It starts in Bethlehem of Judah with a Levite and his concubine – how come the pilgrims who visit there never talk about this story in its history? We get a reprise of Genesis 19:1-9, except that this time, no angel of god intervenes to prevent the horror. (Is this supposed to represent god forsaking the Israelites to punish them for their sins?) And this time, it’s not evil foreigners who are to blame for the violence, but fellow Israelites. In fact, if the couple had stopped at the Jebusite town in verse 11, they probably would have been fine. The Levite is a nasty coward who sacrifices his concubine to save himself. Another point in question – is she dead when he slices and dices her? It’s kind of ambiguous, but let’s hope so.
This chapter doesn’t contribute much to the plot, just the details of military strategy as the Israelites gang up on the tribe of Benjamin in retribution for the destruction of the Levite’s property….. er…. the death of the Levite’s concubine. The main point I got is that god is orchestrating this little civil war; clearly the loss of civilian lives isn’t of major concern to him. It kind of boggles my mind that god can justify the deaths of over 90,000 people in this chapter, plus burning cities and killing animals, to avenge the murder of one person by a small band of petty thugs. But heyyyyy, this is biblical morality.
Well here’s some justice! Now the tribe of Benjamin is decimated, and the remaining men have no one to marry. And no one from the remaining tribes wants to allow their daughters to marry into the tribe they just fought. (What would the neighbors think?) So what to do? Find a town that had refused to participate in the war, murder all the inhabitants (that’ll teach ‘em!) except the virgins, and voila! Descendants for the Benjaminites. (Can’t let the tribe die out, Yahweh wouldn’t be pleased about that.) But wait! That’s not enough women…. Only 400 virgins for 600 Benjaminites… better go find a few more. Let’s kidnap some from the local vineyards! Problem solved…. And that’s THE END of this horrible book.