Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “We support biblical families.”

Today’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day: The Levite’s Concubine (Judges 19:22-30).

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.”

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 is my guest, do not do this vile thing. Here 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.”

But 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. 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.

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. “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. When 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. Then he commanded the men whom he sent, saying, “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.'”

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  • hidden_urchin

    I don’t know about the rest of y’all but I find these traditional, Biblical family values somewhat appalling. It makes me wonder if those who claim to support them have actually, you know, read the Bible.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yup, god sure values women! Look at how the men who he considered righteous treated us!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    I’m starting to wonder how long Fred can keep going with this.  But then, in parallel, I’m also wondering whether there are any Biblical families worth mentioning in the New Testament.  I don’t think we’ve seen any so far?

  • Frenchroast

     My husband and I have been reading Genesis, and while I know Frank already pulled a few examples from there, that book alone has plenty more stories of effed up biblical families. I’m betting Frank could keep this up for a year if he wants to without running out of examples.

  • vsm

    Assuming we’re supposed to read the Levite as even vaguely sympathetic, the anti-chivalry shown here is quite interesting in an appalling way. Did this culture really think it was okay for a man to save his own skin by sacrificing a female partner? That’s a very alien idea.

  • Jurgan

    This is troubling, no doubt, but I think it’s a mistake to assume we’re meant to identify with the man- it’s more like, he was put in a bad situation and made a desperate choice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was right.  But you can take his rallying the Israelites against her abusers as an attempt to atone for his sin of abandoning her. I don’t know if that’s the intended read or not, but I’d want to look deeper into it (maybe see what the original translation says) before jumping to conclusions.

  • banancat

    Wow, I really hope something was lost in translation and he wasn’t actually so callous and uncaring the next morning when he thought she was sleep at the door.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Goodwin/28602067 Jess Goodwin

    Maybe he was in shock?

     “She’s…she’s fine. She’s just sleeping. Of course she is. I’ll wake her up, and we’ll get out of here, and pretend this was all just a bad dream…why isn’t she waking up?!”

  • banancat

    I thought that even if she were asleep, he treated her pretty badly. She had just been raped and beaten and he basically told her to brush it off and get on with her day. If she had survived, would he have expected her to continue on with life as usual and act as if it had never happened? Would he have gotten angry and beaten her more if she had trouble adjusting?

  • Jurgan

    It’s not really clear.  A lot of Biblical stories could be helped by a few adjectives and adverbs.  I could here “get up, we’re going” in multiple ways.  “Having wasted enough time here, he shouted at his lazy concubine, ‘get up, we’re going.'”  Or, “She had been brutalized, and he needed to get them out of this city before the mob returned.  ‘Get up, we’re going,’ he said softly, attempting to rouse her awake.”  Neither of those excuses his earlier actions, but I don’t know which way to take the story.  The man does not seem to be a good person, but there may be a little more to him than the surface.  It’s hard to tell with such violent and alien passages whom we’re supposed to identify with.

  • banancat

    Well, that it sort of my point. It seems like he is saying the former, but I am really hoping that it was just translated badly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    But then, if he was that deeply in denial, did he think she was still living while he cut her up into pieces?  That interpretation doesn’t necessarily improve his character.

  • Lori

    I’m sure it would have been terribly convenient for him to think that his offering her up for gang rape was “just a dream”, but I really don’t think so. After all, it’s not like he was a prize before this. She left him and went home to her family. In that time that was a pretty extreme thing. The story naturally doesn’t include any information about exactly why she left him, because that would mean treating her like an actual human with a POV, but I don’t imagine it was for the equivalent of not putting the toilet seat down.

    I think it makes a lot more sense to assume he was just an asshole and that the poor nameless concubine was another in the long, long line of women who died as a result of not being able to make a permanent break from her abuser.

  • Anton_Mates

    Lori,

    After all, it’s not like he was a prize before this. She left him and
    went home to her family. In that time that was a pretty extreme thing.

    Doesn’t look like she particularly wanted to go back with him, either; it was her father that welcomed him so happily.  And even her father kept trying to delay them from leaving, suggesting that his daughter was dragging her feet. 

