Chapter 19: Dividing in 12 Pieces
I almost want to say, “viewer discretion is advised” on this passage! Seriously it is probably one of the more messed up stories of the Bible. So there is that warning, before you read.
A Levite living in Ephraim gets a concubine (a mistress) from Bethlehem. She however is unfaithful to him and returns to her father’s house in Bethlehem. Four month later the Levite man gets his servant and starts after her. When he arrives there the concubine brings him into her father’s house and invites him to stay. The Levite man stays for 3 days and prepares to head back home, but the father insists that he stays for food and then he ends up staying until the fifth day, when he tries to convince him again, but after 5 days the Levite wants to leave, so he leaves with his servant and concubine.
During their trip back they pass the city of Jebus (later Jebus gets conquered by the Israelites and is renamed “Jerusalem”), which has Jebusites living there. The Levite’s servant suggests they stop for the night in Jebus, but the Levite refuses to stay in a city whose inhabitants aren’t Israelites, so they push on to the city of Gibeah.
At Gibeah, they go into the “down town” section and everyone refuses to take them in. In this time, it was custom for someone to offer a place to sleep at night. But no one seems to let them in, except an old man that comes in from among the fields. The old man asks him where he is from, and the Levite tells him and asks for just a place to stay for the night. The old man finds out that they are both from the hill country of Ephraim and offers to give him food as well. They arrive at the old man’s home and get something to eat and wash their feet, all in all they were “enjoying themselves”.
Just then, the house gets surrounded by a bunch of wicked men of the city. They practically pound the door down and demand the old man to send out the Levite that is staying with him. The reason for this? They “wicked men” want to rape the Levite man. I told you this was a pretty graphic chapter. This part of the story is from (verses 22-30).
So the old man responds to the wicked men:
“…I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house… here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now… and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not vile a thing.” (Judges 19:23-24)
The men refuse to listen, so the Levite sends out his concubine…
“…and they knew her, and abused her all night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (Judges 19:25)
She returns to the house, after a whole night of being gang raped. She falls down to the ground in front of the house where she remains unto daylight. The Levite then wakes up and comes outside to find her by the front door on the threshold. He tells her to get up, that they must be going now. She doesn’t respond, so he picks her up and puts her on his donkey and returns home. The chapter or verse does not mention anything about the state of the concubine, but from the looks of it, it appears she is dead when he loads her onto the donkey. So she was raped to death. I told you that I should put a “viewer/reader discretion is advised” on the first of this blog!
When the Levite returns home, he takes the concubine and cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends a piece to each tribe of Israel. When the Israelites find this, they respond with rage; “… there was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt…” (Judges 19:30)
Chapter 20: Benjamites Are Destroyed
So the story from the last passage carries on… A woman was gang raped to death and it seemed no one cared. But in this chapter we find out who did this horrible crime. So we know that the woman was cut up into 12 pieces and sent to every tribe of Israel, well they are horrified. At least someone cares now, right? Well we find out that it was the Benjamites that committed the crime. The other 11 tribes of Israel gather before the Lord at Mizpah to find out what happened.
The Levite explains the situation to the eleven tribes. He says that his concubine and him went to Gibeah to spend the night, during their visit the men in Gibeah intended to come after him but instead he handed over his concubine. She was killed like we read in the last chapter and then the Levite cut her into pieces and sent them to each region of Israel, because the crime was committed in Israel.
The 11 tribes of Israel unanimously decide that they are going to give the Gibeanites what they deserve for their heinous crime. So they go to the tribe of Benjamin and demand that they hand over the men from Gibeah who committed the crime. The Benjamites decide not to hand over the men, and instead prepare for war against the rest of Israel.
The Benjamites organize and have 26,000 swordsmen and 700 chosen men from Gibeah. The 700 chosen men were all left-handed and could sling a rock at a hair and not miss. Essentially these men were great warriors!
So to respond to this great number, the Israelites (the other 11 tribes) muster up 400,000 swordsmen and they gather at Bethel to inquire of the Lord who (of each tribe) should go to battle first. The Lord tells them that Judah should go first and they are practically wiped out. They lose 22,000 men! The Israelites then spend the day weeping, and encouraging each other to go back to battle. They ask God if they should go to battle again, and the Lord responds with a positive! The Israelites go to battle again and they lose another 18,000 men in battle! So they come back and weep and fast. They then ask God again, if they should go. They seem to be a bit disheartened, and the Lord tells them to go back to battle and this time the Benjamites would be delivered into their hands!
So the 11 tribes of Israel go up against the Benjamites again, this time with more strategy. They lose 30 men, but as the Israelites retreat, the Benjamites are struck from behind. They retreat, but the city of Gibeah is burned down. So the Benjamites retreat into the desert, and are followed and hunted down, the Benjamites lose 18,000 men and try to retreat another direction, where they are met by more of Israel. This time they lose another 5,000 men and then again another 2,000 men. All in all only 600 of the original 26,700 men escape and live in the desert for 4 months. While the 600 men escape and are in hiding the Israelites finish off killing ALL of the Benjamites, burning their cities and killing even their animals!
Chapter 21: Wives for the Benjamites
With only 600 Benjamite men in hiding, the rest of Israel gathers at Bethel to mourn the almost extinction of one of the tribes of Israel. The 11 tribes of Israel promise to not give any of their women to the Benjamites to marry. So now the tribe of Benjamin has no hope of continuing on, seeing as the only Bnjamites left are 600 men. All of the women and children have been wiped out.
The 11 tribes of Israel made an oath about not marrying any of their women to the Benjamites, and they all made a promise that if someone did not come to this meeting that they would be put to death. While mourning the tribes of Israel realize that the people of Jabesh Gilead are not there at Mizpah mourning with them. They decide they will be the solution to the problem. They have to put the people of Jabesh Gilead to death anyways because they broke the oath. So they decide to kill all of them and only spare the virgin woman and give those women to the tribe of Benjamin. The problem is that there are only four hundred women. But they bring these women to the tribe of Benjamin as a peace offering.
The tribe of Israel mourns some more, because there are still 200 men without wives, but they remember that there is an annual festival that happens at Shiloh. So they instruct the Benjamites to go an hide in the vineyards of Shiloh and when the girls come out to dance, they can snatch them up and take them as wives. If their fathers or brothers have a problem with this, the Israelites will calm them down, and ask them to do this favor so the Benjamites can have wives.
That is what happened and the Benjamites can continue on… the chapter ends.