I began studying Judges 19 with the goal of better understanding the gospel, or rather, to find a way in which such an objectionable story could underscore the gospel, if that was even possible. I think the parallel act of both Judges 19 and Genesis 19 illustrates that while both Sodom and Benjamin exhibited the same act of immorality, in Sodom we saw the inoccent protected by the intervention of God and the guilty destroyed at the hands of God, while in Israel, the inoccent is given up and the guilty are spared. I think saying the people were "spared" is qualified by the fact that God's himself didn't obliterate the city or region, despite a clear precedent set in Sodom. Admittedly, we do see Benjamin being struck down by the rest of the tribes of Israel in Chapters 20 and 21, but this happens internally and not without a great deal of trouble.
For me, Deuteronomy 28-29 was key to understanding the parallel between Genesis and Judges. But it wasn't the only place I looked nor the only lesson I learned.
Below are several other interesting parallels that may lead to other conclusions or reinforce the conclusion I made in my other entry. I've omitted them from my main entry for the sake of brevity, but I've included them here both because I don't think I've arrived at a "final answer" quite yet and I think it's important to reveal that to my readers.
The man is a Levite, his wife is from Bethlehem. This implies the man is of a priestly line and his wife is from Bethlehem, the city of David and the birthplace of Christ.
The promiscuous woman's husband chases after her, despite her promiscuity. This is paralleled in Hosea and we know that just as Hosea chased after Gomer, this was done that God's plan for salvation would be understood.
When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
Not only do we see the husband in pursuit of the concubine, but while this act may be the only noble thing the Levite actually does in the story, it is also the only time is is referred to as "husband". At all other times he is called the "man" or "Levite".
Aside from the attempted act of rape, there are other parallels between Genesis 18-19 and Judges 19.
- The Lord, appearing as a man accompanied by two other men, appears before Abraham. Just as in Judges 19, the men are generously cared for. They are fed and their feet are washed. (Genesis 18:3-8)
- Two of the men depart for Sodom and Gomorrah while one, "the Lord", stays behind to explain or negotiate the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham asks six times for the Lord to save the city for the sake of a dwindling group of righteous men. In the same way, the family of the Levites concubine ask him to stay for six days (though he stays for five).
- When the two men, who are revealed to be angels, arrive at Sodom, Lot offers hospitality that is initially refused. The angels appear to prefer sleeping in the city square, but Lot insists. This actually reminds me of a similar situation involving Christ in Luke 24. (Luke 24:28-29) The idea of offering and rejecting a meal appears to be a motif. Also, in Genesis 19 the meal includes bread without yeast, an icon of Passover.
- Like in Judges 19, in Genesis 19 all the men approach the house and ask to sleep with the men. Also, in both stories, the host offers the women instead. (Lot offered his daughters.) However, unlike in Judges, the Genesis story does not end in rape. The angels intervene and blind the men. (Side note, before being blinded, the men say of lot: "This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” I have not determined the significance of this detail or if it is related to Judges 19, though it seems clear the foreigner they are referring to is Lot, not the angels he is hosting. Lot seems to parallel the role of the Ephraimite host in Judges 19.)
At the end of Judges 19, the Levite cuts his concubine into twelve pieces to disperse across Israel and send his message. I found a prophesy in Genesis (Jacob's blessing) that seems to foreshadow this, but I'm not sure if it is applicable:
Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
and disperse them in Israel.
What resonated more with me was the great commission in Matthew 28. Albeit Jesus commissioned eleven, not twelve disciples, I still felt a strong connection between these two causes: one sending twelve messages of revenge, the other sending eleven (twelve including Matthias, Acts 1:12-26) messages of grace.
Other Christ Parallels
The man seeking his concubine, the dinner, the death, the dispersal of the twelve pieces... these all resonated with me, but I still couldn't piece it together coherently. If the concubine died, did that mean she was the picture of Christ? But if the man chased after his adulterous concubine, didn't that mean he was the picture of Christ? And what about the number of days he spent with the in-laws? He first started three days... Like Jesus in the tomb? But he ended up staying five days, so what did that mean? A friend of mine pointed out that Jesus spent the fifth day of the week praying in the garden of Gethsemane and the sixth day he was crucified, just as the concubine was killed in the sixth day of the story.
If there is a connection to Christ, upon first reading it, it wasn't immediately clear to me if Christ was in the husband, the concubine, or some combination of both. Then I found this passage, in 1
Corinthians 11 :3.
"But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."
I thought maybe, just maybe, there was some model of a husband-wife relationship echoing the relationship between the Father and the Son. Of course, the most immediate problem with that comparison is the obvious sin in the lives of the Levite and his concubine. In fact, the word "concubine" isn't even a Hebrew word. It is borrowed from another nation, (I forgot which) reminding us that a concubine was not a God-ordained role.
Nevertheless, even while everything the man does is absolutely inexcusable, that's not to say he is beyond playing into God's plan.
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy?
Plus, the Levite is referred to as a "husband" only when he goes after the concubine. (Ephesians 5:23) which I read as noteworthy, if nothing else. But it says when he arrived, he stayed with his in-laws for five days. On the fifth day he left late and he made a decision. In Judges 19 we read:
11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”
12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.”
Similarly, on the fifth day of the week, Jesus found himself in the garden of Gethsemane. There, he says to his disciples,
“Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
I can imagine the concubine in Judges 19 saying the same thing about herself. She is about to be delivered by her own husband to the rapists in this town.
If you compare the story of the Levite and his concubine to the story of Abraham and Isaac, you see another example where a "Father" character prepares to deliver his "Son", yet there are some major differences. With Abraham and Isaac, God plays a clear role in orchestrating the events and as a result the symbol of Abraham putting his son on an alter is a much purer illustration of the submission of the Son to the Father. In Judges 19, the hand of God is not present. There is no angel telling the Levite what to do, nor an angel in the house of the Ephraimite during the raid. Yet, even without that direct intervention, we see a "Husband" character delivering his "Wife". It seems as though a case could be made that the submission of this concubine to this Levite illustrates exactly what the story of Abraham and Isaac illustrates, albeit a much more sinful version. But I would argue that this picture offers something that the Abraham-Isaac story does not. This is explained in the passage from Romans I cited earlier:
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory. [...] As he says in Hosea:
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
only the remnant will be saved.
For the Lord will carry out
his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
It is just as Isaiah said previously:
“Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.”
This comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah really captures my attention due to the striking similarities between what actually happened in Sodom and Gomorrah and what happened to the Levite and his concubine. Here in Romans, it is saying that Israel would be completely wiped out for their wickedness if it wasn’t for the Lord having left some descendants. It appears that Judges 19 is really a textbook example of what Paul is talking about it Romans.