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Outrage in Israel

A prominent atheist wrote about reading the story of Noah’s Ark to his son: “It just never really hit me before how truly awful this story is.”

Christians might be uncomfortable to hear this description of a story in the Scriptures. But today’s reading includes a gruesome, violent story that reminds us that the Bible, while sacred, is not sanitized. In many ways, the Bible, not least the book of Judges, reads like the stomach-turning headlines of our local newspapers: rape, murder, war, prostitution, even human sacrifice.

Judges spares no horrible detail of the terrible events that end (finally!) in outrage. Notice that this is even worse than what happened in Sodom (see Genesis 19). Like Lot, the host offered the sexually rapacious men his daughter rather than his guest. But unlike Lot, the Levite shoved his concubine out the door, leaving her to be violently assaulted. Further, the text has been clear that this takes place in Israel, in Gibeah in Benjamin (v. 14). The perpetrators of this horror are not Canaanites but Israelites!

When the Levite opened the door to leave in the morning (with no apparent concern for the whereabouts of his concubine), he nearly tripped over her on the threshold, as if she had been attempting to claw her way inside (vv. 25–26). And if these events aren’t degrading enough, the Levite carved her up, limb by limb, and sent the bloody, amputated parts across Israel.

While the account is gruesome, we must never think that God is indifferent to these horrors. He allowed this nightmarish account of Israel’s descent into sin to be recorded in His holy Word in order to remind us of how depraved we can become apart from His wisdom and leadership.

Apply the Word

God is outraged by evil. But notice how slowly Israel arrives at outrage in the book of Judges. It takes a brutally violent murder before they finally say, “Enough!” As God’s people, let us demonstrate His outrage at the evils of our day. Let us be the people who say, “We must do something! So speak up!” (v. 30).

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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