Today’s reading begins with the tribe of the Danites luring away Micah’s priest and concludes with the conclusion of the conflict people the congregation of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin.
In yet another instance of the depravity of the Israelite people during the time of the Judges, today’s reading contains wickedness and brutality. In the reading for today is the story of the Levite passing through the land of Benjamin in the city of Gibeah. A certain priest was traveling through the land of Benjamin on his way to the land of Ephraim. It had become evening and the time for traveling for the day was coming to an end. A certain elderly man in the city of Gibeah in keeping with the traditions of hospitality of the Hebrew people welcomed the Levite traveler into his home to stay for the evening before they continued on their journey.
Late in the evening, certain men of Gibeah came to the house of the elderly man and told him that they wanted him to put out the man they had seen come into his home because they wanted to rape him. The elderly man pleaded with his fellow townspeople to go home, but the men were persistent. The elderly man even offered up his own virgin daughter and the concubine of the Levite staying with him as a way to satisfy the depraved sexual appetites of the men. When they refused even this offer, the Levite opened the door of the man’s house and forcibly threw out his concubine to the wicked men of Gibeah. The men raped and abused the woman all night long and when morning came, she lie dead at the entry to the door of the elderly man.
When the Levite had risen and was getting ready to leave he then came out of the house to find his concubine dead at the entry of the house. The Levite then placed the body of his dead concubine on his donkey and made his way home. Upon his arrival home, the Levite cut his dead concubine into 12 pieces and sent pieces of her throughout the land of Israel. The people of Israel were horrified about the story of the Levites and finding that it was the men of Gibeah who had killed her, the people sought to punish the men of Gibeah. The tribe of Benjamin instead of offering up the men of Gibeah to the congregation of Israel for judgment and punishment, fought against the other tribes of Israel and eventually the people of Israel destroyed the fighting men of Benjamin.
The evil of this passage is shocking, from the men of Gibeah wanting to rape a visitor to their town, to the elderly man offering up his own daughter and the concubine of his visitor as a compromise, to the Levite throwing his concubine to the men, to the rape of the concubine until her death, to the callous treatment by the Levite of his dead concubine; this passage wreaks of depravity, callousness, disconcern, and wickedness. This is one of the most shocking instances of the depths of depravity that the Israelites had sunk to in their brief time of freedom in the Promised Land.
Although the next reading rightly describes the remainder of the story, it’s best to complete the horror of what is the Judges in this post.
The bad blood between the congregation of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin was so great that the Israelites refused to give any of their daughters to anyone in Benjamin as a wife. Not wanting to exterminate an entire tribe of their brethren, the congregation of Israel sought for wives for the young men of Benjamin to bring up offspring and thus preserve the Benjaminites.
The solution to the dilemma of wives for the young men of Benjamin was to search for a city who had not offered up fighting men to take on the tribe of Benjamin, kill all of the men including all young men and boys and all married women of the city of Jabesh-gilead and give the virgin women of the city as wives to the remaining tribe of Benjamin.
The depravity of the Israelites is almost absolute at this point. The writer sums up horrors of this tragic book with the brief cold concluding verse:
Judges 21:25 (ESV): In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.