Judges 19

Eighth Sunday of Easter
May 20, 2018

‘Remember, Resist, Redraw’

Download audio for Week 7, May 14-19, 
Download audio for Week 8, May 21-26, 

Most of last week followed Samson from his birth to his death, over 4 chapters. Some Nazirite – he broke every vow of abstinence, chastity, purity, wholeness which were to bind him.  Pity his Philistine in-laws in his first marriage!  Empathize with his cousins trying to deliver him bound to their angry bosses, or the Philistine managers paying Delilah to deliver him to be bound! 

The current government of the current state of Israel celebrated the opening of the new American embassy in Jerusalem on the day before its anniversary of 1948 independence. Televangelists open and close the ceremony with prayers anticipating a Second Coming. 

Gaza erupted in peaceful demonstrations fired upon by IDF forces.  Canada asks for independent inquiry, and the UCC objected more strongly, echoing ecumenical and interfaith partners’ cries of alarm.  We do not share the televangelists’ assumptions of shalom in Israel. 

It’s a dark week to have considered Samson’s captivity, shorn, blinded, unclean, but sober.  His hair grows back, and when paraded like a dancing bears, he grasps the pillars (more fitting to the times of Second Temple architecture) and ‘brings the house down around his ears’, killing more than he ever did in life.  Suicide terrorist?

The rest of the week’s readings gave us degenerates, or at least unregenerate people.  Things got worse from Samson on, as communal faithfulness to Torah dissipated, and ‘everyone did what was right in their own eyes’, since there was no king.

In the coming week, the degeneracy culminates in a tale of inhospitality and civil war.  We may be reminded off Sodom and Gomorrah, or of the rape of Dinah – or you can wait till next week, where this blog will introduce a reading of Genesis, ‘The Gospel According to Torah’.  I conclude nevertheless with the affirmation that this is not a text about sex crimes amidst genocide, but the prequel for the story of the kings of Israel.

Our lively weekly conversation partners were not eager to follow my lead and keep reading through these ‘Early Prophets’ or histories, into 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, then 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Maccabbees and Esdras…   They did agree I could sum them up this week for future reference, before starting again with Genesis.  I hope that online participants will stick with us!

Settlers and Anarchists: What Side Are We On?
Reading Joshua and Judges - Easter Season, 2018
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Judges 19,
Monday, May 21, 2018

Different Levite, travelling in a different direction, but the frame is the same: anarchy.  From up north in Ephraim, this one heads south to Bethlehem.  He takes a concubine (not a wife, nor a prostitute, but some legal status between inheritance and fee for service). 

There is some matrimonial tension, she leaves him for daddy, he follows her to daddy, who welcomes him.  You can run a movie between your ears – but we’re free to have very different scripts!

There is a long, elaborate game of hospitality as the Levite keeps trying to leave and the host daddy keeps convincing him to stay.  Finally, the Levite, concubine, servant, and a couple of donkeys head out, a bit late in the day.

There is another elaborate choice of where to stop on the road trip.  The Jebusites own Jerusalem and there won’t be Israelites there (!) and Gibeah seems like a better bet.  Who ever gets this right?

The tale of the inhospitality of Gibeah is another spare fable, intended to shock us, echoing the language of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot.  The local yobs want to ‘know’ the travellers.  The host offers his daughter, but the host follows through with his concubine.

The next day, there’s a dead, abused concubine at the door, and the man takes her body home to Ephraim.  He cuts her up in 12 pieces, and sends them to rally 12 tribes to avenge him against Benjamin.

Who is responsible for the outrage?  Who will pay the price of vengeance?  The next chapter will seem worse than this, with misogyny and genocidal and fratricidal warfare.  We lack the moral outrage regarding the initiation, but reserve much of our choler for the response.  Does that judge them, or us?

In those days, 
when there was no king in Israel, 
a certain Levite, 
residing in the remote parts
of the hill country of Ephraim, 
took to himself a concubine
 from Bethlehem in Judah.

 2But his concubine became angry with him, 
and she went away from him to her father’s house
at Bethlehem in Judah, 
and was there for some four months.

 3Then her husband set out after her, 
to speak tenderly to her and bring her back.

 He had with him his servant
and a couple of donkeys. 

When he reached her father’s house, 
the girl’s father saw him
and came with joy to meet him.

 4His father-in-law,
 the girl’s father, 
made him stay, 
and he remained with him
 for three days;
 so they ate and drank,
 and he stayed there.

