The night before, the Levite had made a choice and as the noise receded from outside the besieged door of the residence in which he was guest it would be obvious that the tactic of offering up his concubine had been successful. For now at least, he was safe.
One might imagine that having thrown his concubine to the pack of ‘merciless wolves’ the Levite would be reduced to a trembling mess in agonies over what he had done. Perhaps we might expect to see him fall to his knees in prayer for her deliverance and at the very least keep vigil through the night, looking out from the door periodically to see if there was any sign of her.
If he did so, we are not told and indeed the record is about to paint him in such a way that has us doubting he did any of these things. There is no doubt that this individual is as enigmatic as any character we read in these chapters.
27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.
To be fair we are not told specifically that the Levite slept that night and yet when we read that people ‘rose up in the morning’, its usually fair to assume they do so from sleep.
We might deem it impossible for him to do so under the circumstances if it wasn’t for the conundrum this individual presents and the fact that if someone had been watching and listening for any sign of the concubine’s return the door would have been opened to her immediately. No doubt her return would have been accompanied initially by a faintly audible and plaintive cry that a sensitive and alert mind indoors would have heard and immediately responded to.
One can only conclude that the door was locked and barred and the inhabitants asleep. It is an indictment on them. Really.
Having risen ‘in the morning’ and ‘opened the doors of the house’ we might expect the record to say that the Levite did so with the intention of finding his concubine. However, we are told that he ‘went out to go his way’. The record seems to be purposefully painting the Levite as nonchalantly preparing to continue on his way as if nothing unusual had occurred.
Perhaps he had already given up the woman as lost or dead. Either way, he appears surprised to find her sprawled in his path ‘behold!’. Upon discovering such a scene on the doorstep, we desire to read of his desperate attempts to resuscitate her. Having felt pity and sorrow over the ghastly ordeal she has endured we long to see one shred of tenderness towards this poor woman from the man who had so recently delighted her father with their reconciliation.
We are disappointed. And we are dismayed at what follows:
28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and got him unto his place.
Her crumpled body bearing all the hallmarks of the abuse she has been subjected to lies before him and all he can summon from within his calloused soul is an imperious command: “Up, and let us be going”. This man had been able to summon tender words when it suited him but his seeming indifference to her suffering scandalizes us.
Is he in denial? In shock? Is it possible he had no idea she could be severely injured? As much as we would like to alleviate our perplexity by grasping at such possibilities, they seem unlikely.
And so, too ‘matter-of-factly’ for our comfort, he takes up her body, places it on his ass and continued his journey home.
As inscrutable as this Levite is, it is a deeply disturbed man that departs Gibeah. No doubt cursing the city as he left, he does appear to be intensely aggrieved at the injustice of what has occurred, and it seems that with every step he took on his homeward journey his anger and outrage increased.
At some point on that journey home he made a decision that was to have profound consequences.
He simply will not allow the sleeping wolves of Gibeah to lie undisturbed and by journey’s end he has calculated what will be necessary in order to engineer retribution on Gibeah.
Thus there will be no dignified burial for this woman. No covering of earth to hide the evidence of Gibeah’s vile deed. Rather the opposite. Everyone would see it. Everyone would feel as he did now. All will experience the outrage and fury that burns in his breast. He will ensure it, and he knows how to do so.
29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.
And so this macabre chapter reaches its sickening nadir.
With no common court of law in which to formally appeal and no King with whom to plead his case the Levite finds a way to convey the brutality and shame of what had occurred in Gibeah to all Israel.
He cuts his concubine’s corpse into twelve pieces and sends a grisly stinking portion to every tribe — including Benjamin.
It was a ghastly thing to do and yet it is questionable if any other method could have achieved the result that those gruesome packages did. Eleven tribes were unified in disgust and morally outraged at the miscreants of Gibeah as a result.
30 And it was so, that all that saw it said, 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: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
Despite the tribes of Israel having recently been involved in battles to obtain their inheritance in the land, and the inevitable proximity to violent death such recent history would result in, it’s intriguing and perhaps instructive to realise that the tribes were shocked and deeply disturbed by the arrival in their midst of the pieces of the concubine’s dismembered corpse.
Evidently, life was still precious in their eyes, and they saw evidence of such brutality as this as unprecedented despite their recent history. This seems to indicate that the wars which were conducted against the Canaanites must have been done so in a judicial and restrained way intentionally devoid of gratuitous murder and sadistic cruelty. Such would be consistent with the revealed character of Yahweh their God.
A brief message of limited explanation must have accompanied the parcels that each tribe received and it evidently ended with an impassioned appeal: ‘Consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds’, perhaps more accurately translated: “Think about her! Consider it! Speak up!”
And think about her they did.
Before long the land was abuzz with the news of what had occurred in Gibeah.
The poor victim consumed their thoughts and one can hear the audible gasps and expressions of disgust as thoughts on the crime of Gibeah were exchanged and hurriedly repeated from village to village throughout the land.
Spontaneously and haphazardly, outraged men gathered, first on street corners and in the market places, but increasingly in a more formal and deliberate manner as serious discussions in the village squares turned into formal councils in which tribal elders met and conferred.
The voices for justice and reprisal grew louder, alarmingly strident and ominously unanimous.
The march to civil war and excessive human vengeance had begun.
Edited by Clarity, 11 May 2011 - 01:16 AM.