Judges 19 Gang rape and murder in the Bible

or That incident in Gibeah

Of all the deviant sex in the Bible this is probably the most shocking. A gang rape and murder, war for justice, and the abduction of wives for the survivors. All of this slaps the first time reader in the face. No one told us this passage existed. No one prepared us for the shocking information about how far the tribes had sunk.

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. Judg. 21:25 

The purpose of the blog is to discus the portions of the Bible that are rarely discussed in church. Mostly because there are usually children in the room. This is one of those truly appalling things that no one wants to expose young children to.

You will notice as you read this very long passage that Phinehas is still alive. He was the grandson of Aaron, and had served in the tabernacle in the wilderness [Num 25]. This is just one of the many indications that the book of Judges is not in chronological order. In English we want everything to be in order. Our vowels alone force us into a kind of mental submission or state, as all things are only past present or future. Consequently it is very bothersome for the English reading mind when things are not in chronological order. But this is not the case in Hebrew. In Hebrew the action is either finished, on going, or several intensities of causation.  So things tend to be in order of importance, or significance, not chronology. Or in the case of the gang rape and murder in Gibeah, it has been left to last because it is so shocking and so abhorrent that it could not be anywhere but last. It has been push to last because no one wants to deal with it. None of us ever want to talk of our family, nation, or our groups short coming. But this is also too horrendous to leave out.

Judg. 19levite

1  In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.  2 And his concubine became angry with him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months.  3 Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of asses. And he came to her father’s house; and when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him.  4 And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days; so they ate and drank, and lodged there.  5 And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go; but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law,  “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.”  6 So the two men sat and ate and drank together; and the girl’s father said to the man,  “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.”  7 And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law urged him, till he lodged there again.  8 And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart; and the girl’s father said,  “Strengthen your heart, and tarry until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them.  9 And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him,  “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening; pray tarry all night. Behold, the day draws to its close; lodge here and let your heart be merry; and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.” 

10  But the man would not spend the night; he rose up and departed, and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled asses, and his concubine was with him.  11 When they were near Jebus, the day was far spent, and the servant said to his master,  “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites, and spend the night in it.”  12 And his master said to him,  “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel; but we will pass on to Gibe-ah.”  13 And he said to his servant,  “Come and let us draw near to one of these places, and spend the night at Gibe-ah or at Ramah.”  14 So they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down on them near Gibe-ah, which belongs to Benjamin,  15 and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibe-ah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city; for no man took them into his house to spend the night. 

16   And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening; the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibe-ah; the men of the place were Benjaminites.  17 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the wayfarer in the open square of the city; and the old man said,  “Where are you going? and whence do you come?”  18 And he said to him,  “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah; and I am going to my home; and nobody takes me into his house.  19 We have straw and provender for our asses, with bread and wine for me and your maidservant and the young man with your servants; there is no lack of anything.”  20 And the old man said,  “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants; only, do not spend the night in the square.”  21 So he brought him into his house, and gave the asses provender; and they washed their feet, and ate and drank. 

22   As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, base fellows, beset the house round about, beating on the door; and they said to the old man, the master of the house,  “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.”  23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them,  “No, my brethren, do not act so wickedly; seeing that this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing.  24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing.”  25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them; and they knew her, and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go.  26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light. 

27   And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold.  28 He said to her,  “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her upon the ass; and the man rose up and went away to his home.  29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and laying hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.  30 And all who saw it said,  “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.” 

In the ancient world there were no Inns or Hotels. When one traveled they had to depend on others to take them in. There were cities that were on trade routes that were set up to take care of travelers. Jebus was one such city. But once one was off the beaten path, they needed to find someplace to stay. This Levite and his concubine would probably been safer with the pagans. These trade rout cities couldn’t afford a bad reputation. They made their money caring for and protecting merchants and travelers.

If you are new to the blog you may be wondering why would a Levite, or man of God have a concubine?  The word has changed its meaning in 3000 years. She is simply that second kind of wife, the wife without a dowry, we discussed in, Three Kinds of Wives.

