|"If I shut up the heavens and there is no rain; if I command the locusts to ravage the land; or if I let loose pestilence against My people, when My people, who bear My name, humble themselves, pray, and seek My favor and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear in My heavenly abode and forgive their sins and heal their land." II Chronicles 7:13-14;
by Walter Baucum
Jean Hunt, in her book Tracking the Flood Survivors, and many more women authors of historical books try to make a case that women in the scriptures were treated as secondary citizens by a dominator system. Women, she maintains, “were kept imprisoned in this dominator society, the most striking example of this systems-induced blindness being the biblical treatment of rape. “ Is this true, we will see, but starting with her statement:
“In the Book of Judges, chapter 19, the priests who wrote the Bible tell us of a father who offers his virgin daughter to a drunken mob. He has a male guest in his house, a man from the high-caste tribe of Levites. A bunch of rowdies from the tribe of Benjamin demand to see him outside, apparently with the intention of beating him up. ‘ Behold,’ the father says to them, ‘ here is my daughter, a maiden, and his (the guest’s) concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you, but unto this man do not so vile a thing."Ms. Hunt says that we are told this casually, as a matter of little importance. She continues her story, of how the visitor gave the rowdies his concubine to be raped all night, to crawl back to his doorstep in the early morning, to die, and finally to be loaded on the man’s ass and carried home. The Benjaminite’s offer to give his daughter’s virginity violated no law, she further adds, and the Levite’s giving of his concubine to the men also violated no law. With no further research in the following verses and chapters, she ends the story, attempting to make her particular point about the lack of compassion of the men in that dominator society and no recourse of action on behalf of the dead woman.
But is this the total story? Is Ms. Hunt correct in her assertions? Or is this just one more example of pulling out of context an incident from scripture just to prove a biased point? Let us take a closer look at how rape is treated in the scriptures, this time looking at the whole story instead of just a small segment of it.
“Nowhere in the telling of this brutal story of the betrayal of a daughter’s and a mistress’s trust and the gang rape and killing of a helpless woman is there even a hint of compassion, much less moral indignation or outrage. But more significant--mind-boggling--is that the father’s offer to sacrifice what in that day was his own daughter’s most precious attribute, her virginity, and possibly also her life, violated no law. Even more mind-boggling is that the actions that predictably led to the gang rape, torture, and ultimately murder of a woman who was essentially the Levite’s wife likewise violated no law--and this in a book full of seemingly endless prescriptions and proscriptions about what is morally and legally right and wrong....”After re-reading the account in Judges, I found no wording indicative of the rowdies being drunk, as Ms. Hunt avers in her first quote above. Are we sometimes guilty of judging other people, other cultures, and other times by our own modern standards? Today, many crimes do indeed involve alcohol. But, is this a reason to assume that those rowdies from a distant culture and time were drunk?
In verse 22, we find that these “rowdies” were the sons of Belial, which is Strong’s Hebrew #H1100 in the Hebrew means “wicked men.”
This was a patriarchal (father-centered) society, but women did have equal status. Verse 30 recognizes that what the Levite man had done with his concubine, after the woman had been raped, was a terrible evil:
Judges 19:30 “....There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day.”
Rape is a sin and the man definitely sinned by what he did. See also Judges 20:6. In Judges 20:8 we find that they (the Israelites) would not go to the man’s tent or house.
These rowdy men forced (humbled) her. This word is Strong’s #H6031 and means “defile, deal harshly with, ravish.” The word “ravish” itself is Strong’s #H7693, which means “to copulate with.” Another definition of what they did to her was “lewdness,” #2154, Hebrew zimmah or zammah, “an evil plan, a bad plan, a heinous crime.”
Was rape a crime or sin in the Hebrew Scriptures, and did the Levite man sin by turning his concubine wife over to the rowdy men? Yes; according to Deut. 22:25-26.
The Ten Commandments are Laws of love. The seventh Command, adultery, includes any sex crime, including rape. Although “Thou shalt not” seems negative, the consequences are not. By not breaking this Command, love is shown.