    Of course, if he had successfully delayed them another night, they wouldn’t have had to stop in Gibeah and his daughter wouldn’t have been brutalized.  Between that and the line about how she died trying to drag herself over the threshold, there’s a fair amount of pathos here.  Presumably this passage is condensed from a longer original story, and I wonder if the latter was more overtly tragic.

  • Fade Manley

    When I was reading these stories as a kid, most of the gore and violence was exciting. Fun action scenes! Stabbing evil kings!

    This one messed with my head horribly. Throwing that poor woman outside, and then kicking her around for not following afterward, and then cutting up her body, and the story presenting the guy who did this as not in the wrong was just…ugh. I found it creepy even then.

  • Vermic

    When Benjamin Franklin made his “Join, or Die” cartoon, he didn’t make his point by cutting an actual snake into eight pieces and distributing them around the colonies.  He just drew a picture of it.  Book of Judges, you are messed up.

    I have to laugh at Wikipedia’s note that “Judges is remarkable for the number of female characters who ‘play significant roles, active and passive, in the narratives.'”  That’s one way to put it.

  • VMink

    This story sounds similar to the story of Lot and his… creative way… of trying to get the mob from going after the angels who visited them.  Is there a connection?

    That was my right-side brain.  My left-side brain is kind of curled up in a corner right now after reading that. :(

  • Jurgan

    Probably.  It’s the darker and edgier remake.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The thing that always bothers me is how the story is basically “NO! NOT TEH BUTTSECHS IT IS SO ICKY.”

    I’m only surprised nobody’s tried using verses like this to prove raping women is somehow okayed by God.

    [ EDIT: Considering that I’ve recently heard stories of convicted rapists using visitation rights as a weapon against their victims…. ]

  • Fusina

     I’d like to see a cultural study done on this passage and the one about Sodom and Gomorrah. I mean, i don’t know enough about the context of the thing–but I don’t think it was about sex per se. Between this story and the Lot story, I feel like there are holes in what was going on contextually. In both cases, virgins are offered and that wasn’t good enough for the “gang”. So I would love if someone who has studied this stuff and possibly knows the mores etc… of the time period could weigh in.

    Err, IOW, ReverendRef? Help?

  • Joshua

    Well, I’m not ReverendRef, but I think the whole book of Judges is framed by the repeated statement that “in those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes” 17:6, 21:25, and probably elsewhere that I can’t find.

    So the thing is a pro-royalty piece pointing out the nasty behaviour from the pre-royalty days, and I don’t think we are meant to take any character as sympathetic.

    I second vsm’s comment, last on the first page, with the exception that I expect the links between this story and Lot’s daughters may just be coincidence. Lot’s story is very mythic, this reads to me as a historic account. In Lot’s story the guest was an angel, now it’s some guy deliberately written as a jerk.

    So yeah, it is a nasty story. The people at the time were probably more disgusted with the violation of the guy’s property rights than we are, and the shame of the host being unable to keep his guests secure, and the ickiness of the male-on-male rape; but the story does deliberately call out the plight of the concubine. Outrage at her suffering in itself is definitely intended by the author IMHO.

  • Fusina

     All I know is that I hated this story–like a lot of kids, we were allowed to read the bible during sermons–and as a result I ended up memorizing a lot of stuff so it has come in handyish–and I tended to read the adventure bits, so Esther, Ruth, Joshua, Judges, Genesis, Exodus, all four gospels, and I liked Ecclesiastes and Proverbs for some reason. Always wondered about the concubine, and wished I could pound on the jerk who hauled her back from her Dad’s house and then tossed her to the animals.

  • Jurgan

    Again, it’s not really about TEH BUTTSECKS, it’s more about protecting guests who expect hospitality from you.  Of course, the question then is why is a male guest considered more worthy of protection than a female servant (slave? mistress? whore? all of the above?).  This is troubling, no doubt, but I think it’s a mistake to assume we’re meant to identify with the man- it’s more like, he was put in a bad situation and made a desperate choice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was right.  But you can take his rallying the Israelites against her abusers as an attempt to atone for his sin of abandoning her.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    it’s more about protecting guests who expect hospitality from you.  Of
    course, the question then is why is a male guest considered more worthy
    of protection than a female servant (slave? mistress? whore? all of the
    above?)

