August 4, 2006
Old Testament Weirdness
In the comments to yesterday's post on Brokeback Mountain, CL Hanson notes that she learned at BYU that "in [Mormon] culture woman is the disposable person." That's something learned in college myself, albeit in a bible lit class, when I read this gruesome story in Judges 19, which I'm going to tell now, and then we're going to take a break from this topic, since it doesn't seem wildly popular. [OK, I lied: there's a followup here.] Plus, I'm almost done with the paper and will have time to write about something else for a while. But here it is, without further ado, one of the grossest stories from the Old Testament:
In Judges 19, we get the story of a Levite from Mount Ephriam whose concubine leaves him in order to return to her parents' house, an activity labeled "playing the whore against him," or valuing her own desires above his. The Levite eventually goes to fetch his concubine, and on their journey home they stop in Gibeah, where the men are "Benjaminites," meaning both that they are of the tribe of Benjamin and that they have sex with other men. The Levite sets up camp in the street of a city, only to be implored by an old man not to lodge there--instead, the old man offers the couple shelter for the night.
Beginning in verse 22, we read
Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. [Note: in case you don't get it, they're using "know" in the biblical sense, this being the bible and all.]
 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.
 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.
 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.
 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light.
 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.
 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 gat him unto his place.
 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.
Cutting an ox into twelve parts and sending a piece to each of the twelve tribes was a traditional call to war, but why cut up a perfectly good ox when you've already got a dead--or nearly dead--concubine? Keep in mind, the Levite called the tribes to war over the fact that the Benjaminites had destroyed his property--at stake was the fact that this MAN would have to get a new concubine--rather than over the fact that a woman was raped repeatedly, since he himself threw her out the door to be raped.
The tale is revolting, in its homophobia, its misogyny, its unspeakable violence. It shows that homosexual acts are so abominable that to prevent their occurrence, one should offer one’s virgin daughter to be “humbled,” because in these matters, women’s health and happiness, if not their very lives, are acceptable sacrifices. Gay gang rape is unthinkable, but straight gang rape–hey, if it placates the horny male miscreants outside your door, no problem! The aftermath isn't much better. The other eleven tribes went to war against Benjamin, and killed over 25,000 of its men--only 600 men of Benjamin remained when the battle ended. It looked as though the tribe would die out, because all the men in the other eleven tribes had sworn not to give their daughters in marriage to Benjamin, an oath they could not renounce. But they didn't want to be the eleven Tribes of Israel, so they hatched a plan to provide the Benjaminites with wives: a group of virgins, the daughters of Shiloh, would be celebrating a feast off in a vineyard, and if the Benjaminites rode in, kidnapped the virgins and married them, well, their fathers hadn't broken their oath because they had not "given" their daughters in marriage to Benjamin, only allowed them to be taken.
Marriage and procreation, you see, were both duties and rights of these men, regardless of any sexual conduct they engaged in with other men. The important thing was to keep the tribe going. This is the spiritual and moral legacy we have inherited from the Old Testament, and it still lives on in Mormonism, which is why marriages between straight Mormon women and gay Mormon men still receive such praise.
Posted by holly at August 4, 2006 8:59 AM