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katherine the great

What is the purpose of the story in Judges 19?

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I think the Old Testament is one of the most colorful books ever written! I love the humanity of the characters and the different writing styles of the writers and the way history really comes alive in it's stories. I never get tired of studying it. I'm really baffled by a few of the passages though. I think that the story in Judges 19 is one of the most disgusting stories I have ever read and I've mulled it over many times trying to figure out what, exactly, the story is supposed to be. Is it an illustration of the general lawlessness of Israel during the time of the Judges? It it a piece that was designed to justify the slaughter of the Benjaminites? Was it supposed to illustrate the need for a King or the importance of hosting travelers in a safe, secure home? Was it a true story that just happened exactly as written and was recorded as a very shocking piece of Israelite history? Why was the Levite not punished? He almost comes off as the good guy here. He puts his wife out on the doorstep so that the Benjamites won't rape HIM and then is shocked and stunned that they rape his wife to death. What a moron! Not to mention the way he desecrates her body later on. It's like something out of a horror film. I try very hard to view history in it's proper context and not through my modern way of thinking, but this one really just leaves me entirely baffled. I'm sure everyone on this board has read (and been shocked by) this story. What are your thoughts on it?

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...

What are your thoughts on it?

That it is better for a man to offer his wife in prostitution,

than it is to allow his male house-guest to be sodomized by a mob?

Probably the dividing of the body into 12 parts is the key

to the retention of this story in the sacred text -- but I'd

think that Ezra (or somebody) could have drastically edited it.

The comparison of intended homosexual rape, to actual

heterosexual rape and murder, seems to me to be a bit like

asking which is a large number: a million, or a million and one?

UD

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I was under the impression that this was sort of a straw that broke the camel's back -- the inhospitality of the Benjaminites -- and the dividing up of the concubine being symbolic of the "cutting" of a covenant (not the breaking of a covenant, but the ANE ritual of cutting an animal as a solemnization of a covenant agreement).

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I was under the impression that this was sort of a straw that broke the camel's back -- the inhospitality of the Benjaminites -- and the dividing up of the concubine being symbolic of the "cutting" of a covenant (not the breaking of a covenant, but the ANE ritual of cutting an animal as a solemnization of a covenant agreement).

The cutting of the animal was a prelude to a covenant meal,

shared by both parties to the agreement. But the cut animal

also served as a vivid reminder that a violator of that same

covenant was subject to death. The animal was a sort of

temporary scapegoat for what might otherwise be demanded --

a human sacrifice from the lesser party to the covenant.

Whoever preserved that old story didn't have much love for

the Tribe of Benjamin. I wonder if King Saul allowed its

re-telling at his royal court?

UD

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It it a piece that was designed to justify the slaughter of the Benjaminites?

That is my vote. See Judges 20 here: http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Judges+20. This is the NRSV translation, which I think is a good translation (and easier to read). It seems pretty clear that Israel is attacking Benjamin for its crimes against the man and his concubine, thus explaining the necessity of putting the story of the crimes in the book in the first place.

By the way, I kept reading and noticed this interesting passage in Judges 21:

20 And they instructed the Benjaminites, saying,

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That is my vote. See Judges 20 here: http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Judges+20. This is the NRSV translation, which I think is a good translation (and easier to read). It seems pretty clear that Israel is attacking Benjamin for its crimes against the man and his concubine, thus explaining the necessity of putting the story of the crimes in the book in the first place.

By the way, I kept reading and noticed this interesting passage in Judges 21:

That sounds very familiar like it might share some similarities with this story:

That's the last straw for me! It's obvious that Joseph Smith just cobbled together Bible stories to create the Book of Mormon.

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That's the last straw for me! It's obvious that Joseph Smith just cobbled together Bible stories to create the Book of Mormon.

That can't possibly be the case. Look, there's a Hebraism in the Mosiah quotation.

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Much of the Book of Judges is, to my mind, to show the lawlessness and depravity that prevailed while Israel was tribal - before it had a king - in order to support the later monarchy.

The last verse of the book, after the whole Benajamite thing, points to this: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

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That can't possibly be the case. Look, there's a Hebraism in the Mosiah quotation.

LOL!

Okay, sorry KTG for side-tracking the thread, I won't pursue that little side issue any more.

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I'm sure everyone on this board has read (and been shocked by) this story. What are your thoughts on it?

I'm sure you've already read the Institute Manual, which makes sense to me: (23-13) Judges 19:29

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I can still remember my initial reaction reading this story at age twelve. It was not good.

Katherine, as women, I think we have to face the reality that a woman, especially a concubine had little status among these people. Sacrificing a servant to these men, to save himself-acceptable in their society since she had little value compared to him or his male guests. Cutting her body up and sending the pieces around was done with animals as well (I seem to recall it had to do with making a covenant, a call to action) and to their society, she was expendable, as any of this man's possessions, to be used as he saw fit and discarded when no longer useful.

I agree the story is an attempt to justify their actions against the Benjamites. This story also fits nicely in with the brutality and barbarity of the times. It also shows the apostasy of the Israelites and helps us understand why they were constantly falling to the ways of their Pagan neighbors.

