18 November 2015

The Levite, the concubine, and the Benjamites

The final five chapters of the Tanakh book of Judges are almost always ignored by Christians and Jews alike because the picture of early Israelite society in Palestine contrasts with popular conception fomented by centuries of propaganda to the contrary, including the innumerable retcons to the material which was the foundation for the current canonical Torah.

The passages here, Judges chapters 19-21, are taken from the World English Bible©, which is in the Public Domain.

Chapter 19 is the original story later reconned into the account of Lot and Sodom, with an unnamed Levite in the role of Lot, the Benjamites in the role of the Sodomites, and the Levite’s apparently unwilling concubine as the ultimate victim, thrown out by the unnamed host as a consolation to the Benjamite townsmen who want to ravish the Levite and spend the night raping the poor girl to death.

Chapter 20 recounts the genocide of the Benjamites by the rest of the Israelites at the behest of the Levite upset over the loss of his property (i.e., the raped-to-death girl).

Chapter 21 tells of the genocide of the Israelites against the humans of Jabesh Gilead whose men did not come out to participate in the genocide of the Benjamites.  According to Judges, everyone is killed but pubescent and adolescent female virgins, who are then presented to the surviving Benjamite men.

19  In those days, when there was no king in Israel, there was a certain Levite living on the farther side of the hill country of Ephraim, who took for himself a concubine out of Bethlehem Judah.  His concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him to her father’s house to Bethlehem Judah, and was there for four months.  Her husband arose, and went after her, to speak kindly to her, to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of donkeys.  She brought him into her father’s house; and when the father of the young lady saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.  His father-in-law, the young lady’s father, kept him there; and he stayed with him three days. So they ate and drank, and stayed there.

On the fourth day, they got up early in the morning, and he rose up to depart.  The young lady’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward you shall go your way.”  So they sat down, ate, and drank, both of them together. Then the young lady’s father said to the man, “Please be pleased to stay all night, and let your heart be merry.”  The man rose up to depart; but his father-in-law urged him, and he stayed there again.  He arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart; and the young lady’s father said, “Please strengthen your heart and stay until the day declines”; and they both ate.

When the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father-in-law, the young lady’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day draws toward evening, please stay all night.  Behold, the day is ending.  Stay here, that your heart may be merry; and tomorrow go on your way early, that you may go home.”  10 But the man wouldn’t stay that night, but he rose up and departed, and toward Jebus (also called Jerusalem).  With him were a couple of saddled donkeys.  His concubine also was with him.

11 When they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said to his master, “Please come and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites, and stay in it.”

12 His master said to him, “We won’t turn aside into the city of a foreigner that is not of the children of Israel; but we will pass over to Gibeah.”  13 He said to his servant, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places; and we will lodge in Gibeah, or in Ramah.”  14 So they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin.  15 They turned aside there, to go in to stay in Gibeah. He went in, and sat down in the street of the city; for there was no one who took them into his house to stay.

16 Behold, an old man came from his work out of the field at evening.  Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he lived in Gibeah; but the men of the place were Benjamites.  17 He lifted up his eyes, and saw the wayfaring man in the street of the city; and the old man said, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 He said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem Judah to the farther side of the hill country of Ephraim.  I am from there, and I went to Bethlehem Judah.  I am going to Yahweh’s house; and there is no one who has taken me into his house.  19 Yet there is both straw and feed for our donkeys; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for your servant, and for the young man who is with your servants. There is no lack of anything.”

20 The old man said, “Peace be to you; how ever let me supply all your needs.  Just don’t sleep in the street.”  21 So he brought him into his house, and gave the donkeys fodder. Then they washed their feet, and ate and drank.  22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain base fellows, surrounded the house, beating at the door; and they spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we can have sex with him!”

23 The man, the master of the house, went out to them, and said to them, “No, my brothers, please don’t act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, don’t do this folly.  24 Behold, here is my virgin daughter and his concubine.  I will bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them what seems good to you; but to this man don’t do any such folly.”

25 But the men wouldn’t listen to him: so the man laid hold of his concubine, and brought her out to them; and they had sex with her, and abused her all night until the morning. When the day began to dawn, they let her go.  26 Then the woman came in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, until it was light.  27 Her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way; and behold, the woman his concubine had fallen down at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold.  28 He said to her, “Get up, and let us be going!” but no one answered.  Then he took her up on the donkey; and the man rose up, and went to his place.

29 When he had come into his house, he took a knife, and cut up his concubine, and divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the borders of Israel.  30 It was so, that all who saw it said, “Such a deed has not been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt to this day!  Consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

20  Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was assembled as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, to Yahweh at Mizpah.  The chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen who drew sword.  (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.)  The children of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this wickedness happen?”

The Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered, “I came into Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night.  The men of Gibeah rose against me, and surrounded the house by night. They intended to kill me, and they raped my concubine, and she is dead.  I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel; for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel.  Behold, you children of Israel, all of you, give here your advice and counsel.”

All the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, neither will any of us turn to his house.  But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot; 10 and we will take ten men of one hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and one hundred of one thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to get food for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have worked in Israel.”  11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.
12 The tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What wickedness is this that is happen among you? 13 Now therefore deliver up the men, the base fellows, who are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel.”

But Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers the children of Israel.  14 The children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.  15 The children of Benjamin were numbered on that day out of the cities twenty-six thousand men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who were numbered seven hundred chosen men.  16 Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed.  Every one of them could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.  17 The men of Israel, besides Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men who drew sword. All these were men of war.

18 The children of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and asked counsel of God.  They asked, “Who shall go up for us first to battle against the children of Benjamin?”

Yahweh said, “Judah first.”

19 The children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah.  20 The men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel set the battle in array against them at Gibeah.  21 The children of Benjamin came out of Gibeah, and on that day destroyed twenty-two thousand of the Israelite men down to the ground.  22 The people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves, and set the battle again in array in the place where they set themselves in array the first day.  23 The children of Israel went up and wept before Yahweh until evening; and they asked of Yahweh, saying, “Shall I again draw near to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?”

Yahweh said, “Go up against him.”

24 The children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day.  25 Benjamin went out against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men.  All these drew the sword.

26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came to Bethel, and wept, and sat there before Yahweh, and fasted that day until evening; then they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before Yahweh.  27 The children of Israel asked Yahweh (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days), saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?”

Yahweh said, “Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver him into your hand.”

29 Israel set ambushes all around Gibeah.  30 The children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times.  31 The children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to strike and kill of the people, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goes up to Bethel, and the other to Gibeah, in the field, about thirty men of Israel.

32 The children of Benjamin said, “They are struck down before us, as at the first.”  But the children of Israel said, “Let us flee, and draw them away from the city to the highways.”  33 All the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and set themselves in array at Baal Tamar.  Then the ambushers of Israel broke out of their place, even out of Maareh Geba.  34 Ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel came over against Gibeah, and the battle was severe; but they didn’t know that disaster was close to them.  35 Yahweh struck Benjamin before Israel; and the children of Israel destroyed of Benjamin that day twenty-five thousand one hundred men.  All these drew the sword.  36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were struck; for the men of Israel yielded to Benjamin, because they trusted the ambushers whom they had set against Gibeah.  37 The ambushers hurried, and rushed on Gibeah; then the ambushers spread out, and struck all the city with the edge of the sword.  38 Now the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the ambushers was that they should make a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city.  39 The men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons; for they said, “Surely they are struck down before us, as in the first battle.”  40 But when the cloud began to arise up out of the city in a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them; and behold, the whole city went up in smoke to the sky.  41 The men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed; for they saw that disaster had come on them.  42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel to the way of the wilderness; but the battle followed hard after them; and those who came out of the cities destroyed them in the middle of it.  43 They surrounded the Benjamites, chased them, and trod them down at their resting place, as far as near Gibeah toward the sunrise.  44 Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell; all these were men of valor.  45 They turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon; and they gleaned five thousand men of them in the highways, and followed hard after them to Gidom, and struck two thousand men of them.  46 So that all who fell that day of Benjamin were twenty-five thousand men who drew the sword.  All these were men of valor.  47 But six hundred men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and stayed in the rock of Rimmon four months.  48 The men of Israel turned again on the children of Benjamin, and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city, and the livestock, and all that they found. Moreover all the cities which they found they set on fire.

21  Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, “None of us will give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife.”  The people came to Bethel, and sat there until evening before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept severely.  They said, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that there should be one tribe lacking in Israel today?”

On the next day, the people rose early, and built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.  The children of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who didn’t come up in the assembly to Yahweh?”  For they had made a great oath concerning him who didn’t come up to Yahweh to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.”  The children of Israel grieved for Benjamin their brother, and said, “There is one tribe cut off from Israel today.  How shall we provide wives for those who remain, since we have sworn by Yahweh that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?”  They said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel who didn’t come up to Yahweh to Mizpah?”  Behold, no one came from Jabesh Gilead to the camp to the assembly.  For when the people were numbered, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead there.  10 The congregation sent twelve thousand of the most valiant men there, and commanded them, saying, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the little ones.  11 This is the thing that you shall do: you shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman who has lain with a man.”  12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young virgins, who had not known man by lying with him; and they brought them to the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 The whole congregation sent and spoke to the children of Benjamin who were in the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them.  14 Benjamin returned at that time; and they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh Gilead.  There still weren’t enough for them.  15 The people grieved for Benjamin, because Yahweh had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.  16 Then the elders of the congregation said, “How shall we provide wives for those who remain, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?”  17 They said, “There must be an inheritance for those who are escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel.   18 However we may not give them wives of our daughters, for the children of Israel had sworn, saying, ‘Cursed is he who gives a wife to Benjamin.’”   19 They said, “Behold, there is a feast of Yahweh from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.”  20 They commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, 21 and see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards, and each man catch his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.  22 It shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, that we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we didn’t take for each man his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, otherwise you would now be guilty.’”

23 The children of Benjamin did so, and took wives for themselves, according to their number, of those who danced, whom they carried off.  They went and returned to their inheritance, built the cities, and lived in them.  24 The children of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they each went out from there to his own inheritance.  25 In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.

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