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.)