The Old Testament: Judges III- Punishing Their Own

In October of 2012, two teenage brothers (ages 15 and 17) lured a 12-year-old girl into their house so they could steal her bike. They killed her. Apparently they wanted the bike for parts.  The girl’s disappearance made the news, and the crack in the case happened when the mother of the two boys read something on her sons’ Facebook pages that compelled her to call the police on her own children. (You can read about the story here: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/10/24/new-jersey-authorities-say-girl-was-strangled-by-teen-brothers-for-parts-her/)

This story shows how morality trumps familial bonds. I don’t know how I would respond if I were put in this type of situation. Sure, the severity of the crime would make a big difference, but I realize that it shouldn’t.  I also know how easy it is to say “sure, I would do the right thing.” But there’s a big difference between knowing what you should do and having the strength to follow through with it.

In Judges, a man searches for and finds his concubine.  Under her father’s roof, the man, his servant and his concubine remain for five days. They then travel to the town of Gibeah, where—first red flag—they are denied lodging (a poor display of manners back then). Resting in a town square, they meet an old man, who offers them shelter (19:20). The male townsfolk get wind of this couple’s presence and arrive at the old man’s home.  There, they demand that the man and his male servant be sent out so that they can have sex with them (19:22). Sound familiar?

As a replay of the scene at Lot’s house in Sodom and Gomorrah, the old man steps out to reason with the mob, offering his virgin daughter and the female concubine to pacify them (19:24).  Pissed, they take the concubine and rape her to death—which took all night (19:25).  The visiting men leave the old man’s house the next morning, taking her the concubine’s dead body.  Disgusted by this experience, the man cuts her body into 12 pieces.  Yes, 12 pieces.  He then sends one of these pieces to each of the 12 tribes of Israel as a sign of what’s happened.

Since this was not the typical present to receive in the archaic form of mail, the tribes are alarmed.  They gather to investigate what happened (20:3) and they marshal the strength to end the deplorable behavior of one of their own tribes. Gibeah will suffer, and suffer badly (20:37).

For all the time devoted to Israel exacting vengeance on other people in the Old Testament, it’s interesting (and perhaps sad in the way that all annihilation is) to see them hold themselves accountable. I may have had issues with their wholesale slaughter, but here they show they are at least not hypocrites—they hold everyone to the same standard. They don’t let loyalty to their own trump morality.

Next up: The Book of Ruth. Curious about a book named for a woman.

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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