    There’s a problem with that, too, though: because Jael violated hospitality pretty badly – promising it, making the refugee sleepy and then putting a tent stake through his head! ; and although the responsibility was ultimately not on her (because as female she wasn’t fully accountable) but on her husband, it’s not presented as wrong in any way despite breaking one of the most sacred laws. And not only a law because of custom, but in the OT itself, God says several times to “be hospitable because you were once strangers in Egypt” etc.

    I think the big problem is viewing the Hebrew Bible through Christian eyes of martyrs, perfect saints, Jesus and impeccable Mary: too many Christians are raised to believe that people are either saints or sinners, either perfect or worthy of hell.* (Which is of course not supported by the NT, either – Petrus denied Jesus three times, and was forgiven. All of the 12 messed up, and Paulus was a Saulus before his conversion.) If people are perfect, then they don’t need the redemption of Jesus. (RTCs may pay lip service that they are sinners, too, like everybody else, but they act like Catholics with lesser sinner and mortal sin, which are respectivly small things they do, and ugly sex others do. Which is completly missing the point of whole chunks of NT, but then, reading the Bible for comprehension isn’t their strong suit, anyway).

    So the Israelites told stories of imperfect people in order to learn from them: Jakob who cheated, and was forgiven; David who lusted after Bersheba, and repented; Able and Cain who though brothers got into a deadly argument; etc. Some of the stories were myths about how humans feel, others were “How so” stories (Why we don’t sacrifice people = Isaac; why tribes are herders and others agrarians; why people don’t get along = Josef; why we moved to another land).

    But nowhere in the OT does God say “Look at these guys, these are how I want you to behave, their are paragons and ideals to aspire to”.

    It’s our modern interpretation that imposes that reading of “because a guy is in the Bible, he must be an ideal to follow”.

    However, even under that aspect, some stories are really brutal. I, too, would like to hear the expert theologians explanation, like Fred explaining that Jonah was a refutation of a particular viewpoint and therefore so strange.

    * This is also a problem in the secular world: politicans and leaders must be saintly ideals in the public eye; when it’s revealed they were humans like others who slept with their female slaves or cheated at their doctorate degree or had sex outside marriage, people don’t shrug and say “sure, he made mistakes, but what he achived was great”, they say “If he messed up once, he’s not worth following or admiring”.

    Which is of course dumb. A broken, real person wrestling with temptation or laziness and sometimes winning, sometimes failing is a much better inspiration for a normal person than an unreachable paragon of virtue one can’t relate to because he’s so perfect and unreal.

  • P J Evans

     “Jael violated hospitality”?
    I don’t think so.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Um, technically yes. She invited the general to a meal, which makes her the host and him the guest, and she’s not allowed to let him come to harm. Her breaking that rule made her a hero, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t break the rule.

  • Anton_Mates

    Of course, the question then is why is a male guest considered more worthy of protection than a female servant (slave? mistress? whore? all of the above?).

    Probably closer to “wife with somewhat reduced property rights.”  Concubines didn’t come with dowries, as I understand it, and they may not have been entitled to a full wife’s severance package (no pun intended) in the event of divorce, but otherwise they were wives.  They could hold as much power in the household as a wife, their kids could inherit the husband’s estate, etc.

    The reduced property rights may have influenced the Levite’s decision to sacrifice her, though.  If he sent a full wife to her death, AFAIK he might have to return her dowry to her father, and possibly compensate him in other ways.  Concubines were almost certainly more disposable.

    But you can take his rallying the Israelites against her abusers as an attempt to atone for his sin of abandoning her.

    Or as an attempt to punish the city of Gibeah for trying to kill him and breaking his stuff, of course.

  • Amaryllis

     “wife with somewhat reduced property rights.”

