Judges 19: Shock
April 21, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Judges 19 begins with the repeated warning that things are decaying: “In those days there was no king in Israel” (v. 1). Without moral authority, without a commitment to God as the Judge, without a sense of what is right and what is wrong ruling, then the nation loses its way. Such was the case here, and Judges 19 is famous for its horrific description of rape, murder, and (strangely to our ears) inhospitality.
In summary, the author of Judges is telling us that Israel had become like Sodom. The story will sound eerily familiar to those who recall the earlier story of Sodom in the book of Genesis, and will ring alarm bells that Israel is becoming as much an embodiment of decadence as Sodom had been previously. The story is soon told.
A man had a concubine (v. 1), not a lawful wife but some slave chattel with whom he had relations (later he is called her master, v. 26-27). It was not any man, but a Levite (v. 1), a priest, who of all people should have known better than to have broken God’s template of married commitment in this seedy way. The stage is set for something going wrong by a cleric with a sex-slave. She has been unfaithful to him (v. 2)—unsurprisingly. He goes after her, finds her with her father (v. 3), who instead of rebuffing the advances of her master, invites him to spend five days whooping it up and partying together, drinking and eating (v. 4-8). Finally, his head splitting, the man refuses yet another night of drunken debauchery, and takes his concubine with him and begins his journey back home (v. 9-10).
He comes to Gibeah, but no one will take him in (v. 13-15). Like Sodom, inhospitality is a sign of something far worse. When we turn our backs on our neighbors, when we refuse to act as Good Samaritans, when we close our hearts and our minds to strangers, it is a sign that we are hardening our hearts to care for those from whom we can receive nothing in return. It is an “old man” who takes him into his heart (v. 16-21)—a member of a previous generation who is not best suited to provide hospitality, but who remembers the rightful duties of a host and takes in this guest.
But “worthless fellows” gather (v. 22). They want to gang rape the man—this man who, in another extraordinarily finely crafted touch of narration, the storyteller never names, indicating that he is unworthy of naming. The host attempts to do anything to prevent this happening, even offering up his own daughter instead (v. 23-24). What sort of man would do that? And if this older man is the best that is left in Gibeah, throwing his daughter to the wolves, what must the worst men in that town have been like? We can tell by their vicious attack on the Levite’s concubine, who the Levite sends out to them, and who for some reason they accept as fresh meat for their pleasure: they rape and abuse her all night (19:25-26).
The next morning she is found dead (19:27-28). The man gets up, simply says “Let’s go.” (What sort of man would speak to a woman who had been through an ordeal like that, let alone a woman with whom he was in one way or other close?) She does not reply for she cannot reply. Her hands are “on the threshold” (v. 27). She had been clawing her way, appealing, trying to get back into the house to safety. Wordlessly, the Levite takes his dead concubine with him (v. 28), and when he gets home he cuts her into twelve pieces and sends one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel (v. 29).
Understandably, the nation is in shock (v. 30). This bloody message was chilling—each part of the story that would have followed the pieces of the body would have horrified all who heard it.
Sometimes only a shock like this can wake up a nation, or a church, that something must be done. May we never let our devotion to God slide in this fashion. And may we seek him while he may be found, and realize that following God is good, beautiful, pleasant—and rejecting him leads to increasing horror and, yes, terror.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
To receive God Centered Life devotionals directly in your inbox, as well as other resources, enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this page and click "subscribe."