s daughter speak. We only hear the men’s voices. In some places in the world, the voices of the men are louder or listened more to than those of the women’s. When is that going to change?

May we continue to speak out against violence against women and for those whose voices have forever been silenced. May we always seek to do what is right and acceptable in God’s sight and shun evil.

7 comments

  1. This story reminds me of why, feminists and atheist alike will accuse God of being patriarchal — which HE isn’t. Why were women always used as bargaining sacrifice for safety? If it wasn’t Abraham, it was Lot, or Isaac and of course the men in this story. Apparently, they don’t think women should be protected, at least not at the expense of men’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know why they didn’t cry out to God for protection instead of trying to appease the mob by offering them the women. Lack of faith in God led to these kinds of acts. In Lot’s case, the angels blinded the men. They didn’t allow Lot to put his daughters out there. In the case of the Levite, he was supposed to be a priest, why didn’t he pray and ask God for protection not just for himself but for everyone in the house?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your retelling of this story, also reminds me, that a man going the extra mile to get a woman, doesn’t mean he loves her or he would go the extra mile *for* her.
    Mostly, it’s just about reclaiming his possession to satisfy his ego/pride.
    Of course, the poor woman thought, “Oh, he must love me so, if he came all the way here to see me. He even spoke to my father!” What a sham!
    Sometimes, I wonder how God could stomach all these atrocities, because this is one of those stories, I just can’t stomach twice. Reading it once was traumatic enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it’s a very traumatic account. The concubine believed whatever he told her when he went to win her back. If she had refused, she would still have been alive. The things that God had to see. In those days the people did what was right in their own eyes and not was right in His. The last few chapters in the book of Judges are difficult to read, especially that chapter with the concubine. I’m reading the book of Ruth which is such a blessing. It took place during the time of the Judges but we see that there were still decent people like Naomi and her family and Boaz. So, after reading Judges, Ruth is a joy to read. And a reminder that love, kindness, generosity, goodness, loyalty and decency still existed in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

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