    Reminds me of when I was eleven or twelve or so, and picked up my mother’s copy of The Good Earth. There was quite a bit about concubines in that one, and I’d never heard the word before. So I looked it up: “a wife of inferior degree.”

    Okay then. I’m not sure what twelve-year-old self made of that, exactly, but I still remember the wording.

    In some translations of this passage, the woman is referred to as a wife.

    Also, in some translations, the woman is said to have been unfaithful, or even to have “played the whore.” I’m no Bible scholar, and I don’t know why that line is in some versions, while others have her leaving him for unspecified reasons. But I’ve seen some rather revolting explications which claim that the husband was acting with generosity in taking back his damaged goods,  à la Hosea,  rather than being a stalker-y abuser. YMMV, but yuck. After all, his subsequent conduct doesn’t much lend itself to that interpretation.

    The whole thing is probably symbolic or something or other, but even symbolically, it’s weird. “Weaponized rape” in warfare is intended to disrupt the society of the opposing side, to degrade women and dishonor the men who couldn’t protect then, to break up families and create children in the assaulters’ image. So maybe the original gang-rape story was meant to describe a situation like that and create a justification for a full-scale war– but then, why did the woman’s husband collude in the attack? And when the attackers have been decisively defeated, their punishment for raping a woman belonging to their opponents is… being encouraged to go and rape some more such women? Weird as well as ugly.

  • Anton_Mates

    Also, in some translations, the woman is said to have been unfaithful, or even to have “played the whore.” I’m no Bible scholar, and I don’t know why that line is in some versions, while others have her leaving him for unspecified reasons.

    AFAIK, the disagreement goes well back into the B.C.E. Hebrew sources; some use a word meaning “harlot,” some just say she became angry with him, or that a rift grew up between them.  In the Babylonian Talmud, all the commentators seem to agree with the “harlot” option, but some of them argue that she was driven to adultery by his abuse, while others place the blame entirely on her.

    I’ve read somewhere that some commentators rejected the “harlot” option because it would have reflected unfavorably on the Levite and the Israelites.  I.e., if she really was “damaged goods”, then it wouldn’t make sense for the husband to try to win her back (or to spare her life, for that matter), and the Israelites wouldn’t be justified in their outrage over her murder.

    And when the attackers have been decisively defeated, their punishment for raping a woman belonging to their opponents is… being encouraged to go and rape some more such women?

    Well, the Benjaminites needed to be punished for attacking a guest who’d done them no wrong, but apparently the other Israelite tribes didn’t actually want them to go extinct.  The inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead had already committed a capital crime by failing to assemble at Mizpah with the rest of Israel, so by killing them and handing off the virgin girls to the Benjaminites, two birds were butchered with one stone.

  • Amaryllis

    Thanks for the information. I’m imagining a bunch of arguing commentators:
    “She must have been a harlot; why else would even a wife of inferior degree want to leave a perfectly good husband? And you see the trouble it caused: sin always leads to death!”
    “She can’t have been a harlot; no whore would have been worth all that!”

    Well, the Benjaminites needed to be punished for attacking a guest who’d
    done them no wrong, but apparently the other Israelite tribes didn’t actually want them to go extinct.

    Then they might have thought twice before totally destroying all the Benjmainite towns, women and children included. So that, contrary to the usual result of a war, widows and orphans and unmarried “superfluous women,” we get a remnant made up of wifeless, childless men. It’s still backwards.

    Do you know whether it was the custom for most marriages to be between people of different tribes? Or was it more usual to marry within one’s own tribe?

  • Anton_Mates

    Then they might have thought twice before totally destroying all the Benjmainite towns, women and children included.

    Yeah, but they were really angry then.  (Which is historically realistic, at least–a lot of civilian massacres and sacked cities are the result of an invading army basically getting carried away, even if its leaders didn’t really intend for that to happen.)

    As I understand it, tribal conflicts often kill as many women and children as men, because even though the men do most of the fighting, they’re also much more likely to survive the fight.  Even if their side starts to lose, they can turn tail and flee, defending themselves from pursuers.  The women and children, on the other hand, are sitting ducks if a raiding force actually makes it into their lands.

