I love the Bible, including the Old Testament, even including the book of Judges, which is chock full of really evil, disgusting acts and customs. Judges is a great opportunity for those who hate Jesus Christ to denigrate the Bible. All they have to do is conflate the evil with the scripture itself instead of putting the onus where it belongs….in the hearts of the doers of evil, in my heart, and yours. With such a plethora of evil acts and customs to choose from, one incident in particular disgusted me the most.
A Levite–of the priesthood clan–had a concubine, a woman he was cohabitating with without marriage. She was stepping out on him, so he sent her away, back to her father’s house. After 4 months he wanted her back, so he journeyed to her father’s house. After a number of days there, he took her with him and started back home. But the hour was late, and they stopped in a town called Gibeah, which was inhabited by Israelites of the clan of Benjamin. They were going to camp out in the town square, thinking that was safe, when an old man returning from the fields saw them. The custom of hospitality was strong in him, and he invited the Levite, his concubine, and his servant to stay with him, because the town was not safe.
“So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank. As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, 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.’ And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, ‘No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.’But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go 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.” Judges 19:21-25
Note that the prohibition on homosexual acts was so strong that the old man was willing to sacrifice two innocent women to the crowd. The abuse of the concubine was so awful that she was dead when they opened the door in the morning. How did the Levite–remember, the clan of priests–react? If you think the preceding part was bad, and it was, it gets worse. “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. He said to her, ‘Get up, let us be going.’ But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home.” Judges 19:27-28
“Her master” makes it sound like she was a slave, but the text referred to the Levite, when he was with her father, as the father’s son-in-law. I don’t know the significance of those different designations. Was she a slave, concubine, or wife? I think the point may be that everyone was confused in that time, we will see that everyone just did as they pleased. The next act is shocking to our modern sensibilities. “And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 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‘.”- Judges 19:29-30
The upshot of that atrocity and his (to us) grotesque message to the 12 tribes of Israel was war, of 11 of the tribes against the 12th, Benjamin. The people of Benjamin were asked to give up the offenders. “And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, ‘What evil is this that has taken place among you? Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.’ But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel.”– Judges 20:12-13. Tribalism at its finest! It might be that the Lord was judging Benjamin and using the rest of the tribes to purge the evil, but if so, it cost the other tribes at least 40,000 dead soldiers. The cost for Benjamin was even greater. “So all who fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword, all of them men of valor. But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. And the men of Israel turned back against the people of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, the city, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns that they found they set on fire.” Judges 20:46-48. 25,000 soldiers and the inhabitants of the towns of Benjamin!!
Whew, you would hope that’s the end of atrocities and customs which turn our modern stomachs. But it isn’t. The whole congregation of the remaining tribes met in a conclave, “an assembly to the Lord” they called it, though it doesn’t look likely that the Lord would bless this assembly. They decided to find wives for the 600 survivors of Benjamin army. But how? When the congregation was assembled, it was found that the inhabitants of one town had not sent any delegates. That furnished the excuse justification. “So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, ‘Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.’ And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.” Judges 21:10-12.
There’s more, if you have the stomach for it. Does all this make the Bible, or those who believe in it evil? Was God in any of this, or was it a lesson of what happens when God is not guiding human beings? The last verse of Judges is, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”- Judges 21:25. The king is the Lord.