Judges – Chapter 19

Okay, Now THIS Is Messed Up!

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Another story from the early days of the Judges: there was a Levite who lived in Mt. Ephraim whose concubine left him and returned to her father’s home. After four months, the Levite went to retrieve her. Everyone was reconciled and the Levite stayed at his father-in-law’s house for several days. (A concubine is sort of like a wife, but without a marriage contract. It’s beyond the scope of this synopsis to get into that here.) After a few days, the man and his concubine took to the road. At nightfall, they stopped in a Benjaminite city called Gibeah. There, they stayed with a local man, an Ephramite, who invited them in. Here’s where things went horribly wrong.

A group of people from Gibeah acted like the inhabitants of Sodom did to Lot when he hosted the angels. They demanded that the man be sent out so that they could engage him in acts of sodomy. In a misguided show of hospitality, the host offered his own daughter and the concubine to the mob. (Wasn’t the concubine also a guest deseving of his protection?) The mob initially declined this offer, but the man pushed his concubine out to them. A bird in the hand, they took the deal and molested her all night long. At daybreak, she was released, made her way back to the host’s house, and collapsed on the doorstep, where she expired.

Okay, this next part is going to seem REALLY bizarre, but stay with me here:

When the man saw what had been done to his concubine (as if he hadn’t pushed her out), he cut her corpse into 12 pieces and sent one to each Tribe telling the story of what the mob in Gibeah had done. (In this case, 12 includes both sons of Joseph and Levi; Benjamin did not receive one.) The purpose was to stir the passions of the nation that such a thing could be done. It worked, because they called a national meeting to address the atrocity.

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