There is a question as to why she left her husband in the first place. In the Hebrew it says that she played the harlot, then ran away. But the LXX i.e. Greek translation, say that she was merely angry with him. The later seems the more likely because of the way her father and the Levite behave toward her. There is no condemnation, and no suggestion of punishment. There is no way, this side of the veil to arrive at a solution to this question. We just don’t know.

Several things strike us as very odd, because of the great cultural difference between us and 3000 years ago Israelite customs. To our cultural sensibilities this seems unchivalrous, but we see it over and over in the Hebrew text. Lot offered his virgin daughters [Gen 19]. Abraham offered Sarah to the Pharaoh and Abimelech , and never mentioned that she was his wife [Gen 12 & 20]. As did Isaac with Rebecca [Gen. 26]. This giving up of the women to protect oneself was just a normal part of their culture. If he had defended himself and not put his wife out he might have just been murdered as well. That seems to be what the old Ephraimite man who is sojourning there among the Benjaminites thinks. After all the men asked for the man, that they might KNOW him, which is a euphemism for sodomy. The old Ephraimite man actions seem just a shocking to us, as he offered his own daughters. This is because in the ancient world hospitality was of so great importance that one was expected to do all they can to protect their guest. There are many moralizing stories in mythology and legend of the god or king looking like a normal person, checking out how travelers are treated by the people. Then great rewards or great retributions were then given.

As for the cutting the body in pieces and sending the parts though out the land.  This seems absolutely bizarre to us. But it was not all that uncommon. There was no judge, nor prophet, nor king, for this man to turn to.  They had no photography, no newspapers, no radio, and no TV. This is his only way of showing how abused she was before she was killed. The only way of getting the attention of enough people to do something about it. If nothing was done more people may have fallen to this repugnant treatment. There must be justice in any society, if it is to last.

Judg. 20

1   Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beer-sheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah.  2 And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand men on foot that drew the sword.  3  (Now the Benjaminites heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said,  “Tell us, how was this wickedness brought to pass?”  4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said,  “I came to Gibe-ah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night.  5 And the men of Gibe-ah rose against me, and beset the house round about me by night; they meant to kill me, and they ravished my concubine, and she is dead.  6 And I took my concubine and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel; for they have committed abomination and wantonness in Israel.  7 Behold, you people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here.” 

8   And all the people arose as one man, saying,  “We will not any of us go to his tent, and none of us will return to his house.  9 But now this is what we will do to Gibe-ah: we will go up against it by lot,  10 and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to bring provisions for the people, that when they come they may requite Gibe-ah of Benjamin, for all the wanton crime which they have committed in Israel.”  11 So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man. 

12   And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying,  “What wickedness is this that has taken place among you?  13 Now therefore give up the men, the base fellows in Gibe-ah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brethren, the people of Israel.  14 And the Benjaminites came together out of the cities to Gibe-ah, to go out to battle against the people of Israel.  15 And the Benjaminites mustered out of their cities on that day twenty-six thousand men that drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibe-ah, who mustered seven hundred picked men.  16 Among all these were seven hundred picked men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair, and not miss.  17 And the men of Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand men that drew sword; all these were men of war. 

18   The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel, and inquired of God,  “Which of us shall go up first to battle against the Benjaminites?” And the LORD said,  “Judah shall go up first.” 

19   Then the people of Israel rose in the morning, and encamped against Gibe-ah.  20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibe-ah.  21 The Benjaminites came out of Gibe-ah, and felled to the ground on that day twenty-two thousand men of the Israelites.  22 But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day.  23 And the people of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until the evening; and they inquired of the LORD,  “Shall we again draw near to battle against our brethren the Benjaminites?” And the LORD said,  “Go up against them.” 

24   So the people of Israel came near against the Benjaminites the second day.  25 And Benjamin went against them out of Gibe-ah the second day, and felled to the ground eighteen thousand men of the people of Israel; all these were men who drew the sword.  26 Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept; they sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.  27 And the people of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,  28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying,  “Shall we yet again go out to battle against our brethren the Benjaminites, or shall we cease?” And the LORD said,  “Go up; for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.” 

