Saturday, April 14, 2012

War Against The Benjamites (Judges 19-21)

The following quote is taken from

                "Rape is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable.  Yet few people know that the Bible often condones and even approves of rape.  How anyone can get their moral guidance from a book that allows rape escapes me.  Perhaps they have been lied to about the Bible and carefully detoured around all the nasty stuff in the Bible.
            So grab your Bibles and follow along as I show you all the nasty rapes that your priests and preachers don't want to tell you about.  Note that in many places in the Bible there are references to "taking a wife".  Don't be fooled into thinking that these were voluntary marriages.  This first quote clearly shows that murder and force were used to "take" these wives." 
                Before we begin this section, there are two claims which need to be examined.  The first is the claim, "the Bible often condones and even approves of rape".  This is not the case.  The Law forbid rape, and God does not approve of it.  Rape is a sin.  In the time that the Law was written, rape was a crime that was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:25-27).
            The second claim is that marriages in the Bible usually involved rape, since they were not voluntary.  By that definition, all marriage in the Bible would be classified as rape, since marriages were almost never voluntary in the Ancient Near East.  In that culture and time period (as in some Eastern cultures today), marriages were always arranged by the parents of the bride and groom [1].  Men and women often did not even meet their spouse until the wedding day.  Marriage then was very different from today, where men and women choose their spouses and marry for love.  In the time period and culture where the Bible was written, people had little to no choice who their spouse would be.  Marriage was mostly for family alliances, protection and continuation of family property/assets, and procreation.
            There are several Bible passages referred to in this section; this post will address the first one.

The following quote is taken from   
"Murder, rape, and pillage at Jabesh-gilead - So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children.  "This is what you are to do," they said. "Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin."  Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
            The Israelite assembly sent a peace delegation to the little remnant of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon. Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the four hundred women of Jabesh-gilead who were spared were given to them as wives.  But there were not enough women for all of them.  The people felt sorry for Benjamin because the LORD had left this gap in the tribes of Israel.  So the Israelite leaders asked, "How can we find wives for the few who remain, since all the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead?  There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel will not be lost forever.  But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God's curse."
            Then they thought of the annual festival of the LORD held in Shiloh, between Lebonah and Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem.  They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, "Go and hide in the vineyards.  When the women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife!  And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, 'Please be understanding.  Let them have your daughters, for we didn't find enough wives for them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not give your daughters in marriage to them.'"  So the men of Benjamin did as they were told.  They kidnapped the women who took part in the celebration and carried them off to the land of their own inheritance.  Then they rebuilt their towns and lived in them.  So the assembly of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes. (Judges 21:10-24, NLT)
            Obviously these women were repeatedly raped.  These sick b------s killed and raped an entire town and then wanted more virgins, so they hid beside the road to kidnap and rape some more.  How can anyone see this as anything but evil?"
            The book of Judges is a story of the breakdown of a society without God.  The book ends with this sentence: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit" (Judges 21:25).  The Israelites had ceased following God after they entered the promised land of Canaan, and though judges ruled over them for a time, the conditions of the nation of Israel continued to get worse, culminating in the events of Judges chapters 19-21, arguably one of the most disturbing passages of the Bible.
You can read the full story here:

            The story begins with the rape and murder of a Levite man's concubine by a group of Benjamite men in the town of Gibeah.  In response to his concubine's murder (though in fact, he complacently allowed them to rape and murder her), the Levite man cut her body into pieces and sent the pieces into each tribe of Israel.  When the nation found out about the crime, it led to a bloody civil war with many casualties on both sides.  This leads us to the events of Judges chapter 21.
            First of all, we need to examine this passage in a historical context.  It is important to note that the Bible does not always approve everything that it records.  Just because there is an act of violence recorded in the Bible does not mean that God approves of that act of violence.  Some parts of the Bible, particularly the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), are books of history.  The book of Judges is one such book, describing the nation of Israel during the period of the judges (circa 1380-1050 BCE).  The book of Judges is not part of the Law (Torah) given to the Israelites, and does not contain instructions on how to live a life that pleases God (such as Paul's letters in the New Testament).  It is a book of history.
            As stated before, this sad story is an example of what happens when people and nations turn their backs on God and live life however they want to.  None of the characters in this tragic story do anything that honors God.  First, the Benjamite men of Gibeah gang raped and murdered a woman, in defiance of the Law (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 22:25-27).  What is worse is that the woman's husband and the man that they were staying with allowed this to happen.  Not only did they not come to her defense, but they sent her out to the group of men.  In this respect, they were as guilty of the crime as the men who killed her.
            Instead of following the procedure the Law prescribed for dealing with murder (Numbers 35), the Levite man mutilated his concubine's body and stirred up the entire nation to war.  Only in chapter 20 do we see the Israelites actually asking God for counsel, when they went to punish the men of Gibeah and the Benjamite men who refused to surrender them.  In chapter 21, they stopped seeking God's counsel, and decided to solve their problem of wives for the remaining Benjamites themselves, through more bloodshed and kidnapping, which was also against the Law (Exodus 21:16).  In short, in every way the Israelites failed to do the right thing in this passage, and the book of Judges ends on a solemn note.

[1] Life In The Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell, 1997.  Pgs. 52-54.