 5On the fourth day
 they got up early in the morning, 
and he prepared to go;
 but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law,
 ‘Fortify yourself with a bit of food, 
and after that you may go.’

 6So the two men sat
and ate and drank together; 
and the girl’s father said to the man, 
‘Why not spend the night
 and enjoy yourself?’

 7When the man got up to go,
 his father-in-law kept urging him
 until he spent the night there

 8On the fifth day
he got up early in the morning to leave;
 and the girl’s father said,
 ‘Fortify yourself.’ 

So they lingered until the day declined, 
and the two of them ate and drank.

 9When the man
with his concubine and his servant
 got up to leave, 
his father-in-law,
 the girl’s father,
 said to him,
the day has worn on
until it is almost evening.

 Spend the night. 

the day has drawn to a close. 

Spend the night here
and enjoy yourself.

you can get up early
in the morning
 for your journey, 
and go home.’

10 But the man would not spend the night; 
he got up and departed, 
and arrived opposite Jebus
 (that is, Jerusalem).

 He had with him
a couple of saddled donkeys,
 and his concubine was with him.

 11When they were near Jebus, 
the day was far spent, 
and the servant said to his master,
 ‘Come now,
 let us turn aside
 to this city of the Jebusites, 
and spend the night in it.’

 12But his master said to him,
 ‘We will not turn aside
 into a city of foreigners, 
who do not belong to the people of Israel;
 but we will continue on to Gibeah.’

 13Then he said to his servant,
 let us try to reach one of these places, 
and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.’

14So they passed by
and went on their way;
 and the sun went down on them
 near Gibeah, 
which belongs to Benjamin.

 15They turned aside there,
 to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. 

He went in
 and sat down
 in the open square of the city,
 but no one took them in
to spend the night.

16 Then at evening
 there was an old man
coming from his work
 in the field. 

The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, 
and he was residing in Gibeah.
 (The people of the place were Benjaminites.)

 17When the old man looked up
 and saw the wayfarer
in the open square of the city,
 he said,
 ‘Where are you going
and where do you come from?’

 18He answered him,
 ‘We are passing
 from Bethlehem in Judah
 to the remote parts
of the hill country of Ephraim, 
from which I come.

 I went to Bethlehem in Judah;
 and I am going to my home. 

Nobody has offered
to take me in.

19We your servants
have straw and fodder for our donkeys, 
with bread and wine for me and the woman
and the young man along with us. 

We need nothing more.’

 20The old man said,
 ‘Peace be to you.
 I will care for all your wants; 
only do not spend the night
 in the square.’

 21So he brought him into his house, 
and fed the donkeys;
 they washed their feet, 
and ate and drank.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, 
the men of the city,
 a depraved lot, 
surrounded the house, 
and started pounding on the door. 

They said to the old man,
 the master of the house,
 ‘Bring out the man
 who came into your house, 
so that we may have intercourse with him.’

 23And the man,
 the master of the house, 
went out to them
 and said to them, 
my brothers, 
do not act so wickedly. 
Since this man is my guest,
 do not do this vile thing.

 24Here are
my virgin daughter
 and his concubine;
 let me bring them out now.

 Ravish them
and do whatever you want to them; 
but against this man
do not do such a vile thing.’

 25But the men would not listen to him.

 So the man seized his concubine,
 and put her out to them. 

They wantonly raped her, 
and abused her all through the night
until the morning.

 And as the dawn began to break, 
they let her go.

 26As morning appeared,
 the woman came
and fell down
at the door
of the man’s house
where her master was,
 until it was light.
27 In the morning
 her master got up, 
opened the doors of the house,
 and when he went out
 to go on his way, 
there was his concubine
 lying at the door of the house,
 with her hands on the threshold. 

28‘Get up,
’he said to her, 
‘we are going.’ 

But there was no answer. 
Then he put her on the donkey; 
and the man set out for his home.

 29When he had entered his house, 
he took a knife, 
and grasping his concubine
 he cut her into twelve pieces,
 limb by limb, 
and sent her
throughout all the territory of Israel.

30Then he commanded
 the men whom he sent,
 ‘Thus shall you say
 to all the Israelites,
 “Has such a thing ever happened
since the day
that the Israelites came up
from the land of Egypt
until this day? 

Consider it, 
take counsel,
 and speak out.” ’