29   So Israel set men in ambush round about Gibe-ah.  30 And the people of Israel went up against the Benjaminites on the third day, and set themselves in array against Gibe-ah, as at other times.  31 And the Benjaminites went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and as at other times they began to smite and kill some of the people, in the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibe-ah, and in the open country, about thirty men of Israel.  32 And the Benjaminites said,  “They are routed before us, as at the first.” But the men of Israel said,  “Let us flee, and draw them away from the city to the highways.”  33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar; and the men of Israel who were in ambush rushed out of their place west of Geba.  34 And there came against Gibe-ah ten thousand picked men out of all Israel, and the battle was hard; but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was close upon them.  35 And the LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel; and the men of Israel destroyed twenty-five thousand one hundred men of Benjamin that day; all these were men who drew the sword.  36 So the Benjaminites saw that they were defeated.  The men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, because they trusted to the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibe-ah.  37 And the men in ambush made haste and rushed upon Gibe-ah; the men in ambush moved out and smote all the city with the edge of the sword.  38 Now the appointed signal between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that when they made a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city 39 the men of Israel should turn in battle. Now Benjamin had begun to smite and kill about thirty men of Israel; they said,  “Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle.”  40 But when the signal began to rise out of the city in a column of smoke, the Benjaminites looked behind them; and behold, the whole of the city went up in smoke to heaven.  41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed, for they saw that disaster was close upon them.  42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel in the direction of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them, and those who came out of the cities destroyed them in the midst of them.  43 Cutting down the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibe-ah on the east.  44 Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor.  45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon; five thousand men of them were cut down in the highways, and they were pursued hard to Gidom, and two thousand men of them were slain.  46 So all who fell that day of Benjamin were twenty-five thousand men that drew the sword, all of them men of valor.  47 But six hundred men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and abode at the rock of Rimmon four months.  48 And the men of Israel turned back against the Benjaminites, and smote them with the edge of the sword, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns which they found they set on fire. 

None of this ugly war would have been necessary if the people of Benjamin had just turned the criminals over for justice. By refusing to give up the criminals, and protecting them from justice, they made themselves guilty, ex post facto, as accessories after the fact. Whenever a group, tribe, or society behaves in this manner there is nothing to be done but for others to wipe them out. The neighboring groups, tribes, and societies cannot permit a group of thugs to run free, preying on innocent people, not then and not now. Predators must be taken out, or none will be safe. On top of this there is in the book of Geneses the similar tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, where the sin was the same, inhospitality to travelers, and the perverse desire to KNOW them. The rest of Israel does not want the kind of judgment that fell on both cities to be delivered upon them as well.

A general assembly of the tribes is called. This is a rarity in the history of Israel.  Other than the three Holy Days where one is supposed to present themselves to the LORD at the Tabernacle/Temple, this is one of a very few times they actually met.  It is also stands out as one of the few times that there is unity in what was to be done. However they plan the war with an extremely bad stratagem. They rely on their numbers and the fact that they were in the right to carry the day. Swords and slings will not take down stone walls. Laying siege to a stronghold is always a costly endeavor, food must be provided for the troops on the outside, while patients is needed to starve the inhabitants out. To often we have been taught by Hollywood to think that if we are in the right we will have victory in a hour or two. But this is not the reality of war. Almost all the battles in all the history of God’s people there are great losses before a great victory. God still expects us to come up with a winning strategy. It was not until they beseech God for a blessing do they came up with a winning strategy and the men of Benjamin are lead away from the stronghold where they are defeated. Wicked men often see great success before they are brought down. But when divine vengeance is taken, there is no outrunning it.

Judg. 21

1   Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah,  “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.”  2 And the people came to Bethel, and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly.  3 And they said,  “O LORD, the God of Israel, why has this come to pass in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel?”  4 And on the morrow the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.  5 And the people of Israel said,  “Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying,  “He shall be put to death.”  6 And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother, and said,  “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day.  7 What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?” 

