The Levite, the Concubine, and Israel’s Story

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A piece of mine has just been published over on the Theopolis Institute. Within it, I explore the broader scriptural themes that are in play in the story of the Levite and his concubine in Judges 19.

The story of Judges 19 and the subsequent chapters are some of the most shocking and appalling accounts in all of Scripture. The callousness of the old host and the Levite, and the monstrous brutality of the men of Gibeah, leaves us feebly scrabbling for words by which to surmount our dumbfoundedness. Yet the actions of the old man and the Levite in chapter 19 are only some of the initial events in a litany of cruelties, crimes, and catastrophes, as the evils of that night in Gibeah exploded into a conflagration that engulfed the entire nation, and almost eradicated the tribe of Benjamin from Israel.

Despite the violence and wickedness of Judges 19-21, this dark passage in Israel’s history is not excluded from the musical order of Scripture. Rather, its meaning is only truly perceived within the broader context established by that order, as within that order it is related to other events and times. Indeed, its presence at the end of Judges—although out of historical sequence—serves to frame it as a narrative that climactically expresses the moral state of Israel without a king, bringing themes of the book to a head (much as the events of 2 Samuel 24, also out of historical sequence, serve to highlight the movement of the themes of the book towards the future establishment of the temple).

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in 1 Samuel, Bible, Exodus, Genesis, Guest Post, Hermeneutics, Hosea, Judges, OT, OT Theology, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Levite, the Concubine, and Israel’s Story

  1. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    something Barry Webb pointed out in his NICOT commentary on Judges is that it’s left ambiguous in the narrative whether the concubine died because of her ordeal or whether the Levite, in cutting her in pieces, killed her.

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