Every chapter of Judges 18 – 21 starts with this sentence: “In those days Israel had no king.”
I'm not sure what that's all about, but it's apparently really important. “There was no king” could be either good or bad... Was it a period of chaos and lawlessness? Godlessness and immorality? Or freedom and democracy? Lol. Well, this is the Bible... I'm sure it was nothing good.
WOW. “Nothing good” was a massive understatement. This story is much like Sodom and Gomorrah, but if the virgin daughters on offer were actually raped, and then chopped up into pieces. So you know, much worse than that.
The main character in this part is “a Levite”. Why do the Levites never get names? Is this the same guy as from the previous story? I just have no idea.
“Nameless Levite #2” has a woman, who is alternately called his concubine and his wife, which confuses the hell out of me. She leaves him and goes back to live with her parents. 4 months goes by, and Nameless Levite #2 decides to go and try to convince her to come back.
It says nothing about this, but she apparently decides to go back with him (or, because this is the Bible, she likely had no choice in the matter). On the way home, they stop for the night in an Israelite city (Gibeah). They hang out in the town square for a long time, but no one invites them to spend the night at their house. (It makes it sound like this was just how things were done. Hang around in the town square and hope someone invites the strangers to their house for the night. That is just so fascinating.)
Just when it was starting to look like they were going to have to camp out in the town square, an “old man” (no one gets a name in this chapter) comes by and invites them home. So they go, and feed the animals, eat dinner, all those things you do.
And then, this happens: “some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, 'Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.'”
“Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish.”
Gee, where have I heard this before.
Here's where the story gets even worse. Nameless Levite #2 actually sends his wife/concubine out. (The virgin daughter is apparently spared, or at least, she is not mentioned again.) “And they raped her and abused her throughout the night”. Fucking great.
At daybreak, she goes back to the house and collapses on the doorstep. Nameless Levite #2 (who is her goddamn husband, by the way) gets up and “opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way.” Continue on his way to where, I wonder. To rescue his wife (lol)? On his way to just assume that she was dead and merrily continue on home? On his way to get fucked with a rusty chainsaw (this one, please)?
This collosal fuckup basically trips over his collapsed wife on the doorway, on this way to whatever the fuck he was going to do. And “He said to her, 'Get up; let’s go.'” Seriously. Fuck this guy so much.
“There was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home. 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.”
Well then. Was she already dead when he started chopping her up? I would rule nothing out at this point.
Seriously, I am... speechless. What the fuck even is this.
I feel like I'm supposed to be wondering why exactly he would choose to send a piece of chopped up human to each tribe of Israel, but at this moment, I don't fucking care.
For anyone keeping score at home, this is the second time that Judges took an already horrific story from earlier in the old testament, and just make it a billion times worse. (The first time was Jephthah.)
Well, that was disgusting. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Moving along...
Chapters 20 and 21 are about the fallout of this event. It is very confusingly written. It'll go along apparently consecutively and choronologiclly for a while, then it suddely seems to jump backward and tell the exact same thing over again, then it'll skip over to something else, etc. With all the usual Biblical giving of waayyy too much detail about some things, while being incomprehensibly vague about others. But anyway.
The town where this happened was part of the Benjamite tribe. So, all the rest of the Israelite tribes decide they need to destroy that town, and also go to war with the Benjamites. They ask God if he approves of their plan, and God is like, “yup, sounds good to me!” Because utterly destroying entire towns because a few people did something terrible is totally God's jam.
I, as usual, want to know why all the innocent people who live in Gibeah deserve to die, while Nameless Levite #2 is considered perfectly fine and good after giving his wife up to a bunch of rapists. If this is what objective Biblical morality is all about, I want no part of it.
Anyway, there is a battle at Gibeah. The Israelites get their asses handed to them at first – 40,000 of them died in the first 2 days. By the way, before each of those 2 days, they asked God whether they should fight, and God was like “yeah, I totally got your back”. It seems to me that God was directly responsible for all 40,000 of those deaths. I wonder how many Israelites God has personally murdered, I should have been keeping a count all this time!
On the third day, God apparently gets his shit together at last, and helps them win. So the Israelites go into Gibeah, and “put the whole city to the sword.” Because obviously.
Then for good measure, they go on to destroy the Benjamites entirely: “The men of Israel went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire.” Because why stop at just overkill, when you could have “OMG WTF are we even doing anymore???” overkill.
Then they all cry for a while about how sad they are that one of the tribes of Israel is no more. Well maybe you should have thought of that before you killed them all.
Wait, this is confusing. Apparently there are some Benjamite men left, but they have no women for some reason. And at some point, all the rest of the Israelites had made some sort of vow to never let their daughters marry a Benjamite. So now they have no wives and they're going to die out. Crisis! Even though they were just trying to kill them all like 5 minutes ago!
At the same time, they learn that the people of Jabesh Gilead had failed to attend the assembly before God (I think it might have something to do with those rules about how they all have to present themselves before God at some particular place at regular intervals). This gives the Israelites a convenient excuse to murder everyone at Jabesh Gilead, which they do, except for the virgin women, who they give to the Benjamites. But it's still not enough women for them, oh no!
So, the rest of the Israelites encourage the Benjamites to steal women from Shiloh. Why Shiloh, and why is it OK to just randomly kidnap women and basically turn them into sex slaves/baby machines? I have no idea. Anyway, that's what they do. Because just changing their random rules about not marrying the Benjamites is so out of the question that it is never even considered.
And then everyone went home.
And that was the end of Judges. I'm having a hard time thinking about what I thought of the book as a whole, because the end of it was just so repulsive. Oh well.