Tag Archives: bible stories

Had you heard about Jesus’ elder brother?

Let’s start at Genesis.

 

If you’ve read this book you’ll remember that a lot happens here. The world is created and sin sneaks in on the slithering tongue of a snake. Brother kills brother. Men live for centuries. Then the sons of god fornicate with the daughters of man and more sin creeps in. A tower is built with the intent of poking the eye of God or maybe giving glory to him by reaching as far up as man can, but he thought it was poking his eye so languages come. We have a great flood and we meet the first of the Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham the unbending. A man possessed of a faith and certainty that is admirable and terrible.

 

Somewhere along the story of his life the war of the nine kings breaks out. They array themselves 5 against 4. In their number we have the King of Sodom and the King of Gomorrah, the other side numbers among it’s member Tidal the King of Nations. As usually happens in the bible, Sodom and Gomorrah get the worst possible ending. They lose the war, all their goods are carried away  aaand all their people including recent emigrants like Lot the nephew of Abram.

 

Abram is not having that shit. He arms his servants, the ones born in his own house numbering 318 (he’s as rich as a lord) and then tells them, “we’re going after the army of the 5 kings, they have my nephew and we can’t let people start thinking they can just cart away my family members where would that end?” I imagine there was some protest, I imagine Abram shut it right down, this man remember will one day carry his own son up a mountain with the assurance that God will provide the ram.

 

Abram and his 318 go and they smite the army of the 5 kings so hard the battle is known as the slaughter of Cherdolaomer.  Coming back he gets a heroes welcome, the King of Sodom is there to receive him and also the King of Salem, Melchizedek. Salem, which sounds suspiciously like Shalom and also lends root to that famous city or in Hebrew that famous “Jeru”, means peace.

 

The King of Peace promptly brings out some bread and some wine. He, we are told, is a priest of the Most High God and knowing how mass needs to be celebrated brought his tools. Then Abram makes his tithe. The King of Sodom only wants his people back ready to give up all his treasure to Abram for saving them but  Abram refuses to take anything that’s not his. These three men get thrown apart by life. The King of Sodom goes off to his city with his wealth and presides over the complete destruction of its morality and then the reckoning of its mortality. Abram modifies his name, almost kills his son, dies himself, and leaves a seed that goes off to Egypt, comes back, throws out the inhabitants of this place, and forms a Kingdom whose baffled King will compose hallelujah…

 

As well as a much lesser known song of praise, the Psalm of the two Lords. It begins rather abruptly “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Yaani  kaa hapa hadi ukanyagie maadui wako.

 

David sings to his Lord who sits at the right hand of the Lord and praises his strength and the steadfastness of his people, talking about the “beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning” that is attributable to his Lord. His Lord he tells us is a priest after the order of Melchizedek  the King of Peace who we haven’t heard from for so many books. As it turns out more and more has been revealed about him in the background, so much more in fact that being a priest in the order of Melchizedek is an attribute of David’s Lord.  This being of glory deserving worship and a title equal to Yahweh’s who is admitted into the presence of the Lord to sit at his right hand and await vengeance is only following something established in the person of Melchizedek. David’s Lord, we are told will strike through Kings in his days of wrath, he will fill places with dead bodies, judge among the heathens and wound the heads over many countries.

 

Here we leave the baffled King as he spends the rest of his life composing his psalm to the glory of God. His kingdom is inherited and expands and turns to dust. His people are carried away in the manner feared by Abram. Trials and tribulations visit them as they are handed from empire to empire to Rome. From amongst them arises a man who preaches peace and love. He implores all to forgive their neighbours and to love their Lord. A man who for all his troubles is strung up like the worst kind of criminal and allowed to die on a wooden cross.

 

His philosophy is too powerful to die with him. He gives us the lesson that love cannot be buried in the darkness, he shows us that it will rise out of the earth and ascend to the heavens on the wings of angels. Men see this and men believe. They take it upon themselves to spread the gospel of love as well and as far as they can.

 

One of them from far away decides to write a letter back home. And in this letter he muses on the qualities of a high priest: that he must be taken from the people and know their suffering because how otherwise would he have compassion? A high priest when he makes sacrifices for sins should make sacrifices for both his sins and that of the people. This honour is not given by men but by God. It was given to Aaron for example. Jesus did not take it but was appointed by God when he was called his son. The man writing the letter remembers the cries of anguish made by the Nazarene in the fear of death and reminds us of the ultimate obedience we all owe and tells us that by submitting to it Jesus became perfect and the author of salvation, called of God, a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

 

Melchizedek who met Abraham when he was still Abram. Melchizedek who is called here the King of Righteousness and again the King of Peace. Melchizedek who is “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the son of God.” That’s just the beginning of how awesome this guy was, it seems that the revelations about him never stopped coming. The writer reminds us that even Abraham gave this guy a tenth of his spoils. He mentions that this is usually done to the Levites but goes on to say that even Levi gave our man a tithe for “he was yet in the loins of his father.”