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It is a pretty terrible story any way you look at it.

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It is obvious that this story was quite shocking back then too.

He cut her into pieces in order to outrage the rest of the tribes, so they would wreak revenge on Benjamin.

I'm not entirely assure that the account is justifying the slaughter of Benjamin, I rather think it is an example of the lawlesness which existed then. In short, I'm arguing that it is a Royalist account, to drum up support for a centralised government. Each man did what was good in his eyes, for there was no king.

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Katherine,

I would probably translate the passage a bit differently. In verse 2, the KJV reads:

"And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father

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A concubine was a wife of low legal standing.

I absolutely agree with you that it was all about him.

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That sounds very familiar like it might share some similarities with this story....

Nah, no more so than the rape of the Sabine women. Men have been raping women and carrying them away since the dawn of time. Recall that in the Book of Mormon text, the men were simply taking the women. There is no hint of abuse or murder.

The story in Judges does not denote that what was done was proper in God's sight. At the time there was no Israelite king and the governments were tribal in nature. As to the story itself, I see more of a resemblance to the story of Lot offering up his own daughters to the degenerate Sodomites of his own day in the place of the angels who were protected under Lot's protection as guests. Adam Clarke, in his commentary, notes: "That the rights of hospitality were sacred in the East, and most highly regarded we know; and that a man would defend, at the expense of his life, the stranger whom he had admitted under his roof, is true; but how a father could make such a proposal relative to his virgin daughter, must remain among those things which are incomprehensible."

Incomprehensible and disgusting. But such was life in the days of an alien culture in days of apostasy.

I will note the use in this chapter does contain the distinct elements of a simile curse, which also is a Hebraism found in the Book of Mormon: The Levite sent the twelve parts of the women to each of the twelve tribes, writing, "If ye will not come and avenge my wrongs, may ye be hewn in pieces like this abused and murdered woman!"

Alma 46:21 states: "And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token...[that] if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments."

The following verse also states: "Now...they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren...yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression."

Daniel Peterson noted these in his paper, Evidences of the Book of Mormon:

Now, the thing that needs to be pointed out in this context about this particular scripture is that in this century, people, scholars, have begun to note that this idea of what they call the

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Katherine,

I would probably translate the passage a bit differently. In verse 2, the KJV reads:

"And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father

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It is clear the Levite was attempting to secure the same sort of oath from the twelve tribes when he wrote: "If ye will not come and avenge my wrongs, may ye be hewn in pieces [even as] this abused and murdered woman!"

.

And yet he was absolutely complicit in her abuse and murder. What a hypocrite!

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Nah, no more so than the rape of the Sabine women.

Or the Ballad of Tamlin.

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Katherine writes:

Why do you think these parallels were made? Abraham and Moses were righteous--these guys were horrid.
I think that's the point. We are shown what a righteous father and a righteous father-in-law, and a righteous husband ought to be like. The men in this account - ALL of them - do not match these descriptions.

There is an intended sense of irony in the comments of the husband - "... for they did wickedness and lewdness in Israel," because while he intends to implicate those that abused his concubine, it implicates him as well - as illustrated repeatedly throughout the story.

For Volgadon -

Concubines weren't necessarily of low legal standing. There wasn't much difference legally between a wife and a concubine in that sense - where the difference usually came was in how inheritance was dealt with and how the marriage affected the woman's place in Israelite society (along with her children). Concubines were thus considered to be wives with a different set of rules - but no less legally entitled to the standard gamut of legal considerations and rights. When we look at Moses, and Abraham, and so on, these men married what might be considered inappropriate wives and they are called wives (although some are also called concubines). This text is quite critical of the Levite for calling his wife a concubine - although its reasons for being critical aren't readily apparent, and thus the discussion.

Ben M.

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I think that's the point. We are shown what a righteous father and a righteous father-in-law, and a righteous husband ought to be like. The men in this account - ALL of them - do not match these descriptions.

Okay, that makes sense. Thanks. Now the $64,000.00 question: Was this literally a true story or ancient "propaganda?"

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Katherine writes:

Was this literally a true story or ancient "propaganda?
Well, we have a problem separating it from the rest of the narrative - which is to say that the issues dealing with the tribe of Benjamin continue in the text which relies on the assumption that this event happened. That being said, it is obviously propaganda. So, perhaps it is both - at least that perhaps an event happened, and this text describes that event in a way that is clearly intended to be propaganda.

What bothers us a bit though is that this is clearly a rhetorical narrative. It is carefully assembled. And we the readers know things from the narrative that the characters don't tell us themselves - the narrative provides these background details. Who is it who wrote this story? What is the motivation? Did he interview those involved? It seems that its purpose clearly overshadows its value as history.

I also think the answer to your question is clouded a bit by the fact that the only evidence we have for some of these political struggles is the biblical text - which isn't necessarily interested in telling us what we want to know. I don't think that either taking the position that it happened, or that it didn't happen is all that useful to us to understand its message. (Nor do I think that we need to subscribe to its point of view). But I do think that we need to recognize that it is very difficult to separate religion from politics in our scriptures. There is no difference for some in believing that the Gospel is true and that David is supposed to be king in Israel.

Ben M.

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