The Sixth Command, murder, also was committed by the rowdy men. Looking closely at these Commands, we find that the first four point toward love of the CREATOR, and the last six point toward love of our fellow man.
In Judges 20:13, we are told that the Israelites decided to punish those guilty of rape and murder. THESE DEEDS WERE NOT TO GO UNPUNISHED, even in this “dominator” system.
Beginning in verse 21, we find the start of what turned out to be the killing of 65,760 people, plus many more not numbered in both the cities and the countryside, because of this terrible deed. This doesn’t sound like Hunt’s:
“Nowhere in the telling of this brutal story of the betrayal of a daughter’s and a mistress’s trust and the gang rape and killing of a helpless woman is there even a hint of compassion, much less moral indignation or outrage.”Judges 20:48 and other verses explain that the Tribe of Benjamin was almost completely wiped out of existence because of this terrible sin. This definitely sounds like moral indignation and outrage. Scripture shows that rape and murder are punishable by death:
Another example of punishment for rape is found in Gen. 34:7, the term being defined as “folly,” a thing which “ought not to be done.” Verse 25 tells us that the sons of Jacob slew all the males of the Hivite city, including the king of that country. The Hivites were sons of Canaan. The reader will recognize here the story of Dinah, the daughter of Leah, one of the four wives of Jacob. This was that same Jacob whose name was changed to Israel.
Was this act of the Israelite men real moral indignation, or was it just an opportune time for the Israelite soldiers to satisfy some blood lust that men in a “dominator” society craved, their being saturated with testosterone-driven aggression and competitiveness? Whatever hormonal proclivity men possess, they are commanded over and over to be responsible for their behavior. The guilt of the Levite man in no way is obviated by his concubine’s having played the whore.
This tells us two things:
One is that hundreds of thousands of Israelites were outraged by the act. Only the Tribe of Benjamin was not totally wiped out.
Second, the Benjaminites piled up a double guilt, the first being their aiding, abetting, and harboring a group of criminals. The second was their being in total disobedience of their CREATOR by not allowing the penalty of the broken law, death by stoning, to be carried out on these men (See Deut. 22:23-26).
In Judges 20:21, we find that 22,000 Israelites were killed. Verse 25 adds another 18,000 dead. In verse 31, another 30 Israelites were smitten. Verse 35 adds another 25,100 dead, this time Benjaminites. Verse 37 tells us that an entire city of people were killed, although the exact number is not given. Another 30 Israelites in verse 39 joined the land of the dead. In the last verse of the chapter, verse 48, we are told that many more Benjaminites were destroyed, plus entire cities burned and the inhabitants killed. The total given dead was 65,760, which figure doesn’t include many thousands more (probably) who were killed in the cities and countryside. This does not sound as if “no outrage” were shown over the rape of the adulteress.
This war almost totally wiped out the Tribe of Benjamin. Of 26,700 fighting men, 25,100 were killed, leaving 1,600. But verses 45-48 of Judges 20 indicate another 600 men, plus many, many more, were killed. These Israelite avengers killed the beasts and set fire to their cities (vs. 48). Apparently all, or most, of the Benjaminite women were slaughtered too because of the wording in Judges 21:7.
Lev. 21:7 tells us that a man should not take a wife that is a whore.
Verse 9 says a woman profanes herself by playing the whore. This has been pointed out already.
By separating the rotten apples from the barrel, the whole nation of Israel would remain clean in the CREATOR’s sight. Israel had been chosen to be a role-model nation and was held to higher standards than its neighbor nations. The concubine’s life, already forfeit by the act of adultry, was salvaged for a time by her master’s kindness and compassion in forgiving her. Perhaps he was amiss in not allowing the law to be carried out against her, but “love is blind,” say the poets.
When the Benjaminite man offered to give the men his daughter, was he not in a real quandary? The Levite guest was under his protection. He knew the evil men would not be satisfied until they had committed an evil act on the guest. As a good host, and responsible for the protection of his guests, he probably would have laid down his own life to protect his Levite friend. Reading about this example 3,000 years later, we could not know all that went on in the man’s mind. He know that the men wanted to harm the Levite guest (see story of Sodom & Gomarrah which begins in Gen 18:20) and had no interest in the daughter?