    Do you know whether it was the custom for most marriages to be between people of different tribes? Or was it more usual to marry within one’s own tribe?

    Definitely more usual to marry within the tribe, I think, unless there was a need to cement a political alliance.  Mosaic law said that inherited property couldn’t pass from one tribe to another, so one of the families involved in an intertribal marriage was going to lose out.  (For similar reasons, you see all these cousin-marriages and half-sibling marriages and so on; nothing better to make sure the family’s property stays in the family.)

    All of this is with the huge caveat that we’re talking about the culture and history of the legendary Israelites, as envisioned by Jews living around five hundred years later, probably in Babylon.  We have no idea whether anything resembling the twelve-tribe structure actually existed.  Still, there were certainly different tribes or lineages, and rabbis were actively discussing the rules about marriage between them right down into the Roman era, so the historical Israelites probably really did have a strong prejudice against intertribal marriage.

  • hidden_urchin

    I’m only surprised nobody’s tried using verses like this to prove raping women is somehow okayed by God.

    Sssshhhhh.  GOP politicians don’t need to be getting any ideas.  They’re insufferable as it is.

  • Conscience

    What I don’t understand is when it says they did not listen to him when he offered them his concubine. Because it sounds like they did.

  • Wednesday

    Yeaaah, so, there’s one reading of the similar story of Lot in Sodom where you could argue Lot was being sarcastic when he offered his daughters up for gang rape, in the “you want to rape my guests, that’s the same as asking to rape my daughters.”

    But this one… uh, no. This one really can’t be repaired unless it’s all some convoluted metaphor for tribal politics.

    At least it can’t be used to condemn homosexuality by anyone who isn’t being a deliberate asshole? After all, the (presumably-male) mob raped a woman to death.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah D: I wonder what went through her mind :(

    One wonders at the person including such a story in the Bible. :(

  • vsm

    Why read Lot as sarcastic? He puts the well-being of his guests before that of his own daughters, exemplifying the virtue of hospitality the same way Abraham shows obedience to God by being prepared to sacrifice Isaac. Of course, in those stories God intervened and rewarded the virtuous.

    As you say, though, this is one nasty story. It would be interesting to hear what scholars make of the intertextuality with Lot. Unlike Lot, the host refuses to protect his (female) guest, the Levite saves himself at her expense rather than saving them all like the angels did, and God is completely absent. It’s almost like a very dark parody of the earlier tale. Note also how the Levite fails to mention how he threw her to the wolves when he recounts the tale in Judges 20:5.

  • Anton_Mates

    Unlike Lot, the host refuses to protect his (female) guest, the Levite saves himself at her expense rather than saving them all like the angels did, and God is completely absent. It’s almost like a very dark parody of the earlier tale.

    I think it’s even more parallel than that.  The host does attempt to protect his male guest, in precisely the same way Lot attempted to protect the angels (who were male, or at least appeared so.)  Furthermore, the angels don’t take action until after the crowd rejects Lot’s offer of his daughters, and continues to threaten the males in the house.  And of course the Levite and the host don’t have the option of saving them all anyway.  So the two stories seem to express identical moral norms; male guests are to be protected, household females are to be sacrificed as needed.

    Also, while God is absent from this particular passage, he appears a few verses later, repeatedly ordering the Israelites (through the mouths of the temple priests) to attack Gibeah in revenge.

    I see this not as a parody of the Lot story, but as a retelling of it for an era in which God’s direct intervention can no longer be relied upon.  Now humans have to protect themselves instead of getting rescued by angels, and an immoral city must be wiped out by a human army with priestly guidance, rather than by divine fire and brimstone.  But the moral principles themselves haven’t changed.

