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In Judges 19 we read,

While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go.

This abhorrent act is also found in Genesis 19 (Lot and the Sodomites).

I think it is obvious from the narrative that the wicked youngsters were not interested in gratifying themselves (through rape), if this was the case why did they insist on raping the foreigner when the old man offered his daughter instead. If so, my question is what was indeed their objective?

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    Judges 19 certainly appears to be modeled on Genesis 19, so the question is why? What statement is the author of Judges 19 trying to make by writing the story of the concubine in Gibeon in the imagery of the story of Lot in Soddom? What relationship do both of these stories have with the commandment in Exodus 22:21? There are important questions here. Unfortunate that you have not phrased it in a way that most readers find palatable but I am not voting to close.
    – user17080
    Jun 4, 2017 at 6:21
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim i'm not asking what the author of judges was trying to convey. I'm not interested in that. My question is why did the ancient's behave in this rude way towards foreigners?
    – bach
    Jun 4, 2017 at 18:18
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    You question is now fine, but the answer is in the first line of the text you have quoted, "some of the wicked men of the city".
    – enegue
    Jun 6, 2017 at 22:15
  • I only just noticed your title said, "rape foreigners" when if fact it was only one foreigner, as it is recorded in the quote you have given.
    – enegue
    Jun 6, 2017 at 22:27
  • Remember the standard disclaimer for the book of Judges: "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.". Oct 28, 2020 at 16:12

2 Answers 2

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This story begins the epic conclusion to the book of Judges, emphasizing the disunity and corruption that forms the backdrop for calls for a king in 1 Sam.

  • The no-goodnik (literally "sons of uselessness") Benjamites surround the house of the old man, demanding to rape the Levite guest.

  • The Old Man first begs them to behave, but they don't. (19.22-23)

  • The Old Man suddenly gets an inspiration (hinneh!) to give his own virgin daughter to them (echoing Lot) and the concubine (even worse than Lot) (19.24)

  • In the morning, the Levite finds the concubine splayed out on the threshhold. He calls her name, "Get up, let us go.", but she doesn't answer. He puts her on his donkey and goes home. (19.27-28)

  • He cuts her into 12 pieces to send to each tribe. (19.29)

  • Then the tribes assemble and wage a bloody war against Benjamin. In this war, unlike other battles where YHWH delivers victory or defeat fairly quickly, it takes three prolonged battles where YHWHW chooses Judah to fight and they lose badly. Then Judah asks, "should we fight again?" and YHWH says "fight again", and they lose badly. Finally the third time they slaughter the Benjamites. Total losses are over 50,000 since they are fairly evenly distributed between Judah and Benjamin. (see Judges 20). This is also when a military census is taken.

  • Only 600 Benjamite men survive, hiding in the rock of Rimmon. (20.47)

  • Then the Isrealites swore an oath not to allow any of their daughters to marry a Benjamite. (21.7)

  • But they realize that since they killed all but 600 Benjamite men, this means the tribe will die out. Virgins are needed. The wisest elders of Israel gather together to search for a solution, and come up with an idea (hinneh!) They will look for any city that didn't help them in the civil war. One area didn't, they go and kill everyone who isn't a virgin, and carry off 400 for the Benjamites to marry. (21.12) Since the fathers are murdered, they are not guilty of violating their oaths that the daughter can't marry a Benjamite.

  • But they still need more since 200 Benjamites are without brides. How to close the virgin-gap? The wisest elders of Israel once again gather to find a solution. They come up with idea (hinneh!) advising the Benjamites to lie in wait in a vineyard, and grab the first 200 dancing women who pass by in the YHWH festival at Shiloh. And if the women's fathers complain, they will be told that since their daughters were taken by force, this also gets them out of their promise to not marry a daughter to Benjamites (21.20-22)

  • The story of rape and violence comes full circle, where the rapes of the two women finally ends with the rape of the 600, and the killing of over 50,000 (counting only the men). The Benjamites then rebuild their territory and all their cities (21.23). The wording suggests "and then things went back to normal".

Thus ends the book of Judges with the final coda:

In those days there was no king in Israel; each one did what was right in his own eyes. (21.25)

Interpretation

This story is pointing out that, towards the end of the time of Judges

  • the people's ethics were worse than Sodom
  • the best of the people were worse than Lot
  • the land was torn by civil war
  • Even before the civil war, the population had declined by 30% from the census in Numbers 26 (vis-a-vis the census in Judges 20)
  • The ideas of the elders is violence
  • YHWH appears to be goading the tribes into bloodletting (20.23)
  • If you are a virgin, you should stay away from the festival at Shiloh
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Introduction: My reading of the Book of Judges leads me to the belief that it is essentially an argument for Kingship. As @Robert mentioned: "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes." With the sole exception of Deborah, those judges whose characters developed in the text are all extremely flawed. None of them even comes close to uniting Israel as a nation. The story of the Levite's concubine and the civil war that resulted brings the pattern of national failure toward its conclusion, paving the way for the institution of sacred kingship in the books of Samuel.

The OP question presumes the concubine was a foreigner. However, a major point of the story is that she should not be considered so. She belonged to a Levite, and Levites were not foreigners. The woman herself is identified as being from Bethlehem in Judah. The villains in the story were Benjaminites. So they were all members of the people of Israel. The story presents the act as what we would call a federal crime, not a local one. Israel was not supposed to be a mere loose confederation of tribes where "every man did what he thought was right." To use an anachronism, the providential imperative was: One Nation under God. This is the reason the author follows the story with his description of the Levite's gruesome symbolic act.

He entered the house, he took a knife, and laying 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...” (19:29-30)

The motivation of the crowd is not specified beyond being possessed of a violent lust. But if they thought of the Levite's concubine as a foreigner, their crime was triply outrageous to the emerging nation of Israel, even beyond the fact that it was a gang-rape resulting in death:

  • It violated the ancient rules of hospitality
  • It transgressed dictum of Exodus 12:49 that "There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you."
  • It treated a fellow Israelite as an "other" rather than as a sister.
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  • Can you please explain how you have remotely addressed my question??
    – bach
    Oct 7, 2022 at 14:28
  • I said... "The motivation of the crowd is not specified beyond being possessed of a violent lust." I also challenged your premise that the concubine was a foreigner. Admittedly there was also a lot of window dressing in the answer. Sorry. Oct 7, 2022 at 23:25

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