Dluxe's World

Sunday, August 6

Under Attack - Judges 19:22-30

As touchy as the last two sections of Deuteronomy 22 were, it's difficult to think of a passage that is more disturbing and graphic than the story we find in the last half of Judges 19. It's safe to say that this one get a solid R-rating from me, so please read accordingly.

Before diving in, the issue of judging and establishing standards for morality came up in the comments of the last post I made (on abortion). Ironically, there are some connections to this passage that I'll make later on... If you've missed the background, you should catch up!

The Original Passage (in a Modern Translation)
As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.”

But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light

And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

In Plain English
As twisted as this is, it's also fairly plain... Several people (a Levite, his concubine, their host, and the host's family) are having a party. A group of rather unpleasant men shows up and demands that the master of the house turn over the Levite guest so they can sodomize him. Pleasant, eh? The master of the house refuses and instead offers his daughter and the other man's concubine to the raging crowd. The crowd takes the concubine and abuses her all night long.

In the morning, the master of the house steps out of the house and finds his concubine there - dead. As if it isn't bad enough, he decides to chop her into bits and send her remains throughout the territory of Israel.

Objections
What kind of people would offer their daughter or girlfriend (concubine) to a gang of men like that?

The answer is, sadly, very simple... Wicked, evil, twisted people. There's no two ways about it: The men who threw those women into the lion's den, as it were, are absolutely wicked.

So, how can you claim that God is good with a story like this in view? Heck, how can you even claim God even exists for that matter?

Let's start with an illustration... Jack Kelley, a reporter for USA Today, wrote an article that stuck with me a couple years ago. In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, he researched the ongoing torture of Iraqi's that had taken place under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Listen to some of the terrors that he recounts:
An Iraqi soldier, who according to the facility's records witnessed the beatings, said interrogators regularly used pliers to remove men's teeth, electric prods to shock men's genitals and drills to cut holes in their ankles.

In one instance, the soldier recalled, he witnessed a Kuwaiti soldier, who had been captured during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, being forced to sit on a broken Pepsi bottle. The man was removed from the bottle only after it filled up with his blood, the soldier said. He said the man later died.

"I have seen interrogators break the heads of men with baseball bats, pour salt into wounds and rape wives in front of their husbands," said former Iraqi soldier Ali Iyad Kareen, 41.

Now the punchline - Would we ever dare to state that Mr. Kelley approved of the actions he was reporting?

Of course not... That would be absolutely absurd. In the same way, we ought to recognize that the Bible reports some incidents that make us proud and others that leave us shocked and apalled. Here we are hearing a report of conduct, none of which is being condoned or glorified. God is not pleased with behavior like this! You simply can't find a passage that says He is. The whole book of Judges is full of behavior God hated. But more on that later...

The story ... ends with: "consider of it, take advice, and speak your mind." Those who do consider it will immediately reject the idea that the Bible is inspired by God. Hopefully, they then will speak their mind. (quoting the note in the SAB)

The SAB, again, is using the King James version of the Bible. The last half of verse 30 in the ESV reads, "Consider it, take counsel, and speak".

In an attempt to make the text fit their point, the skeptic ignores the nature of the passage, the context of the "Consider it" quote, and the events that immediately follow which continue to inform the context. Let's tackle each in order to try to make things sensible:

  • The Nature of the passage: God's inspiration of the Bible is something I believe is rock-solid. I believe the Bible is accurate and clear in its details and the message that God intended to convey. Part of that message is that people are evil to the core... To that end, the Bible recounts innumerable incidents of people behaving badly.

    Just like in the example above, the recording of a particular event by a reporter makes no statement about that person agreeing with, or assenting to, the events that they record. This passage is in the Bible to make one simple point: People are sinful and are capable of unspeakable evil. Again, more on this later...

  • The Context of the quote: Upon finding his concubine dead, the Levite loads her up and takes her body home. He then proceeds to cut her up and ship her parts out among the twelve tribes of Israel... Strange! Why would he do that?

    The answer is found in verse 30: And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.

    This is a case of seeking justice! The concubine is dead... The Levite sets out to notify the other tribes of the wickedness that he saw and stir them to action. The cutting up of the concubine's body is to verify his story and increase the 'effect' that story would have on the hearers. It sure worked! Everyone who heard the tale was united in once voice. To paraphrase their response: This is unbelievable! We need to get together and figure out how to respond!

  • The Events that follow: The people's response, which is outlined in the beginning of chapter 20, is to muster together an army to go seek "to put [the offenders] to death and purge evil from Israel" (v12). Doesn't that last part sound familiar?

    So, the very passage that the skeptic scoffs at for 'condoning' such heinous actions is only recounting the facts of the case and then moves to the need for justice.

