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The Dismembered Concubine

This historical narrative takes place in Israel during the time of the Judges when Israel had no king. It’s the story of a woman who was not faithful to her new husband (a Levite), a fornicator, and she fled home to her father. This occurrence led to the man leaving home to go and retrieve his concubine. In the story, she is referred to as a concubine, translated from the Hebrew word ishshah, meaning woman, concubine, adulteress, or wife, depending on the context. In that era, concubines were often taken to produce offspring when a wife was unable to bear children. Unlike full wives, concubines didn’t receive a formal betrothal or marriage contract. This story is the history of the dismembered concubine. Judges 19-21


The Dismembered Concubine, Continued


After retrieving her, the man stopped in a city called Gibeah. After finally getting someone to open their home to him, his servant, and his concubine, the men of the town came calling. They wanted the homeowner to send out the man so they could have homosexual relations with him. The man refused but offered the concubine instead. The concubine was molested all night and barely made it back to the house before she died.



Concubine on an Ass

When the Levite found her in the morning, he put her on his donkey and took her home. At home, he cut her into twelve pieces with a knife and sent a piece to each tribe of Israel. Then, the men of the tribes of Israel gathered, and he provided an explanation of why he was sending out these body parts. Nothing had ever happened like this in Israel. It was very much like the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, but they were pagan cities. This city was a city of the Israelite tribe of Benjamin. So, all the tribes went to war against Benjamin and ended up destroying the tribe, except for 600 men who fled the fight.


Because the tribe of Benjamin was almost wiped out, the rest of the tribes felt sorry for them. But they swore that they would never give these men of Benjamin any of their daughters to marry. So, they went to a town called Jabeshgilead, which did not participate in the war against the tribe Benjamin. They slaughtered everyone except 400 virgins. Then they gave the virgins to 400 of the men from Benjamin. But that wasn’t enough women, so they contrived a plan. During a festival, the final 200 Benjaminites would be allowed to capture a bride without any resistance. So, now, the tribe of Benjamin could continue, be fruitful, and multiply.


The Dismembered Concubine is a Grotesque Comedy of Errors


The Bible has several historical narratives like this. They sound horrible. How could a loving God allow this to happen? He had known from before the time, space, matter, and energy He created precisely who would love and serve him. But God doesn’t control us like mindless automatons. He wants us to decide to serve him or serve ourselves. The people in this horrific comedy of errors chose to serve their own thoughts, lusts, and desires with disastrous results. But God, through these horrible narratives, provides guidance, life lessons, and the opportunity to do things God’s way. If you do things God’s way, these grotesque, horrific things don’t happen.


The Dismembered Concubine Lessons


First, God designed us to join in Holy Matrimony as a couple consisting of one man and one woman. Obtaining a concubine to commit fornication or adultery is not acceptable to God. He created marriage, and the marriage bed should stay undefiled. So, even if this man’s wife could not have children and he was using this concubine to continue his family line by producing children, it was still in direct opposition to God’s plan.


The concubine should not have “played the whore” as is written in Judges 19:2. She, for all intense and purposes, was his wife because she was to be the mother of his children, so she committed adultery, or some would say fornication. Either way, she was unfaithful and fled back to her father’s house. At that time, fathers were free to sell their daughters into servitude as a concubine or wife. This behavior is not something God endorses. It is wrong and sinful. Women are not commodities to be given away, bought, or sold. They are image-bearers of God and are to be loved, honored, and cherished as sisters in Christ.


The next disaster was the Levite’s act of cutting up his concubine and sending pieces of her to all the tribes of Israel, starting a civil war! This war almost wiped out the tribe of Benjamin. Now, did they need to be punished for this atrocity? Yes!! But they went way overboard. They wiped out every man, woman, and child except for 600 cowardly men who fled. What a disgraceful waste of humanity. Our humanity would say that kneejerk reactions that destroy the lives of people who were not involved are stupid and tragic. It was only the mob of men in one Benjaminite city, Gibeah, that should have died for the girl’s murder. They raped her to death. But we don’t know the full extent of the sinful nature of the tribe of Benjamin. Scripture says the tribes of Israel called upon God, and He condoned the punishment as appropriate, so additional sinful behavior must have permeated the tribe of Benjamin. We just don’t know the depths of their depravity. We cannot judge an all-knowing God because He has information we are not privy to.


Yet another problem is homosexual rape gangs willing to take out their frustrations by raping a woman to death. They wanted the man, so I’m sure the poor woman felt every bit of these homosexuals’ fury. They didn’t get what they wanted, so they destroyed a human in a vicious attack – appalling!! Homosexuality is called an abomination by God in Leviticus 18:22 for a good reason: it is unnatural, unproductive, and fervently hated by God. The word abomination means loathsome, a detestable act, abominable, wickedness.


The next tragedy and life lesson is that you do not circumvent God through trickery. The tribes of Israel told the wifeless 200 men of Benjamin that they would turn a blind eye during a festival so that these men could abduct 200 of their daughters. They did this because they vowed not to give their daughters to the men of Benjamin as wives. Ahh, a loophole. I’m sure the women were unaware, but scripture doesn’t say. What an evil pact they made with these men. The point is, why reward them? Again, we don’t have the whole story; only God does.

The Apostle Paul was a Benjaminite. It is possible that God was preserving the tribe of Benjamin so Paul could be born and spread the gospel to the Gentiles. We just don’t know. Our knowledge and morality are finite, but God’s is infinite. We need to trust God.


The Dismembered Concubine


The dismembered concubine is a tragic story. Her name is never given, so we can’t mourn her by name. She was a whore, but even whores are redeemable. All sinful people are redeemable through Christ. All people need redemption, justification, and sanctification. The only way to get that is through Christ. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6.


We must understand that God has a plan, even through horrible tragedy. He has vast information we don’t have, so we cannot judge God. Some would say, “A loving God would not allow such tragedy.” But they fail to realize that people have the God-given free will to act independently. If God controlled them, they would be mindlessly obedient automatons. That would effectively stop these atrocities, but we would no longer be spiritually and intellectually human. God wants people to obey him willingly – people who will do His will of their own free will. God gives each person the gift of life. It’s what we do with that gift that matters.






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