Monday, February 8, 2010

Week 2.4 Biblical Rape

Judges 19

If you have not, read it.

We discussed this class in Bible as Literature class and it was a surprisingly quiet session. I could tell this was the first time some of the students have ever seen this passage in their Bible. No one ever preaches it, that is for sure! So who can blame them for their silence?

The passage, as you can speaks of rape, murder, and gender differentiation.

I am in the process of asking Christians, through forum discussion and 1 on 1 to discuss this passage and its implications in the Bible for me. So I will update on the study if it bears fruit.

As a non-believer, I ask myself why is this passage in a holy and sacred book? The first, obvious answer is that the author is describing a historical event. This did in fact happen and the Levite did in fact cut up his concubine (alive?) and mail her pieces to the 12 tribes, and the 12 tribes did in fact go to war because of this display and event.

However. The event and actions of the Levite speak so much more, ojectively and textually than just a historical fact. It speaks of cultural traditions. For one, we know that in middle eastern societies, even to this day, people have the social demand that if a stranger comes to your town, you must offer him your hospitality for 3 days. So we know that the person who invited in the Levite was exhibiting a social duty. We also know that he of course would protect him against any attackers coming to his door.

But is not the Levite's concubine also a guest? Is not she also protected?

Apparently not. Which is where the problem begins. Why is the woman tossed out, a guest, and the guest's concubine? The host knew what these men were going to do, rape her. He also knew they had evil intents and would probably cause her deadly harm, besides the initial trauma of being gang raped. Yet he threw her out to them to be their toy all night. What does this say?

A lot. Now what does this say to someone who believes that the Bible is the guidebook for humanity? How does someone rationalize God's silence in a book that is supposedly the Word of God?

Reactions I gleaned from the class discussion? My professor said the first time she read it was when a friend of hers, who had been raped, read this passage for the first time and called her weeping and asking her "why is this in the Bible???" My professor said, shocked, she opened her bible and read it for her first time. She also wept. She didn't have an answer then, and doesn't have an answer now.


  1. I did read the verse, though I can't say I understood it. Is it coming out is support of rape, or is it just an example of the Israelites' indifference to it? Also, is this concubine supposed to be a prostitute, his girlfriend, or his wife? Either way, shocking that this thing got into the bible.

  2. A concubine is a type of wife. She's the possession of the husband, like a wife, just on a different level. Kings often have concubines, i.e., women they are married to but are on a lesser level than the Queen.

    My facination is with the silence of God. In many passages where evil is commented, god reacts and returns wrath. Here he is silent.

  3. Silent?

    The rest of Israel came in and laid waste to the whole damn town of Gibeah and because the tribe of Benjamin had gathered its warriors there, almost the entire damn tribe of Benjamin was destroyed as well.

    On top of that, the rest of the Israel swore that they would never allow their daughters to marry any of the surviving men of the tribe of Benjamin.

    The wives of the men of Benjamin then were kidnapped women from other nations -- nations that Israel had EXPLICITLY been told they were NOT to intermarry with.

    The first sentence in Judges 19 and the last in Judges 21 (where this particular story ends) tells us two things:

    One, why this disaster happened, and
    Two, why it was written down.

    Judges 19:1 "Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel"
    Judges 21:25 "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

    Israel had a king, the Lord God, but they had turned their back on him and ignored his commands for years. What then was the result of this?

    A Levite fails utterly in his duty, and the tribe of Benjamin goes from ~ 26,700 warriors to less than 2,000 and their cities and livestock were destroyed.

    What I don't see is the final disposition of the Levite who had the concubine.