Bible Readings for August 5th
In Judges 19:1, we read that a “certain Levite” took a wife from Bethlehem in Judah. The author of the book of Judges is careful to state, once again, that this all happened “in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (Judg. 19:1), underscoring the wickedness that we are about to read. Now, the text doesn’t absolutely identify this “certain Levite” sojourning in the hill country of Ephraim as Jonathan, the Levite priest who served Micah (Judg. 17) and then the tribe of Dan (Judg. 18). Nevertheless, we know that Micah had lived in the hill country of Ephraim (Judg. 17:1), and we know that Jonathan was originally “a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah” (Judg. 17:9), which is the city where this “certain Levite” had found his concubine (Judg. 19:1). So, while the timeline and the identities of the people in these stories aren’t completely spelled out for us, it is most likely that we are reading about the same Levite in Judges 17, 18, and 19.
And now, as we arrive in Judges 19, we see the consequences of the character of this idolatrous Levite. When he starts to experience danger in Gibeah, he sacrifices his own concubine to shield him from the raping Benjaminites, who abuse her all night (Judg. 19:25). It is a scene that is virtually identical to what Lot had faced in the city of Sodom and Gomorrah back in Genesis 19, where the men of the city had first demanded to have sex with the men inside the house and then the men inside the house had offered the women to satisfy their attackers. Both sides look terrible, but keep in mind that the city of Gibeah is not a pagan city like Sodom and Gomorrah—this is an Israelite city, and the rapists are men from the Israelite tribe of Benjamin. Furthermore, the men of Sodom and Gomorrah never actually touched anyone.
But then, without pity, the Levite arises the next morning and callously commands his concubine: “Get up, let us be going” (Judg. 19:28). Only at that point does he realize that she is dead, since apparently he couldn’t be troubled to check on her welfare at any point during the night before. And finally, the capstone of this story: the Levite takes the woman’s body, cuts it up into twelve pieces, and sends the dismembered limbs of the woman to the twelve tribes of Israel to let them know what has happened.
What are we to make of this horrific story, where a Levite sacrifices his concubine, where the men of an Israelite city abuse the concubine to death—exceeding the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah—and where the Levite dismembers his concubine to send her unclean corpse to the twelve tribes of Israel? We’ll talk more about the fallout of this event over the next two days.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.