Judges 17-21: The Bible runs out of ideas to steal; Plagiarises itself

And I’m back again! It seems like far too many posts are starting like this recently, but I think this should be me well and truly settled now (at least until September . . .). But enough about me, what about the silly book!? Well the last entry covered the main event of the book of Judges, the story of Heracles Samson, so today we’ll just be mopping up the minor bits at the end.

Chapters 17 and 18 are slightly weird. They tell the story of Micah and his idols, and I will briefly summarise this one because it’s pretty boring: Micah steals some silver from his mum, but when he hears her getting pissed off about her silver being stolen he gives it back.

Judg 17, Verse 4: So after he returned the silver to his mother, she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who used them to make the idol. And it was put in Micah’s house.

Yeah, so even though it’s against the 10 commandments, he makes an idol and no one, not even God, ever seems to care. Then some random Levite visits his house, and Micah asks him to be a priest for his new idol, and the Levite guy is ok with this, so he does. Then the Danites (one of the 12 tribes of Israel) who haven’t yet stolen land from the Canaanites come past, and steal not only Micah’s idols, but they convince the priest to join them as well.

Obviously Micah is a bit pissed and gathers up his boys and goes after them. When they catch up Micah is all angry asking for his idol back, but when they refuse to give it back, he realises that he’s got a small group of men, perhaps 30 at best, against a whole tribe, so he goes home empty handed.

Then the tribe of Dan go find a Canaanite city which they attack and do the whole slaughter all the inhabitants thing, and that’s the story. Yeah, what an anti-climax, Micah doesn’t even get his idol back.

The last story in Judges doesn’t really make much sense either, but it is at least a better story. Lets have a look.

Judg 19, Verse 1: Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.

Normal enough, we’re used to this behaviour. There’s then a whole palaver where she doesn’t like him and goes home, but he follows her and convinces her to come back to him and so they leave her house.

Judg 19, Verses 14-15: So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.

Sleeping rough for the night then?

Judg 19, Verses 16-17: That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

WHERE DID YOU COME FROM COTTON-EYE JOE.

So he tells the old man the details, and the man invites them to stay with him. Those with good memories will recognise the following bits . . .

Judg 19, Verse 22: While they were enjoying themselves, 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.”

For those of you who can’t remember, here’s an excerpt from the story of the destruction of Sodom:

Gen 19, Verses 4-5: Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Hrm, seems a bit similar doesn’t it? Well it doesn’t stop there:

Judg 19, Verses 23-24: The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. 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. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

The Judges version . . .

Gen 19, Verses 6-8: Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

And the Genesis version . . . After that, though the stories do change. In the Genesis version, the people staying with Lot are angels, so they have superpowers and make everyone blind. This nameless (which is a bit suspicious) Levite doesn’t, so he can’t do that.

Judg 19, Verse: But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

It really makes you wonder why God’s chosen people are such assholes.

Judg 19, Verses 27-28: When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

What an insensitive twat! “Good morning! We best be on our way!” Do you not think helping this poor woman would be a good idea?

Judg 19, Verses 29-30: 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. Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”

I hope you made sure she was dead first . . . Also how does one man have the ability to send pieces of a person to all corners of Israel? It’s supposedly 1,000 BC, there’s no postal system.

Judg 20, Verses 1-3: Then all Israel from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead came together as one and assembled before the Lord in Mizpah. The leaders of all the people of the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God’s people, four hundred thousand men armed with swords. Then the Israelites said, “Tell us how this awful thing happened.”

Woah. That escalated quickly. The thing is though, there is just no way this is feasible. At this time there was no king in Israel, there is no central authority. Even if there was, people simply didn’t raise armies of this size at that time, and couldn’t throughout history until the 20th century. Anyway, the Levite man shouts really loudly to tell all 400,000 of the Isaraelites gathered what happened.

Judg 20, Verses 12-13: The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What about this awful crime that was committed among you? Now turn those wicked men of Gibeah over to us so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.”

Ah, good job, asking for the specific culprits and not slaughtering everyone. Surely seeing this vast horde of potential enemies the tribe of Benjamin will hand them over?