8   And they said,  “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly.  9 For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there.  10 So the congregation sent thither twelve thousand of their bravest men, and commanded them,  “Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones.  11 This is what you shall do; every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall utterly destroy.”  12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins who had not known man by lying with him; and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan. 

13   Then the whole congregation sent word to the Benjaminites who were at the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them.  14 And Benjamin returned at that time; and they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead; but they did not suffice for them.  15 And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16   Then the elders of the congregation said,  “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?”  17 And they said,  “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe be not blotted out from Israel.  18 Yet we cannot give them wives of our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn,  “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.”  19 So they said,  “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”  20 And they commanded the Benjaminites, saying,  “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards,  21 and watch; if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and seize each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.  22 And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them,  ‘Grant them graciously to us; because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’”  23 And the Benjaminites did so, and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off; then they went and returned to their inheritance, and rebuilt the towns, and dwelt in them.  24 And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance. 

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. 

 

The only solution to the population decline of the tribe of Benjamin was wives.  They turned to the law of the captive woman as the only hope. This is the only time in Scripture where this law is mentioned as having been used.

First because the people of Jabesh-gilead did not look to the greater security of the nation, and they had refused to stand up for justice, the entire village was destroyed and everyone in it killed except for 400 virgins. But that wasn’t enough women so they took a further 200 dancers from a festival not named. However it would seem to be Sukkot/Tabernacles as it is next to the vineyards, rather than Passover or Pentecost that had to do with wheat and barley harvest. The dance was at Shiloh were the tabernacle was, and the only women ever mentioned as dancing in the temple were the Almeh. They are in Psa 68, where the LORD is anthropomorphized as a triumphal king in procession where the alamot danced, playing their finger cymbals on the way to the temple. We know they also sang in the tabernacle/temple as Psalm 9 and Psalm 46 were written for them to sing. 

. . . the singers in front, the minstrels last, between them maidens/Alamot playing timbrels: Psa. 68:25

It’s hard to imagine a whole tribe being rebuilt from traumatized people. The 600 men have lost their wives children and the tribes stronghold has been burned. The women are all captives wives and although that means they can never be divorced, it also means they have been taken against their wills. However the tribe is so small now that land that had once belong to 45,600 men, now belongs to only 600, so at least these poor girls have been taken by men of means. All in all, things would not have had to have been so underhanded had they not made hasty vows in the first place.

All this explains Saul’s statement given almost 350 years later that the consequences of these actions are still in the tribes memory, or at least the city of Gibeah, for that was Saul home town. [1 Sam. 10:26 ]

 Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my family the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?” 1 Sam. 9:21

The idea that a Benjaminite could become the king is absurd to Saul.

As we sit here at the end on the Time of the Gentiles, waiting for the next greater higher Kingdom, every where we look the Kingdom of Heaven has sunk into a deep sleep of false doctrine. Because the Bible is no longer our king. We no longer view it as God’s Word. They are not the Ten Commandments, but rather the ten suggestions. Our spiritual leaders are making things up as they go. You can find a church where every gross perversion is allowed and or excused, the feel good about yourselves churches. Corruptions is everywhere.

We cannot allow gross sin in our members. The guilty are not to be protected, but rather turned over to the authorities. Neither should anyone make hasty vows.  Never vow to pray or study, when you can never know what life will bring. There are a whole lot of spiritual leaders who ask for this kind of commitment. But as is plainly clear, unless you know what your future is, these hasty vows are unwise.

All you need to walk with God is private study and prayer, no one needs to vow to do this. It is just personal discipline, we choose everyday a million times a day whether we will walk with God or the world.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, study the great men of God who came before.  Who suffered and even died to pass on this great faith. No, they were not perfect, their doctrine is not pure in this time of corruption. Learn from their mistakes, and move on to a higher place. As Einstein said he had see father because he stood on the shoulders of giants. We need to stand on the shoulder of the theological giants to see spiritually farther. (And some of those giants are the same people; Sir Isaac Newton, M de Cheseaux etc.)

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