The rowdy men probably did not want the man’s daughter because Judges 19:22 "Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!" They wanted a man, not to rape a woman. Their hatred turned to mob mentality, and they decided to rape the concubine adulteress if they could not get the man, rape being an act of humiliation, a terrible act against a woman, but also a bitter deed against the Levite man, the master of the concubine and therefore her protector and lover in that patriarchal society.
The Levite, knowing the customs of hospitality, which were much more rigid cultural influences in those days and in that region of the world, undoubtedly saw a way out of the dilemma, a way to save himself and to save face for his kind host. Since his concubine’s life already was forfeit (Judges 19:2), he offered her in order to save the Benjaminite’s daughter. In his selfish, human way of thinking, this would solve both problems, the hospitality requirements of the host and his own guilt in not having turned his adulterous wife over to the elders to be stoned to death. Check carefully Deut. 23:17.
Israel was a male dominated society, and women’s rights were sometimes overlooked. Other forces, too, were at work during this period of time. Also note: Judges 17:6 “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” This is repeated in Judges 21:25, thus showing the example of how an unpunished crime or sin can escalate into something much, much worse. Two wrongs do not make a right.
This answer might or might not appeal to every reader. But one thing it does do is offer us, the readers, an example of how things under human judgment and decision-making, without the direct adherence to our Father’s laws, can go wrong. Nor can we judge the entire Hebrew Scriptures, the CREATOR, or the CREATOR’s chosen society, Israel, by the act of one independent-acting wicked man.
Ms. Hunt says:Had she read the entire story from beginning to end, instead of taking just a small portion of it out of context, she would have seen that laws definitely were broken. My personal guess is that it was the Levite’s love and compassion for his concubine-wife that prevented his obedience to the law in the first place to have her stoned to death for her adulteries. Although he just compounded his sin later by giving her to the evil men in order to observe the very strict hospitality customs of that day. In his own way of thinking, he was just finishing a job that had been put off from an earlier time, thereby expiating himself of his own guilt.
“Even more mind-boggling is that the actions that predictably led to the gang rape, torture, and ultimately murder of a woman who was essentially the Levite’s wife likewise violated no law....”
Just as disheartening, though, is that Ms. Hunt makes a good and continued case about religionists not using the scientific method of objectivity, but rather playing on the emotions of people. And yet she herself is guilty of that very thing. The case she wants to make is that under the original rule of Priestesses, women would not be treated so cruelly by men.
“But to the extent that it reflects a dominator society, biblical morality is stunted. At worst, it is a pseudo-morality in which the will of G-d is a device for covering up cruelty and barbarity. So effectively has the imposition of a dominator morality been, that even today men and women who think of themselves as good, moral people are able to read passages like this without questioning how a just and righteous G-d could order such horrible and inhuman acts.”Although not directly germane to the subject of the gang rape that resulted in (probably more than) 65,000 deaths, Ms. Hunt indirectly is talking about the same thing. She is here talking about Numbers 31 and what happened after the fall of Midian:
“Having slain all the adult males, the ancient Hebrew invaders ‘ took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones.’ And now they were told by Moses that this was the command of the ETERNAL: ‘ Kill every male among the little ones and every woman who hath known man by lying with him, but all the women children that have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.’”The land of Canaan that these so-called Israelite “invaders” came to had become utterly corrupt and perverted in everything that the people did. “Archaeological evidence reveals how incredibly depraved these tribes were. They practiced human sacrifice and every sort of sexual perversion. Because of the multitude and grievous nature of their sins, it is said that the land ‘ vomiteth out her inhabitants’ (Lev. 18:21-25). The sinfulness of these tribes would present a strong temptation to Israel, which must therefore be wiped out. As the incident with the Moabites revealed (Num. 25:1-3), Israel was all too prone to adopt the idolatrous and inhuman practices of her neighbors. In fact, the inhabitants of Canaan that Israel did not destroy according to the ETERNAL’s Command (See Deut. 7), are described as being ‘ snares’ to Israel (Ex. 23:33; 34:12; Deut. 7:16; 12:30).” Much recent research suggests that this land had been Shem’s land and Shem’s society, the Sumerian society that he earlier had established. It was the land to which many Hebrews, including Abraham and Sarah, had entered to get away from the corrupting religious influences that had taken over the eastern part of Sumeria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The entire area, including the Land of Canaan, had become infiltrated over the years by the Babylonish system, a system led by pagan Priests-and-Priestesses who had rebelled against our CREATOR and cruelly suppressed those who would obey Him. That land had been given to Abraham, a direct descendant of Shem, in Gen. 13:15 and 15:18.