  • What we see here is not God merrily retelling the story of what His people were doing. It is a descriptive incident of how wicked people can be with a whole nation united and plunged into war as a result. To quote Matthew Henry:
    To each of the tribes, [the Levite] sent by special messengers a remonstrance of the wrong that was done him, in all its aggravating circumstances, and with it a piece of his wife's dead body both to confirm the truth of the story and to affect them the more with it. It did indeed look very barbarous thus to mangle a dead body ... but the Levite designed hereby, not only to represent their barbarous usage of his wife, whom they had better have cut in pieces thus than have used as they did, but also to express his own passionate concern and thereby to excite the like in them. And it had the desired effect. All that saw the pieces of the dead body, and were told how the matter was, expressed the same sentiments upon it. That the men of Gibeah had been guilty of a very heinous piece of wickedness, the like to which had never been known before in Israel... [A] general assembly of all Israel should be called, to debate what was fit to be done for the punishment of this wickedness, that a stop might be put to this threatening inundation of debauchery, and the wrath of God might not be poured upon the whole nation for it.

    So, what does this say to us today?

    What do we take away from such a disturbing passage? How can there actually be anything here we need to apply to our lives? Well, here are some things I think are important:

    1) The Depravity of Man: There was an old radio/comic character called "The Shadow". His broadcasts always began (or ended?) with a haunting voice asking "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?". Passages like this in the Bible are there to remind us of the evil that lurks inside of all of us.

    I'm sure some of you are thinking that's a little extreme of me. I certainly hope that none of us have ever thought about participating in a gang-rape. This story illustrates a kind of evil that makes our stomachs turn. However, I would submit that if we pull the covers back on our hearts just a little we could find some of the same tendencies in us.

    Have you ever slammed your breaks in annoyance at the person tailgating you? Couldn't that behavior, born in your own selfish anger, endanger that person's life or someone else on the road? Have you ever been so angry about something that, had you been given the opportunity, "you don't know what you would've done"? Have you ever taken a soda out of the fridge at work that you know isn't yours?

    While there are clearly degrees of 'badness' from one person to the other, we are all stained with a dark side. For many of us, our moral impulses and various controls in our lives (family, friends, position) keep us in check. The band of 'worthless men' in Judges 19 should turn our stomach with their behavior and then cause our next thought to remind us how easily we could slide down the same slope.

    2) What happens when a culture leaves God behind: I've intentionally delayed giving you the key verse in Judges 19 until now. I hope with all the above in mind it'll have a deeper impact than it would've just offhandedly lumped in the beginning. The first verse of the chapter reads, "In those days, when there was no king in Israel..."

    I can hear you now... What? That's it? What's the big deal with not having a king?

    The author of Judges uses that phrase several times:
    "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Judges 17:6

    "In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them." Judges 18:1

    "In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning..." Judges 19:1

    "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Judges 21:25

    Israel had no king. Without someone to rule over them everyone just shrugged and "did what was right in his own eyes"... A lot of the Bible deals with the natural outworking of having no king. Without an authority, be it legal or moral, we ultimately descend into following our own selfish interests. While at first we might operate under some vague sense of cultural obligation, it cannot be long until we become slaves to darker desires and lose the inhibitions to act on them without regard for others.

    I wonder if you catch the subtext of Israel's lacking a King? If you'll remember, God chose and delivered the people of Israel from underneath the thumb of Pharoah. God declared Himself to be Israel's only Sovereign and Ruler. Israel prospered under God's rule: God annointed Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land, driving out enemies and establishing Israel in safety.

    But something happened... God's rule was replaced by human desires. God's authority was acknowledged and honored only in symbollic ways. And so, people were freed to go their merry way and do whatever felt good to them. Eventually the people began to grumble that they wanted an earthly king so they could be just like the other (godless) nations (1 Samuel 8).

    While we think of moral relativism and postmodernity as something of our own, modern invention, we see in the Bible that the issue is as old at time. Someone said - perhaps it was C.S. Lewis - that we were created to be worshippers. The only question is what object gets our worship? Something will be on the throne of our life to receive our worship and devotion. For each person it'll be different, but ultimately we'll see individuals pursuing their own desires with nothing less than 'religious' fervor.

    Muggeridge, who I love to quote, said it this way: "If God is dead, somebody is going to have to take His place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure, the clenched fist or the phallus, Hitler or Hugh Heffner."

    Who is on the throne in your life? And if it is some god of your own design, how can you assert that the actions of one person "doing right in his own eyes" is really wrong? To have a moral law, one must have a moral law giver! If you say 'Society gives the moral law', then you must admit that there is a "Might Makes Right" assumption under your reasoning.

    If, on the other hand, you say 'Each person defines their own moral law', then you must admit that everything is relative... One person's definition of right is no more or less correct than yours. The desire of a killer to murder is really no different than my desire to hug babies.

    So, who is on the throne...? And if you aren't placing God there, are you really comfortable with the king in your world?

