Monday, October 18, 2010

The Mutilation of the Concubine and The Gospel

Judges 19:22-30 is one of the most horrific texts in all the biblical text. Plugging it into Google reveals it is used by many haters of the faith as examples of the Bible's awfulness and unreliability. And the passage does reveal something awful.

If you're not familiar with it, take a minute to read it.

Disgusting, yes?

What do we do with something like this?

The first thing we need to say is that the Bible contains many passages that are descriptive, and this does not make them prescriptive. Contrary to what many of the online opponents of biblical authority would have us think, there is no approval from God for the man of Gibeah's heinous bargain or the subsequent rape, murder, and mutilation of the concubine. The Levite gives up his own virgin daughter and his concubine as some sort of trade of self-protection. And that the concubine's dismembered body is grotesquely sent around Israel is reacted to the way it ought to be: notice the people's reaction is shock. "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," they say.

A lady in my church asked me how an unsaved person might read this passage in the Bible; they might think the Bible is somehow condoning this act. But we'd have to show them otherwise. It is in fact a consequence of everyone doing what was right in their own eyes (17:6, 21:25), a consequence of having no king over Israel (19:1). Judges 19:22-30 shows the Bible is honest and realistic about the depravity of man when left to his own devices. In that sense, it is not putting a gloss on what men are capable of which we can clearly see on the evening news. And while we should be disgusted by the imagery, we should also commend the Bible's brutal honesty.

But there is a gospel spring beneath this text too. When there was no king in Israel, a man betrays his women. A woman is unprotected and given over to the enemy to have his way with her, and then she is made an example of in a murderous way to the twelve tribes. But when Jesus is King over Israel, he protects his bride; he won't give her over to the enemy to have his way with her. And Jesus leaves the house himself and offers his own body, going in his bride's stead to be torn apart for the twelve tribes of Israel. Instead of giving us up in some evil bargain, he gives himself up. And his battered body is the sign to his people that he won't sell them out.


rdsmith3 said...

I really appreciate how you got the gospel message out of this passage. I totally missed that. thanks.

Frank Gantz said...

I appreciate the thoughtful remarks concerning this text. I recently read an atheist using this text to attack Christianity and God.

Jo said...

This is certainly a problematic passage in the Bible, and I can honestly say that your post was the best way I've ever seen it handled. I love how you applied the Gospel to such a dark situation

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Nicely done. I have been immersing myself in the narrative books of scripture over the last few years and the Levite's concubine is definitely one of the most perplexing and troubling passages. It's not as high on the scale as the Lord sending a lying spirit to the prophets of Ahab for me, personally, but it has been high up there in "what?" passages.