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Judges 19:

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

1 Samuel 11:

7 He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent them by messengers throughout the land of Israel, proclaiming, "This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not march behind Saul and Samuel." Then the terror of the LORD fell upon the people, and they turned out as one man.

Is there a link between these two events?

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In terms of metaphor/allegory, absolutely. There are many parallels between the story of the Levite and his Concubine and the story of Saul:

  • Saul/Concubine both from Gibea
  • Saul/remnant of Benjamin hiding on rock of rimmon with 600 men
  • The cutting of the two oxen/concubine and distribution to Israel to draw them into war
  • Jabesh-Gilead destroyed in the levite story but saved by Saul

This parallel has been written about in many papers.

However there is not a clear parallel throughout the entire narrative, it's like bits and pieces of Saul's early reign are being described but in a mish-mash, sometimes the story parallels it, other times it contrasts, and there is not a consistent mapping of metaphors from Saul to the Levite.

What this suggests (to me) is that both the stories of Saul and the levitical stories are using a common metaphorical language. E.g. "the 600 men" is a general symbol for "the chosen men" in Ex 14.7, Judg 18.11, 1 Sam 23.13, 2 Sam 15.8. The rock of rimmon is a general symbol for sanctuary (on the rock, so Christ), so both the remnant of Benjamin on that rock are saved when the hosts of Israel ("who come together as 'one man'") have compassion on them but also Saul and his men are delivered from the Phillistines (by Jonathan) when they are on the same rock.

Thus there are parallels with the story of Saul as well as with the story of Lot and other stories because all these are using the same metaphorical dictionary and are prophecies of slightly different aspects of the same prophetic events, which in Christian Hermeneutics would be Christ's life.

In the specific case of the sacrifice of the oxen, there are some things to consider.

In traditional covenants the animal is not cut into a dozen pieces but it is cut in two pieces - e.g. Gen 15.10. Then the swearers to the covenant walk between the pieces and swear an imprecation to the effect that let this be their fate if they do not honor the covenant (see Jer. 34.18-19). From the NICOT commentary [N]:

The biblical world offers widespread evidence that animals were slaughtered in treaty contraction ceremonies. Some of these texts—but not all of them—suggest that the two parties to the treaty walked between the rows of freshly killed animal flesh, and in so doing placed a curse upon themselves if either party should prove disloyal to the terms of the treaty: May they too be torn apart if they are responsible in any way for violating the arrangement.15 The most frequently cited text to support the thesis that the procedures taken by Abram function as a dramatized curse is a seventeenth-century B.C. treaty from Alalakh between Yarimlim and Abban. Abban has just given the city of Alalakh to Yarimlim, the vassal ruler, and to cement that transaction the text says: “Abban placed himself under oath to Iarimlim and had cut the neck of a sheep (saying): ‘(Let me so die) if I take back that which I gave thee!’ ”

Typically in the covenants, it is the greater party that swears the imprecation upon himself not the lesser party. So in the covenant with Abraham, he is put to sleep and God alone walks (as the smoking pot) through the pieces of the animals, thus God alone will be treated like a sacrifice if Abraham breaks the covenant. Thus it is both a prophecy of Christ and an imprecation.

But now with the oxen of Saul, they are cut into a dozen pieces, distributed to Israel, with the imprecation that "this will happen to you if you do not go to war". This is another hint that the unified Israel now typifies God, the greater party in the covenant. The text follows with "Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man." (1 Sam 11.7 ESV). The same language is used with the Levite's sacrifice:

Judges 20.11 [ESV]

So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

And this phrase "one man" [ish echad] is used three times, in Judges 20.1, 20.8 and 20.11. Moreover when Israel fights, the Hebrew text says "man of Israel" not "men of Israel". Thus the idea is that the sacrifice unites the people into a single man, and in this there is the prophecy of both unification/reconciliation as well as resurrection, as all the various pieces that were distributed are brought back together.

In fact both the story of the Levite and his concubine as well as the story of the first battle of Saul contain the motif of recovering unity from a state of division, and so the division of the concubine/sacrifice is distributed to the divided tribes as a means to get them to unify into a single body, and hidden within that is a prophecy of the resurrection of the bride/sacrifice.


[N] Hamilton, V. P. (1990). The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17 (pp. 430–431). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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  • I know we are not meant to thank each other here, but really, how can one not extend a message of gratitude for such an answer. There are so many things to learn from here that can be mulled over and unpacked with time. Much appreciation.
    – user36337
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 17:19
  • Thanks @AshleyRoberts! I've been studying Judges 17-21, so this came as a good time for me. There are many secrets in those passages -- e.g. the passion week is hiding there, as there is an entrance with two donkeys, a supper with foot washing (in which the levite provides the food) and death on the sixth day. There are many stories to tell about these chapters of Judges and indeed all of the OT
    – Robert
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 17:28
  • Incredible! I will look at this passage with freshly peeled eyes. Will your studies end in a book, paper, or published recorded sermon / lecture series?
    – user36337
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 17:37
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BS”D

(For context, I was researching the story of The Levite’s Concubine and found my way here without necessarily meaning to.)

I’m not sure about the intent of the original question regarding a connection between the two passengers, though I wonder.

Is it a question of whether the texts offer context for what the dissection and dissemination of body parts meant symbolically?

Or, is the question about Saul’s and the Levite’s treatment of their respective “properties” and what they hoped to gain by cutting them into pieces?

These are only two possibilities of what could be numerous reasons for the first post. Whatever the case, when I read the two pericopes together a connection does becomes very clear to me: a woman’s body is portayed as having no greater significance than an animal’s. Moreover, these bodies are only important when they serve as instruments of their “owners’” wills.

While the first responder has thought deeply about the two stories in light of interpreting the Old Testament as mainly a prefiguring of Christ, I found myself deeply concerned by how the dehumanizing of the concubine persists through rendering her suffering as a mere leeway into exegesis of ritual sacrifice.

Though the theological interpretation doesn’t gel for me personally, I don’t offer critique of it as much as I am trying to bring focus to the gang rape and murder/death of a human being who doesn’t even merit a proper burial after the fact.

(To carry the thought further, what happened to her body afterwards? If she is a parallel to oxen, did her remains simply get tossed out as one might do to a carcass when the meat has been consumed?)

As a Jew myself, I know human sacrifice is defined as immoral, if not abominable, within Jewish law and philosophy (Lev 18:31—which are traditions by which the New Testament often predicates Jesus’ view of moral vs. immoral behavior (Matt 5:18). Thus I also wonder…

Could these texts be asking us to pause and think about this one particular woman, unnamed and abused to the point of death?

Before any theological extrapolations make her story “important” as a learning tool, I argue her story matters because she mattered, even when the men around her didn’t think so. Why else is she given even some semblance of identity and agency in the narrative (Jud 19:1-2)?

We can’t ignore her because of our preponderance for (mainly male—and I am a man myself) selfishness, passivity and denial in the face of rape culture?

This correlation between a woman and an animal in the passages deserves its own reflection and then call to action for the sake of women everywhere. I weep for what happened to this woman and feel a responsibility to take account of myself because I don’t want my inaction to make true the idea she wasn’t important.

As I reflect on what these texts might be saying about one another, I believe the concern over unity, as the first responder speaks to, begins with why this woman had to be cut into pieces at all?

She didn’t have to die in order for men to find common ground with each other.

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