Judg 20, Verses 14-15: But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. From their towns they came together at Gibeah to fight against the Israelites. At once the Benjamites mobilized twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred able young men from those living in Gibeah.

How can you be this dumb. 400,000 versus 26,000? *sigh*

Judg 20, Verses 20-21: The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day.

Wait, what? So they killed 22,000 men, and didn’t take a single casualty? What the hell were the Israelites fighting with, pillows?

Judg 20, Verses 24-25: Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day. 25 This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords.

I am genuinely baffled as to how the Israelites, who conquered the whole region with ease, could be such ineffective fighters.

Judg 20, Verses 29-31: Then Israel set an ambush around Gibeah. They went up against the Benjamites on the third day and took up positions against Gibeah as they had done before. The Benjamites came out to meet them and were drawn away from the city. They began to inflict casualties on the Israelites as before, so that about thirty men fell in the open field and on the roads—the one leading to Bethel and the other to Gibeah.

Finally the Israelite commanders pull their fingers out of their asses and sort things out. An ambush, good idea. Also I like that the casualties before were in the tens of thousands, and now we’re being told about just 30 men falling. Every little helps, you know.

Judg 20, Verses 33-36: All the men of Israel moved from their places and took up positions at Baal Tamar, and the Israelite ambush charged out of its place on the west of Gibeah. Then ten thousand of Israel’s able young men made a frontal attack on Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that the Benjamites did not realize how near disaster was. The Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel, and on that day the Israelites struck down 25,100 Benjamites, all armed with swords. Then the Benjamites saw that they were beaten.

Well yeah, I think when the remaining 900 Benjamites noticed the other 25,100 men of their army were gone, they’d know they were beaten.

Judg 20, Verse 48: 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.

Awwwww, we had nearly finished the story! But of course, this wouldn’t be a biblical story if it didn’t end with destruction and mass slaughter.

But the story doesn’t actually end there, the Israelites sink further into depravity. Well, more like they maintain their depravity.

Judg 21, Verse 1: The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.”

There won’t be any left to give to.

Judg 21, Verse 3: “Lord, God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?”

Uh . . . because you slaughtered them all? Remember?

Judg 21, Verses 6-7: Now the Israelites grieved for the tribe of Benjamin, their fellow Israelites. “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel,” they said. “How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the Lord not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?”

I still don’t quite understand why you want to, but anyway.

Judg 21, Verses 8-9: Then they asked, “Which one of the tribes of Israel failed to assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?” They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the camp for the assembly. For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.

Oooohh Jabesh Gilead is in trouble! They didn’t join the rest of the 400,000 in destroying Benjamin.

Judg 21, Verse 10: So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children.

Oh. Yeah of course, this always happens in these situations.

Judg 21, Verse 11:  “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.”

Again, that sounds strikingly familiar . . . Book of Numbers?

Num 31, Verses 17-18: Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

At least the Bible is consistent in some areas.

So the virgins of Jabesh Gilead were given to the remaining Benjamites as wives. (This sort of thing doesn’t even surprise me any more). But apparently, there weren’t enough virgins to go around. But someone came up with a cunning plan . . .

Judg 21, Verse 19: But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”

Ok, what’s this got to do with setting up the Banjamites with new wives?

Judg 21, Verses 20-21: So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin.

Really. This is your plan?

Judg 21, Verse 23: So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.

Each man ‘caught’ one. It’s described as though the Benjamites are going bloody fishing. How are more people not disgusted by the acts of sexual slavery condoned in this book?

Summary

So the main subject today was the destruction of the Benjamites, and it really just doesn’t make sense to me. First off, why didn’t the Benjamites hand over the culprits to the rest of the Israelites? They would all have to be insane to think they could best 400,000 men. And why did the Israelites kill almost all of the Benjamites if they didn’t want the tribe of Benjamin to die out. And finally, where is the logic in destroying Jabesh Gilead, a tribe, so that a different tribe doesn’t die out? You’re damn confusing, Bible.

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