by Aaron Wilson…
Can I be honest? Sometimes the Old Testament is just hard to read.
Take Judges 19 for example. This is where our church (which usually preaches through books of the Bible) happens to be this week.
I’m pretty sure our teaching pastor grimaced when he saw this chapter coming. Let me warn you, the story’s not pretty; it’s actually exceptionally racy and graphic.
Conveniently, this passage didn’t make it into NBC’s Bible miniseries last year. And before you check, no, it doesn’t come with a handy footnote which says, “This chapter isn’t found in the earliest manuscripts.”
Nope, Judges 19 is one of those chapters we’ve got to muscle through as believers. So let’s get dirty. Go ahead and read it if you’re near a Bible. If not, you can skim these highlights:
- A Levite man takes a wife from Judah.
- She cheats on him.
- He convinces her to come back.
- They take a road trip and find a house to spend the night.
- Local men beat on the door seeking to rape the male guest.
- The “generous” host offers up his daughter and his guest’s wife instead.
- They throw the wife outside where she is gang-raped and left for dead. Meanwhile, the husband sleeps.
- The husband gets up in the morning and nonchalantly kicks her to see if she’s moving. She’s not.
- He takes her body home, cuts his dead wife into 12 parts, and mails the amputated pieces to the 12 tribes of Israel.
- Lots of civil war happens and a bunch of people die.
- The book of Judges ends.
Yikes! Now you know why Judges 19 was skipped over in your Sunday School flannel graph lessons. Seriously, is there any redeeming lesson in this passage?
Yes, actually there is! Like all stories in the Old Testament, this passage is ripe with images which point to Christ. To find them, we just have to dig a little deeper and think about the grand narrative of Scripture. Consider these seven images:
- In Judges 19 we see a bride unexpectedly lose her life on a trip from Bethlehem to Jerusalem due to the sin of God’s people. Christ’s mission also took Him from Bethlehem to Jerusalem but for the purpose of being intentionally killed for the sin of God’s people.
- In Judges 19 we see a bride thrown (against her will) in front of her husband to protect him from harm. Christ willingly threw Himself in front of His bride, the Church, to protect her from harm.
- The woman’s death motivates God’s people to unite under the banner of avenging personal loss. Christ’s death motivates God’s people to unite under the banner of God avenging His own glory (man, do I love that) by pouring out wrath on His Son.
- Judges 19 very much resembles the story of Lot in Genesis 19. In that story, God was beginning to call out a people for Himself from a culture of wickedness. Here, God’s people are the ones creating the culture of wickedness. However, God will call out Jesus from this very culture to make a people for Himself.
- Consider the tribal imagery in this passage: the concubine comes from Judah (the tribe Christ came from), the Levite represents the priests (Christ became the High Priest), and the tribe of Benjamin almost gets erased from history as a result in chapters 20-21 (Paul, who God used to grow His young Church, came from the tribe of Benjamin). Praise God who builds His Kingdom out of the ruins of man!
- The refraining theme of this passage and the statement that closes out the book of Judges is “there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Cue the desperate need for a King and Teacher of God’s people!
So yes, Judges 19 is rough, but packed with hints of the good news to come. I’m grateful the Bible doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality of life under the curse. Dark passages like this in the Bible are instrumental in setting the stage for the light of the gospel to break through!
While it may never grace Christian coffee cups, Judges 19 is just as valuable to the grand narrative of Scripture as Psalm 23. Let’s dig into the more difficult passages of Scripture and regularly ask with childlike faith, “God, what do You want us to know from your Word today?”
Like this article? Check out more from Aaron at www.theaaronwilson.com.