    Thank goodness I have one more point:

    3) God's unspeakable grace: I must admit that there are times I feel self-righteous. In those moments, I wish that I worshipped a wrathful God who would have taken a mob of men like those we see in Judges 19 and just kill them with lightning on the spot. The problem is that I'd be effectively asking the same God to strike me dead at any moment of the day where I become guilty of sin. God would be perfectly just if he struck down every person who trangressed His rules.

    The wonderful news of the Bible is that God hates wicked behavior equally - from my lusts in the flesh to the bloodlust of the worst dictator. Rather than just strike us down, God has chosen to act towards us in grace. God allows us to live, even when we go on sinning, out of nothing but unmerited, unearned grace.

    Hear the Good News: What we have earned is wrath - what we get is something far better! God could not let evil go unpunished, but chose to punish Christ - His only Son - as a substitute for us. Here's how it really is:
    The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Pet 3:9-10)

    For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:22b-26)

    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

    When we come to a passage like Judges 19, we should be reminded of our true nature... We are sinners who will one day stand before a God who is Holy and Just. Either we will face our punishment, or we must see and embrace God's unbelievable grace now! His grace made a way for us to escape damnation by punishing Christ in our place.

    Judges 19 should remind us that we will bow, or we will burn. Life and death are set before us, and we know our natural destination. Are we going to change course, or not?

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    6 Comments:

    • dluxe...great blog. Note the theme throughout Judges of the declining place and status of women. When God's people wander away from His Kingship, the most vulnerable in society are exposed to the worst of our fallen natures.

      I saw an interview with the mayor of Phoenix following the recent arrest of the two suspected serial killers. When asked to offer his opinion of how these men could do such evil, he declared "They're monsters!" In part, at least, he is trying to set apart these men as abberations...actually more likely that they are outside the bounds of humanity. But I would also offer that the good mayor's response is typical of most of us in trying to deny that we have that very same "monstrous" nature in us all. Adam's rebellion set into motion in all his progeny that same rebellion. while by God's great mercy we do not all carry through on our hateful thoughts, we all can understand the hatred behind murder. The passage in Judges simply illuminate this unhindered hate. Makes me long for the true Return of the King!

      By Blogger coramdeo, at 12:49 PM, August 08, 2006  

    • I'm sure some still scoff at the idea that evil so pervades us. Yet headlines daily reassert Biblical truth. The serial killer seems an extreme example, yet even a 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, speaking to school children (article) confirms that the old nature lurks within all of us, no matter how noble we appear. Sadly, each one of us, when we condemn and hate, invariably trumpets our "rightness" so we can feel justified in our thoughts (see Jer. 17:9)

      Thanks, Dluxe, that's a well-written post that points us to our utter dependence on God for anything that is good.

      By Blogger LetUsRun, at 1:38 PM, August 08, 2006  

    • Hey guys... thanks for the comments! I'm especially happy to see some positive feedback (given what happened with the last post).

      coramdeo said: Note the theme throughout Judges of the declining place and status of women... But I would also offer that the good mayor's response is typical of most of us in trying to deny that we have that very same "monstrous" nature in us all.

      The whole book of Judges is one big spiral downwards... The people are in trouble, God raises up someone to deliver them, they just spiral down further.

      letusrun said: The serial killer seems an extreme example, yet even a 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, speaking to school children (article) confirms that the old nature lurks within all of us, no matter how noble we appear.

      While I don't buy all his theology, Muggeridge could sure write... He tells a story of being in India as a young reporter and going for a swim one day. While out on the water, he sees a woman come to wash her clothes in the water and he determines to seduce her. He figures that he's the rich, handsome Englishman and she is the 'typical' poor Indian girl. No doubt, she'd warm to his advances quickly.

      As he comes up on shore and flicks the water away from his eyes, he looks at the woman only to see that her body has been wrecked by leprosy. She stares at him in horror and begins moving away telling him 'Unclean!'.

      Muggeridge said his first thought was "What a wretched woman this is!". Immediately this was followed by another though - "Even more, what a wretched man I am!"

      He closes by saying: "What I faced that day was not a lecherous woman, but a lecherous heart... The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality, but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact."

      Our powers of self-deception are startling!

      By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 2:20 PM, August 08, 2006  

    • Amen brother! Thank you for all of your blogging. I am being challenged everyday by it

      By Blogger paradigm shifter, at 3:16 PM, August 08, 2006  

    • i enjoyed reading this. I found it particularly effective how you played the Devil's Advocate in the beginning, finishing nicely showing mankind's total depravity. who are we to decide whther or not God exists or is loving and just based on our own or other's twisted behaviour...(?!)

      By Anonymous Rachel King, at 1:16 AM, March 16, 2012  

    • Rachel: I posted this a LONG time ago, and re-read it after being notified of your comment. I would love to back and edit this to be more readable/clear.

      That said, I'm so glad that this was helpful to you in some way! What a huge encouragement and blessing...

      Take care!

      By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 1:27 AM, March 16, 2012  

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