Even more on “The Worst Story Ever Told”

Marty has been leading us through a sermon series on Judges 19.   I have been thinking about the middle portion of the story, where the Levite cuts the concubine up into 12 pieces and sends them to all the tribes of Israel. 

First off, I have been thinking about power dynamics, rape, and homosexuality.  Stories like this one are often used to demonstrate the “abonimation” of homosexuality.   Like many rapes, this is not really about gender, homosexuality, and heterosexuality at all.  It’s about the Benjamites demonstrating total domination over the visitors. 

If it was a sexual thing we’d expect a gender preference to be expressed.  The Benjamites ask for the man at first, and they initially refuse the women.  I’d suggest that this refusal occurs because the women are considered to be of lower status than the men.  Ultimately, the bandits “settle” for the concubine.

We’re not told why they end up settling on the concubine when they initially refused that idea from the owner of the home.  One possibility which I admit there is only a smidgen of evidence for:

Perhaps they somehow barricaded themselves in after throwing the concubine out. 

My smidgen of evidence: the concubine is on the door step at dawn and they do not come out until then, though it seems that she has been lying there for some time.   This image is even more horrible: the idea that the cowards inside would not let her in out of fear that the bandits would follow her in.

At any rate, my next question about all this:

Was the concubine dead at that point?  I have a few small pieces of evidence in this direction, as well:

#1) Scripture doesn’t say that she was dead.

#2) It says that he put her on the donkey.  “Put”, at least in English, doesn’t imply that it was much work to get her to stay there.

#3) As a Jewish guy, presumably informed on the scriptures, would he have touched a corpse at this point?

The Jewish people had quite script expectations around not touching dead flesh.

Of course, he had to touch her dead body at some point, as he chopped her up.  But I wonder if she died on the journey home and that this pushed him over the edge into madness.  It’s one thing to suppose that he had possession of his faculties if he’d only sent the corpse to the 11 other tribes.  Strangely, scripture states that he sent pieces of her to all 12 tribes.  If he was rational, what would be the point of sending it to the Benjamites?

It’s interesting that the whole dead-flesh thing never even comes up.  By our standards today, I’d feel pretty gross and manipulated if somebody sent me a chunk of a human body.  It was a much bigger deal for them to have touched a dead body.  Yet nobody gripes to the Levite about this.  I wonder why?

Would readers at the time take this is as yet another sign of how decadent that society as a whole had become?  Did they believe the Benjamites sent the pieces of the concubine?  Were they manipulated into such a rage that they never stopped to realize what they had done?

I don’t know.  I don’t even have a teeny-weeny piece of evidence in this direction.

My last thought on all this:

Fast foreward a bunch of centuries.   Jesus sits having dinner with his disciples.  They were versed in the scriptures.  When Jesus says “This is my flesh” Do the disciples think about the Levite?

It’s an startling comparison between the new covenant and the old.  In the first story, the man chops up the woman whom he didn’t marry.  The pieces of her flesh lead to the 12 tribes focusing on each other, going to war.

In the new version, the man is offering his flesh to the people who will come to be described as his bride.  (The church)  This flesh is not meant to antagonize us into making war with each other.  Rather, we’re supposed to eat it.  And in eating it, we realize that we are the enemy, or atleast we were before we took him into us.  (I’m not suggesting that the literal act of taking communion saves us.  I’m suggesting that communion is a representation of taking Jesus into our hearts, and that this saves us.)


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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