The command to Joshua, as the Israelites came out of forty years of wandering in the Wilderness, was to rid the land of these corrupt people, to destroy their heathen temples, and to fill the land with the original owners (Read the directions given to Israel in Deut. 20:16-18). The CREATOR had established human freedom and given human rights to these Israelites. In those nations retaining the Priesthood-and-Priestesseshood established by Nimrod and Semiramis, the people were imprisoned in a religious bondage. Abraham had been ordered to leave that system and go to the land where Shem had already gone (hundreds of years earlier probably) and established freedom and peace.
The Almighty used His model nation Israel to punish these real invaders of their land. That they saved a large number of young women would seem to be to their credit. Since the women were virgins, perhaps they had not yet become as corrupt as the adults of that society had. Had the young boys been adopted, they might never have fully forgiven what the Israelites had done to their parents, and would have grown up revengeful. This is conjecture of course and might lack the objectivity promised earlier in this paper. We are offended today by this cruel treatment of others. The CREATOR, though, is able to resurrect all of these people into a place and time where their influence on others would not be so corrupting. All who have died with our knowing ETERNAL will be resurrected into the Davidic Kingdom of the Wonderful World Tomorrow.
Deut. 7 was our CREATOR’s Command to Joshua and the Israeli army to destroy totally the nations in Canaan. In Lev. 20:23, 2, and 3, Israel was commanded to do not as the other nations in that land, nations that sacrificed their children to the god “Molech.” These people were cruel, bloody, and perverse in everything that they did. People like them today are put in prisons and often given the death penalty. (See also Lev. 20:2 and Deut. 18:10.)
If we read carefully the scriptures indicated, we find that the Levite man’s refusal to carry out the law on his concubine adulteress could have been because of a rebellious attitude. Sending his wife to be raped broke many laws. The rowdy men of Belial were definitely rebellious, first in wanting to kill the Levite and second in committing rape and murder. The Israelite soldiers who went against the soldiers of Benjamin were in rebellion by following the directions of the Assembly rather than the CREATOR. Over 40,000 paid the penalty.
The men in Judges 20:18 did not ask the ETERNAL if they should avenge this crime but rather who should go first into battle. In verse 10, we find they had acted independently of their Spiritual Leader. In vs. 23 they finally asked the perfect question, but they needed to be taught a lesson about rebellion. In verses 26-28, they humbled themselves and did that which was correct. “And the ETERNAL said, Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver them into thine hand.”
The Tribe of Benjamin was in rebellion by not stoning to death the rowdies who committed the rape and murder, according to Deut. 22:23-27. Perhaps everybody had to be taught a lesson, a lesson concerning rebellion.
From our own human viewpoint, we often overlook the important point that rebellion might be the worst sin there is, a thing which our Father utterly detests. Many sins are committed by mistake, human error, or in the heat of the moment, all of these being emotional relapses. Rebellion, though, is a well-thought-out, reasoned, determined, deliberate thing, a mindset that, once it is internalized and solidified, is difficult to unset it. The deaths of over sixty-five thousand human beings would jar most people out of their rebellious attitudes. The lesson being taught is that broken laws exact penalties.
Don’t we too often consider the way things are only in the present? We’re totally wrapped up in the “now.” We can project ourselves into the distant past, and put ourselves in the shoes of those who lived there, only with great difficulty. Our modern perspective lends itself to misinterpretation of events and societal mores, although people themselves have remained basically the same for millennia.