  • vsm

    That’s the fun in reading ancient texts with no background in history; knowing just which level of brutality is too much. However, I think there are several parts that suggest we are meant to read this as a contrast to Lot that reflects badly on this version, instead of a retelling under different circumstances. Firstly, we are clearly meant to feel sympathy for the concubine and feel at least uneasy about the Levite. Horror at what happens to her is what motivated Israel to go to war, after all, and we get that detail about her having tried to get back in. As for the Levite, we learn that she wanted to leave him, that it was he who personally threw her out*, that he seems to act incredibly callous the next day, and that he fails to mention his own role in her death when recounting the tale. That’s a lot of unlikable traits that didn’t need to be mentioned, especially for a guy whose role was originally played by an angel.

    Secondly, see how the rest of the story goes. Even the Israelites rightful revenge turns into a civil war, followed by what you aptly called concentrated savagery. Compare this to the much cleaner fire from the sky in the original. It would be very difficult to read any of this as a triumph for anyone. I don’t think this describes the way humans need to look after themselves now that God’s stopped his direct interventions, either, since the last sentence of the book places the Time of Judges in the undesirable pre-kingdom past. What better way to cement that portrayal than retelling a famous story of virtue and righteous punishment as a total clusterfuck?

    *I think this detail suggests a parody. In both stories it is the guest, rather than the host, who uses his power to protect the people of the house, virgins included. However, if this was a story illustrating hospitality, shouldn’t the victim have been the daughter instead of the concubine? The writer specifically wanted to echo this element of the original, even though it leaves a plot hole; the men originally rejected the offer of both the daughter and the concubine, yet are satisfied with just the concubine after the Levite throws her to them.

    Or maybe I’m wrong in thinking this to be a deliberate subversion instead of just another version of the Lot story.

  • Anton_Mates

    But this one… uh, no. This one really can’t be repaired unless it’s all some convoluted metaphor for tribal politics.

    Especially considering how it leads into the other family-values texts that Fred’s been posting recently.

    I mean, dude throws his concubine to the wolves to save himself, then does a body-part mailing campaign as a complaint against the jerks in Gibeah.  The Israelites respond by declaring war on Gibeah and ultimately slaughtering every man, woman and child in the city.  Then the tribe of Benjamin, which owned Gibeah, can’t get any wives because of their rep for being crazy rapist-murderers of their own guests, instead of just raping and murdering other cities’ inhabitants like a decent person would.  So the Israelites annihilate another city except for its virgin girls, whom they hand off to Benjamin.  But that’s still not enough women, so the Israelites arrange for Benjamin to kidnap all those girls from Shiloh and force them into marriage.  And Shiloh was like the holiest city in Israel at the time!

    I can’t actually think of any other legend or epic which contains so much concentrated savagery in so few pages.

  • flat

    Well you should have seen Jacob’s home life that was pretty messed up as well.

    I mean the infighting between rachel and lea and their slaves the effects it had on their childeren, you can atleast understand why Joseph got thrown in a well and why he got sold as a slave by his own brothers.

  • flat

    Here are dr cox and kelso agreeing about people.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8ICj1MlMqQ

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-W-DeLaney/1356003636 William W. DeLaney

    Count on disgusting people to interpret a historical book in the most disgusting possible light.

    Your days are numbered, scum.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Goodwin/28602067 Jess Goodwin

     “Your days are numbered, scum.”

    Frank Miller, is that you? :p

  • Joshua

    Your days are numbered, scum.

    Indeed they are. Today is number 2456232 if I have done my time zone conversion right.

  • Vermic

    I’m not sure what the non-disgusting interpretation of this passage is supposed to be.  Maybe Veggie Tales could make it fun and lighthearted?  Like, the concubine is played by a cucumber and then the guy hands out pickle slices to everyone?

  • EllieMurasaki

    ew ew ew

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    I’ve been saying that for years, but no one listens.

  • Madhabmatics

    There are so many ways that mailing the body parts of a woman who used to have sex with to strangers is not disgusting. You know, like

    well

    there is

    maybe

    Okay, actually that’s pretty disgusting every way you look at it.

  • Madhabmatics

     In retrospect perhaps “No matter which way you cut it” was not a good expression to use with this story!

