In those days, when there was no king in Israel

…and the people did as they pleased…

[A] certain Levite, residing in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But his concubine became angry with him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months.

[…]When the man with his concubine and his servant got up to leave, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Look, the day has worn on until it is almost evening. Spend the night. See, the day has drawn to a close. Spend the night here and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can get up early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”

[…]When they were near Jebus, the day was far spent, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites, and spend the night in it.” But his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into a city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel; but we will continue on to Gibeah.”

[…]While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him.”

[…]Then [the Levite] commanded the men whom he sent, saying, “Thus shall you say to all the Israelites, ‘Has such a thing ever happened since the day that the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until this day? Consider it, take counsel, and speak out.’”

(from my TA) Would you preach on Judges 19? If so, how would you do it? If not, why not, and how would you introduce the text to a congregation?

Y’know, this has this feel of a bar-bet one late night at Crown & Anchor… “Dare ya to preach on Judges 19.” “What part? You’re on!” Anyway-!

For a change of pace, I asked my B (a thoughtful Christian) what she would recommend. She’s a long-time ally for LGBTQ+ and fem/womanist issues, and as expected, the sexual and physical violence perturbed her. Her first take was to shake her head (metaphorically; we were on the phone) and point out that in a world saturated with violence, we scarcely need more representations of it… particularly if a portion of the congregation would stand up and walk out, as she fully expected they would. She didn’t feel that moment would serve our larger responsibility for advancing the reign of God.

But then she said, “But to ignore the text… pretend like it doesn’t exist, even though it’s right there…. That’s not a good choice either! We have to come to terms with it.”


IRL, for me it would depend: on what group I was speaking to, on the tenor of the times, on the particular cultural moment. Because if we seriously sit patiently in front of the text and ask, “What did our foremothers want us to know here, that they included this in their telling?” something will arise. Perhaps that thing’s embedded in the early conflict, between the Levite and the second wife, and consequently the second wife’s family. Perhaps it’s in the long hospitality… anyone from a hospitable culture knows a host has to keep pressing, but the guest’s responsibility is to assess the situation and leave at a good time. Perhaps it’s in the Levite scorning Jebus and selecting Gibeah… the tragic outcome of automatically selecting the in-group can align with current events in a thought-provoking way, and one responsibility of a lesson is to cause congregants to think.

But it would take a LOT before I would preach on dismemberment. 🙁

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