For me, the Book of Judges records the most troubling scripture stories, including the most horrible story that most revolts my soul. As I read Judges 19 again this week, I paused. It records a gruesome story of a woman who had left her husband and went to her father’s house, but returned with her husband when he came and spoke friendly things to her again. On the way to their home, while staying overnight in a strange town, she was given to a mob, brutalized, and left for dead. Her husband’s response depicts the ultimate cowardice, and afterward, he seems astoundingly callous and insensitive as she died. The husband then puts her on the donkey, travels home, and then cries for vengeance by cutting her body into twelve pieces and mailing his wife’s carcass throughout Israel.
Why is this story in the scriptures? What is its purpose?
Trying to Learn from Most Horrible Story In The Bible
I read the Old Testament at least once a year and usually grit my teeth and suppress my horror while reading the last few chapters of Judges to reach the refreshing, like an oasis, pages of Ruth. This time I stopped. I decided to ask the questions I’d never actually asked.
“Why is this story here? What can I learn from this woman’s tragedy?”
I thought about the most horrible story during an entire temple session. I started seeing other interpretations than the way I read it. I mused that reading the story through my cultural lens and bias was like reading a text message—sometimes while the words are true, the emotional message may be widely misinterpreted. But I still continued to wrestle with it.
I looked for some good in the husband or self-sacrifice in the concubine. I tried reading the words with different emotions. I tried to see the story as some metaphor for the Savior, like most other stories are. I still couldn’t find peace.
“That Which Was Right In His Own Eyes”
Even while finding some good, reconciliatory qualities in the Levite husband, I thought more than once that the verses never said that he asked God what to do or that he followed God’s directions. Basically, there was no mention of God’s hand in these chapters. I recognized rational, logical deductions. But where was God’s will in it?
As I reviewed the chapters again, I realized these violent and disturbing stories are flanked with two incredibly powerful scriptures:
Judges 17: 6 “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
And the very last verse in Judges,
Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
Suddenly, I saw the lesson for me. This story became a warning to me on every level imaginable. Is there a King in my life? Where do I stand in doing that which is right in my own eyes?
As Lightning Falls From Heaven
I remembered how Mormon described the people during his time—how they willfully disobeyed and the Spirit of God left them. They became a hardened and blood-thirsty people, delighting in bloodshed.
I remembered the Nephite and Lamanite version of the Judges 19 story (without the personal, horrific details.) Mormon’s description is enough.
For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild bests, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.
Behold, my son, I cannot recommend them unto God lest He should smite me.
Mormon then laments the Nephite’s fall just as others lamented the fall of the Shining One, the Light Bringer, a Star, also known as Lucifer. Lucifer stood as a Sign at the right hand of God until he decided to do that which was right in his own eyes.
“I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”
A cataclysmic supernova.
This we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, and was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning. And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! Is fallen, even a son of the morning!
He became Satan, who stirs hearts to iniquity, who seeks to deceive, who incites to anger, revenge, and bloodshed, who endeavors to turn hearts from truth, who doesn’t know the mind of God, and who seeks to alter words.
Nevertheless, Not My Will But Thine Be Done
I have this image of Satan as an ashy black, dying, coughing, smoke cloud purporting to be the Son, when actually he is only a shabby counterfeit to the Son, the Bright and Morning Star, the Light of the World.
A true Star, fixated on by the wise men led them to the Savior. Curiously, Herod and his priests couldn’t see that star.
And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Jesus Christ is the Son,
which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
The Light that Pierces All Darkness
He is the Light that pierces the darkness, especially the darkness that shows up to hinder the reception of the light.
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I wasupon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
Just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.
When the light rested upon me, I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
Throughout the scriptures, Jesus Christ proved, in every way, that He singularly fixed His eyes on the Father’s will. Through every temptation of man and demon, through physical affliction, through betrayal and blindness of friends, He aligned His will with God’s will. His Father was His King.
He said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Amazingly and mercifully, the work of the Father involves our complete salvation.
Jesus understands the darkness that besets us and offers His light to us. If we accept it, all wrongs will be evident, courage to course-correct will be given, but more importantly, we will come to know and understand the will of God in our lives, seek to submit our will to His, and rejoice in our unity of purpose with the Father and the Son.
If your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
Finally, I found a lesson in the concubine’s horrible story and tragic death. I live in a world where people do “that which [is] right in his own eyes,” but I will fix my eyes, heart, and action on my King, for there is a King in Israel!