Friday, August 29, 2008

Gang Rape & War

Judges 19-21. The picture above is supposed to be Gibeah, or at least one of them. There were apparently several of them.

This is not one of the favorite stories in Judges. It’s not Gideon with his trumpets, and the men who lap water like dogs. It’s not Samson with his strength, and the mildly erotic Delilah. It’s about rape, murder, war, and all sorts of unpleasantness.

19 tells the story of a Levite of Ephraim and his concubine. The concubine leaves him after a while, and goes back to Bethlehem. The man follows here, and they reconcile. After about a week they leave the father-in-law’s house, and they reach Gibeah. An old man offers them lodging after no one else has. At 19:22 things begin to get ugly. A mob of men ask for the stranger to come out so they can abuse him, i.e., commit a homosexual rape. The old man protests, and offers them his virgin daughter. This seems reminiscent of the story of Lot at this point, but Lot came out a bit better. So the Levite gives them his concubine. Now things are looking really bad for the concubine. Naturally she doesn’t survive the gang rape.

When the husband discovers the girl, and realizes that she’s dead, he cuts her body into 12 parts and sends one part to each of the 12 tribes, and asks if anything similar had ever been done in Israel.

Now is a good time to comment on this virgin thing. There seems to be a middle Eastern pre-occupation with virgins. Lot, and the old man here both offer their virgin daughters to a mob. There’s the Muslim thing with the 72 virgins (although some claim that it’s really 72 grapes or raisins). I think this is more of a power thing, piercing the hymen, controlling the girl, and so on, than an erotic thing. When Lot and the old man offer their daughters, they’re offering a form of submission to the mob.

At 20 it is basically decided to go to war with Benjamin, the tribe that controls Gibeah. After a three day battle, two days of which go badly for Judah and the other tribes, Benjamin is wiped out except for a small remnant.

At this point the other tribes start to feel sorry for Benjamin, and they decide that one of the tribes should not be wiped out. However, they’ve all pledged not to marry into Benjamin, so where does Benjamin get some girls?

21 tells what happens so that Benjamin can be supplied with women. One town did not show up, and did not take the pledge. So they attack the town for not showing up, and wipe out all of the people, including the married women, but spare the virgins. These are given to Benjamin.

Next up is I Samuel 8-31.