  • Katie/Katy

    Erm … I thought the point of the stories in the book of Judges was, hey, just LOOK at how horribly people behave when they’re not hewing to Christian principles – not as examples of Christian-approved behavior. Not so?

  • Joshua

    Well, there were no Christians until a few centuries after it was written, but the book certainly goes out of its way to say “LOOK at how horribly people behave.”

  • Joshua

    Funny coincidence. I watched Dollhouse S02E04 last night, in which Priya’s relationship with Nolan is resolved.

    Boyd had some lovely advice helpful to this situation. I want to quote him, but (i) spoilers, and (ii) people might be sick. So my better judgement prevails, I hope.

    It was his calm and friendly delivery of the lines that gets me.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Paste the text into ROT13.com and then paste the resultant gibberish here, with an explanatory note so anyone who might want to avoid the spoilers or the disturbing content can refrain from unROT13ing it and anyone else can unROT13 it at their leisure.

  • Joshua

    If you really want:

    “Fyvg gur srzbeny negrevrf naq chzc gur purfg. Qenvavat gur syhvqf znxrf vg rnfvre gb phg hc.”

    Content note: Gory and disturbing. Dollhouse was not the happy, light show Firefly was.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think I did see that episode. I couldn’t remember.

  • http://vicwelle.wordpress.com victoria

    When it comes to difficult passages like this I’m always reminded of a professor who emphasized reading the text from the point of view of the “minor” or unnamed characters, and to be aware of what is not being said in the text.  So when I read earlier in the chapter that the concubine supposedly “played the whore,” I recognize that I’m very likely not getting her side of the story.  And I am also reminded of awful people I’ve known in my own life who were jealous and controlling of their partners, who considered going out for coffee with a platonic friend to mean their partner was a cheating slut.  I read of the woman’s horrible death and mutilation, and even though the Levite only addresses the Israelite men, I wonder how the women reacted, and recognize that while the men were told to “take counsel, and speak out,” the message the women received was likely the opposite.  This is what could happen to you, so keep your mouth shut and obey.

    And if i’m to retain any shred of my christian faith, I have to believe that texts like this are instructive not because they tell us how we ought to live, but because they show us how awful human beings can be to one another and how desperately we need to seek “a more excellent way.”

  • Amaryllis

    The Chick-Fil-A Poem of the Day, for Lot’s Wife and the Women of Gibeah:

     “Wife’s Disaster Manual”

    When the forsaken city starts to burn,
    after the men and children have fled,
    stand still, silent as prey, and slowly turn

    back. Behold the curse. Stay and mourn
    the collapsing doorways, the unbroken bread
    in the forsaken city starting to burn.

    Don’t flinch. Don’t join in.
    Resist the righteous scurry and instead
    stand still, silent as prey. Slowly turn

    your thoughts away from escape: the iron
    gates unlatched, the responsibilities shed.
    When the forsaken city starts to burn,

    surrender to your calling, show concern
    for those who remain. Come to a dead
    standstill. Silent as prey, slowly turn

    into something essential. Learn
    the names of the fallen. Refuse to run ahead
    when the forsaken city starts to burn.
    Stand still and silent. Pray. Return.

    – Deborah Paredez

  • Anton_Mates

    Pre-emptive tl;dr–all of the following is basically an argument that the Levite is a horrible person, but is not presented as sinful by the authors of this story, because they were also horrible people.  (At least when it came to this issue.)

    Firstly, we are clearly meant to feel sympathy for the concubine and feel at least uneasy about the Levite. Horror at what happens to her is what motivated Israel to go to war, after all, and we get that detail about her having tried to get back in.

    Sympathy for the concubine doesn’t necessarily detract from sympathy for the Levite, though.  If you have to sacrifice your prize horse or something to escape death, people will probably sympathize even more with you if your horse was really awesome and it died in a really savage way.  And I wonder if the “hands on the threshold” detail carried the same significance for the original audience as it does for us.  We read it and think about someone clawing at the door horror-movie-style, but they might think, “Aww, she used her last strength to drag herself home to her master, what a loyal second-class human she turned out to be.”  Like all those dogs in Reader’s Digest stories.

