He lifted her onto his donkey and set out for home. When he got home he took a knife and dismembered his concubine—cut her into twelve pieces. He sent her, piece by piece, throughout the country of Israel. And he ordered the men he sent out, "Say to every man in Israel: 'Has such a thing as this ever happened from the time the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until now? Think about it! Talk it over. Do something!'" Judges 19:29-30 (MSG)
When a five men broke into the Democratic National Committee offices of the Watergate complex in 1972, it was a small story. Like a small stone that triggers an avalanche, the "small" story ended up with the resignation of a president and the changing of history. There are events that, ultimately, become part of changing the course of history.
It's easy to read this horrific story in Judges 19 and wonder what could possibly be relevant about such a brutal event. My initial reaction as I read the tragic details was to wonder how such things could happen or be tolerated. I have to be honest, however. Genocide, misogyny, gang rapes, and brutal killings are still a part of this world, though I turn a blind eye to such things when they don't collide with personal experience. Nevertheless, what's the point of such a bloody event?
Any one who sojourns through scripture for any measure of time begins to perceive the big picture themes that connect these diverse writing. There is a grand story being told and this news story is like a new clipping about the Watergate break in. The nation of Israel started as one wandering nomad who started a family who grew into a nation as slave laborers in Egypt. Moses leads them out of slavery, delivers God's law, and takes them to the promised land of Canaan. Joshua leads the conquest of the land. They are settled, spread out in their tribes. But, thing aren't good. With no king or central government, things are continually falling into anarchy and chaos.
The book of Judges is a chapter in God's grand story that moves us from Israel's settling of Canaan without any real system of human government to the establishment of a monarchy that would give us King David, through whom God would ultimately send us His Son. The chaotic events described in Judges are like stones that create an avalanche of public opinion. Soon, Israel would be clamoring for a king. The story of this concubine's rape and her husband's bloody message to the tribes surely raised that clamor to a fever pitch. Something needs to be done. This event would be part of a chain of events that would lead Israel to cry out for a king to rule them and bring law, justice and order to the land.
Today, I'm thanking God that I live in a time and place where the rule of law prevents such events from being commonplace. I'm also mindful of the terrible consequences when we are not subject to authority.