Outrage in Benjamin
Open Your Bible
Judges 19:1-30, Jeremiah 8:18-9:3, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Editor’s Note: Some passages in Judges deal in subject matter that might be especially painful for some readers. Though many of the wounds we receive in this life are deeply personal and unimaginably painful, when they appear in God’s Word, we are reminded that He sees them. Whenever sin is addressed in Scripture—whether through teaching or story—it comes to us in the context of God’s unwavering commitment to bring an end to all evil in this world through the finished work of Christ (Revelation 21:3-4). We are praying for and with you as you read.
Scripture Reading: Judges 19:1-30, Jeremiah 8:18-9:3, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
This is dark. I don’t like to think about horrible things. And I would like to think this story has nothing to do with me. Because I am A) not a terrorizer of women, B) not a concubine, and C) not a murderer. So I would like to be excused from this exercise and come back when we are talking about the wonderful grace of Jesus instead. Or maybe we could (please!) gloss over this and talk about how heaven will be paved with streets of gold. I’m here for all of that.
But perhaps we could be brave and try to look at this Judges 19 passage together.
First, before we get too angry with the Levite for having a concubine in the first place, let’s consider what some scholars have to say about her: the concubine was probably the Levite’s wife, but was called a “concubine” because she was not endowed with a dowry. Either way, it looks like she was unfaithful to him and left him.
The delay caused by all the over-politeness in the house of her father meant that they stayed longer and later than intended. When they finally arrive in an Israelite city, there is only one man willing to take them in. Just as Lot was the only hospitable man in Sodom (Genesis 19:1–29), this old Ephraimite is the only refuge in Gibeah.
The men of Gibeah, like the men of Sodom, surrounded the house and sought to do great wickedness to the guests. The old Ephraimite, like Lot, offered a wicked substitution to preserve the Levite: he offered up his own daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men of Gibeah took only the concubine, but abused her to death that night.
The Levite’s role that night seems to be one of passivity and cowardice. It is unclear how his action or inaction enter into the matter, although it seems his “eating and drinking” in this story are twice his undoing: first in delaying his departure from the house of her father, and second, in occupying him on this night of the wickedness of Gibeah.
In the morning, when he exited the house, he found his concubine on the steps, seemingly asleep. But when he found her to be dead, he took her up, returned home, and then sent out his bloody message to the chiefs of Israel, a testimony of the wickedness of Gibeah.
The Bible is brief and thrifty in its narratives. As with so much of Scripture, it comes to us in parables, in examples, often without explicit explanation of what we are to take away from it all. This passage, however, seems to give us direct instruction: “Think it over, discuss it, and speak up!” (Judges 19:30).
We are to be broken by the brokenness of this world, but not only of the world. We are to be broken by the brokenness of the Church, of God’s own people, of ourselves, and our own hearts (Jeremiah 8:21). Consider how profound a warning this story is against our passivity toward sin. Any sin, left to itself, can end in horrors unthinkable.
May we be broken over our own sin, over the sins of our people, and in the world! May Christ have mercy on us. May He deal kindly and gently with us, and give not to us as our sins deserve, but preserve us by His good will.
Rebecca Faires loves the gospel story and needs it every morning when she wakes up to her five little people. Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in German from Hillsdale College, and most recently worked as the managing editor and writer at She Reads Truth. She now works from her log cabin in the hills of Tennessee, writing and illustrating books with her favorite mountain man. There she enjoys porch-sitting as it rains, reading the Oxford English Dictionary, and getting in way over her head. She is expecting her sixth baby and her first book in February of 2019.