Remember too that ancient Israel during the time of the Judges was not a democracy, but rather a Theocracy (a government ruled by the CREATOR). He stressed that His people be pure and expected them to live morally upright lives. Adultery, unnatural sex acts, prostitution, and other forms of perverted sex were outlawed because the CREATOR knew they could destroy Israel, as they had destroyed other nations.
It was not this “dominator” society that was wrong, nor was it an unfeeling, unfair, uncompassionate CREATOR who hated women. It was then, and the same case can be made today in our society, the individuals themselves who were wrong. Judging our heavenly Father by the acts of a few depraved people is not right, nor is it our right.
The father who thought to offer his virgin daughter to the men, the Levite guest who did send his concubine to be raped and murdered, and the men who did the fowl deed all were derelicts of normal society, depraved, undisciplined, and lawless. They broke the laws of their CREATOR and of normalcy and decency. Ms. Hunt is correct in her condemnation of their lack of compassion. That moral indignation and outrage were absent, though, seems quite incorrect in light of the consequences.
Pulling small segments from context to support a prejudice or bias borders on dishonesty. When over 65,000 people are killed to satisfy the rape and murder of a concubine, and someone says that nothing was done, or that no outrage was felt, objectivity takes a dive. If every supposed case of the treatment of women as inferior beings were looked at carefully, and not taken out of context to satisfy personal biases, I believe that we would find a non-sexist CREATOR Who looks at, and treats, women as equal with men. To pass judgment on the Lawmaker Himself because a few men violated His laws is pointing the finger in the wrong direction. In today’s world, we like to blame gun manufacturers when someone shoots and kills a person. We blame the taverns when somebody gets a DUI; we extract “blood” money from tobacco companies whose poisonous products have been proved to kill people; we even condemn and sue these same companies when people can’t exercise the responsibility to ignore their products.
If it is upsetting to some that this same CREATOR refers to Himself in the masculine gender rather than the feminine, then they will just have to take that up with Hebrew scholars more knowledgeable of the scriptures than I. Gen. 1:27 says, “So YHWH created man in His own image, in the image of YHWH created He him; male and female created He them.” Verse 28 says, “And YHWH blessed them, and YHWH said unto them, ...have dominion over...every living thing...upon the earth.” Both of us, male and female, are made in our Father’s image; both of us have dominion over (own equally) the creatures of the earth.
In His viewpoint, we are equal, and we share equally in the responsibility of keeping the earth clean and livable. But “His” and “He” are definitely masculine gender words.
The writer has been as objective as he possibly can in looking at this picture. If he is accused of having an axe to grind, that axe is definitely not against women. It is against taking scripture out of context to prove a personal belief.
(Personal note: Jean Hunt is one of my favorite authors. Her book, Tracing the Flood Survivors, is well researched, well written, and well received. I have tried to get other books authored by her, but they seem to be tied up in probate by her heirs. She was one of a few, but growing number of, researchers with the courage to go against the grain of ostrich historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, ad infinitum who bury their heads in the sand of their own biases and refuse to look at new research that might vary from their own pet theories. Although her research is wide, accurate, and varied, I do not agree with some of her conclusions, one being, of course, her interpretation of the rape scene presented in this writing. What I do believe, and heartily so, is that with her untimely demise, the world of research and fresh ideas has suffered considerably.)
 See Gen. 1:27-28; Ex. 20:12; Deut. 21:18-21; Deut. 22:22; Ex. 21:10.
 Note that these commands, numbers 6 and 7, are numbers 5 and 6 respectively in the Catholic Ten Commandments.
 Ibid. Note too that the Israelites were the inheritors of Abraham and owned that land by right of inheritance. See Ezek. 37:24, 25, plus many more corroborating scriptures re. this subject.
 Copied from footnote re. Deut. 20:16-18 in KJV Bible.
 That Melchizedek, Prince of Salem, was Shem and that “Salem” means “Peace,” write for article, “Who Was Melchizedek?” from United Hebrew Congregations. Abram actually met this great man before he died at age 600 years. See Gen. 14.