I have been working through Judges, partly using a commentary I found frustrating. The writer simply had nothing positive to say about the people of God depicted in Judges throughout the commentary. While that’s the typical traditional view, and the author does a decent job supporting each view, it’s also very limited in what it reveals of God’s character. It’s an electronic commentary on the Old Testament, and I recently searched through it for the author of the commentary on Judges. It was a woman. That suddenly made a lot of sense.
But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was, until full daylight. When her master arose in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, then behold, his concubine was lying at the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up and let us go,” but there was no answer. Then he placed her on the donkey; and the man arose and went to his home. (Judges 19:25-28 NASB)
The overall treatment of women in Judges varies. But, especially in the final chapters, the spectrum is defined by a horrific event in chapter 19. As one of those attending the study I lead mentioned, it sounded just like Sodom and Gomorrah. That is partly, or even mostly, because of the proposed solution to the evil men surrounding the house. In order to preserve the man they would sacrifice the daughters and wives (or concubine). A father would offer that? Would he carry that out?
In this account, the man visiting seizes his concubine, whom he pursued to Bethlehem because he loved her, and shoves her outside to the mob. He throws her out to save himself and his host. You’d think the sounds of her abuse all night would keep him up and make him crazy. But it doesn’t seem so. He gets up, finds her lying on the threshold, and simply says, “Get up and let’s go.” Granted, narrative in Scripture isn’t necessarily the most descriptive of emotion, but that was callous in any language.
The Levite seems fine, to have slept through the night. He rises and seems all is well. “Oh look, my concubine, ‘hey, get up, it’s time to go.'” She goes from a precious person to baggage, in a single paragraph. But a careful reading shows that this is not God’s perspective of the woman. And His perspective is preserved by the author/editor of this book.
In relation to the Levite, she’s referred to as a concubine, a type of slavery actually. Even after her abuse, the Levite refers to her as his concubine. But to the author, before her abuse, she’s a girl. And after her death, she is a woman, a word also referring to a wife with legal status. It’s a slight change, but I believe the term is important for what it says about God’s perspective here. The world in which she lived thought her trash to be discarded, even cut up to use as a message, objectified in the worst way. But God, saw her different. She was the “young girl”, and the “woman”.
In verse 26 of chapter 19, she’s a woman. Prior to that, she’s a “girl” (v.3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9). This isn’t a literary variety technique, it’s important because the circumstances of her death are what bring the change. She’s only a concubine in relation to the Levite. She’s a girl in relation to her father’s house. It’s always in a reference to her father that she’s a girl. How is that accidental? Jesus calls us to pray to our Father in heaven. I believe this account provides a glimpse into our Father’s perspective on these final chapters.
To our Father, this girl, discarded by her master, is precious; mistakes and all. The account says she cheated on her master, possibly for money. It doesn’t say she’s perfect, or a virgin, but I infer from the writer that she’s precious to her Father in Heaven. To Him she has status, she’s human, and her abuse breaks His heart. Notice she remains a concubine to her master, but to the author (and to God), she’s a woman (19:26, 20:4).
This stands as one more account of a period of human history where the Creator holds women in higher esteem than the culture in which they lived. So, I can understand a woman having a very difficult time with this book. Even with Deborah and Jael heralding a different perspective, the overall treatment of women in this book isn’t great. And yet, throughout, there are these glimpses of the Creator’s view. A woman kills Abimelech with a millstone thrown from a wall. God honors Manoah’s wife above him. And there are many others.
The God depicted in the Hebrew Scriptures honors women, and consistently elevates their status among men. It’s a pattern Jesus continues, not one He invents.
At least that’s what I see of our Master through my knothole this morning. What do you see through yours?