    If the authors were looking to build sympathy for her, they passed up some very big chances.  Unlike her father and husband and host, the concubine never speaks, nor are we ever told her thoughts.  That’s pretty remarkable, given that Judges otherwise gives its female characters a relatively large amount of importance and airtime: Deborah, Jael, Delilah, Achsah, Jephthah’s daughter. 

    As for the Levite, we learn that she wanted to leave him, that it was he who personally threw her out*, that he seems to act incredibly callous the next day, and that he fails to mention his own role in her death when recounting the tale.

    Well, to take those point by point: 

    The fact that she leaves him probably counts against her, more than it counts against him.  Even if she wasn’t “playing the harlot,” it would be unlawful for her to abandon her husband; the Torah offers no provision for wife-initiated divorce.  For his part, the fact that he’s willing to try to win her back, and that her father views him with such affection, suggests that he isn’t a bad husband…by the authors’ standards.

    The fact that he throws her out the door is a bad thing…if the authors/audience thought that a man shouldn’t sacrifice the women of his household to save his own life & chastity.  I’d give that more credence if the Tanakh contained any suggestion along those lines, but I’m really not aware of one.  Not that I’m remotely an expert in that area, so feel free to point out examples I’ve missed!  But so far as I can see, Abraham and Lot both threw their womenfolk under the bus and it didn’t affect their “righteous” designation at all.  Conversely, I can’t think of a male character who actually sacrifices himself to protect a wife or female relative from an equally dire fate.

    The fact that he callously tells her to get up might be mitigated by a) his anxiety to escape the city before they’re attacked again, and b)  his surprise on seeing her in the first place.  She was carried off by the mob the night before, and he probably assumed that she ended up dead somewhere or *cough* under new management.  Once he sees that she actually managed to walk back to the house afterwards, he might guess that she’s still relatively healthy.
    As for not mentioning his role in her death: again, the import of that depends on whether he had any guilt to hide.  Maybe it just didn’t need to be mentioned, because who wouldn’t do the same in his shoes?  He’s certainly up front about the fact that he cut her to pieces afterwards, which isn’t exactly standard Jewish burial practice, and the Israelites don’t bat an eye at that.

    It would be very difficult to read any of this as a triumph for anyone.

    Yep.  Divine justice isn’t what it used to be.

    I don’t think this describes the way humans need to look after themselves now that God’s stopped his direct interventions, either, since the last sentence of the book places the Time of Judges in the undesirable pre-kingdom past.

    I’m not sure that the bulk of the text actually is very pro-kingdom, but I’ll save that for another post. 

    *I think this detail suggests a parody. In both stories it is the guest, rather than the host, who uses his power to protect the people of the house, virgins included. However, if this was a story illustrating hospitality, shouldn’t the victim have been the daughter instead of the concubine?

    Well, just as in the Lot story, the crowd doesn’t want the daughter.  Or do you mean that the host shouldn’t have offered the concubine to them in the first place?  My thought is that, if the guest-host obligations were primarily between men, then the Levite’s personal safety is paramount to the host.  If the host isn’t sure that his daughter will satisfy the crowd by herself, then he needs to make them the most persuasive offer he can which would still spare the Levite, and that’s to throw in the concubine (who, after all, is half of what the crowd wanted in the first place.)  It’s a shame to sacrifice his guest’s property, but if it saves his guest’s ass (literally and figuratively), it’s the right thing to do.

    I don’t see any reason to think Lot would have done things differently; like the Levite’s host, he offered up all the women in his house at the time.  (Except his wife, which arguably makes Lot less generous.  But maybe his wife was as old as he was, and he figured she’d be of no interest to your average roaming pack of rapists.)

    The writer specifically wanted to echo this element of the original, even though it leaves a plot hole; the men originally rejected the offer of both the daughter and the concubine, yet are satisfied with just the concubine after the Levite throws her to them.

    True, that bit is weird.  I guess once the men actually had the concubine, they were too distracted to stick around and demand more?
     


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