 

The King of Righteousness is raised by the attributes given to him above all men, he is raised above angels. He is the embodiment of the perfect priesthood and when Jesus was here he was only following his example, joining that holy order instead of the one established by Aaron.

 

Some characteristics of this priesthood seem to be the ability to live forever in order to keep interceding. In fact with this changing of the guard a lot becomes different, “for the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change in the law.” Or rather a return to basics sealed by the death of the second priest in the order of Melchizedek.

 

If we could for a moment stop and consider the momentousness of the introduction and weaving of this character throughout the bible. In three disparate books covering different time zones we are reminded over and over that there is someone here who is the utmost. He is given not just immortality but his example is also used to exalt beings who the people writing about clearly believe to be Gods.

 

We don’t hear from Melchizedek again in the bible or even usually during Christian discourse. The disappearance of this King of Peace and Righteousness, the big brother of Jesus Christ from general Christian consciousness is an abiding mystery. One almost as impenetrable as the central mystery of Melchizedek, who in the world was he supposed to be?

 

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hallelujah, fare thee well Leonard Cohen

On November 7th 2016 one of the greatest songwriters this world had left us. His soul went on to the next adventure and whatever awaits us all in the great beyond. Leonard Cohen was so good that his songs have been compared to the psalms of the bible. This is not just because he is Jewish it is also because of the amazing lyrical content of the songs, their thematic weight, and  philosophical leanings. There is a song about Abraham and Isaac that is a heartbreak to listen to. The story of Isaac is told through the perspective of this 9 year old boy whose father says he must die in the service of Yahweh. It raises for me a very interesting question: the moral of the story in the bible is that obedience is more important than compassion, what if they got it wrong? This very story must have comforted many a Nazi soldier who harboured Christian beliefs. He told himself that obedience to authority is more important than compassion to his fellow man. Abraham should have refused to sacrifice his son no matter what his faith told him. He should have said no and Yahweh would have loved him all the more telling him that compassion is more important. Telling him that compassion and love are really the most important things. Letting him know that an evil done in the name a god is still an evil. This version of the bible that perhaps exists in an alternate universe would not have been so easily corrupted to justify all the things that the bible has been forced to. At the end of that song Leonard Cohen sings:

 

“You who build these altars now to sacrifice these children, you must not do it anymore. A scheme is not a vision and you never have been tempted by a demon or a god.”

 

I am increasingly convinced that if there is a god and that if it is love, if it wasn’t why bother making us in the first place?, then that god is eternal and unchanging though looking at the world around us not omnipotent. But the love shines through because even in this hellish interregnum that he couldn’t stop from existing there is still love and beauty and compassion and happiness. And I believe he is eternal and unchanging not in the way Christians do which is to allow their capacity for contradictory narratives to co-exist simultaneously and take these contradictions as a sign of supreme will and power. I have sought an explanation for the death of Egypt’s first borns and the possibility of this lying side by side with Jesus’ teaching to no avail. It is not god that changes though, what changes is our understanding of it. The bible is a beautiful series of books chronicling the attempts of a people to understand god. And you can see their understanding changing. The god we find through genesis to the early prophets is one of war. He demands death and genocide. He glories in sacrifice. Do you remember the heartbreak in game of thrones when King Stannis burns his daughter to her death? The bible did it first. As it goes on the understanding of god becomes better. He becomes a god of peace  and Isaiah tells the children of Israel that their wicked ways of violence have condemned them he looks to a day when:

 

“He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (truly, you must not do it anymore)

 

Then we get to the person who came closest to getting it all right in the Bible. Jesus of Nazareth taught love and lived love. He asked us to love one another. To love the lord our god with all our hearts and with all our minds and with all our souls. This must mean loving every single creation of his from the most exalted angel to the housefly to the fallen Lucifer. In the vision of love that Jesus drew, all nations and all people had a place in the heart of god. Being human he made some mistakes but when his reported words are taken, just his words not the stories and myths and legends that grew around him we see what he wanted. Love. The only prayer for material needs that Jesus makes is for his daily bread so when a prosperity gospel is preached it is not based on the words of Jesus. He said that his kingdom is not of this world, he said give unto Caesar, he turned down Lucifer’s offer for rule, Jesus was all about separation of church and state. So anyone who claims that they are serving his will by making something illegal only because the bible says its immoral is not following his words. Anybody who insists that the things that belong to Caesar like public schools should be used to spread the word  is wrong, or he is saying that Jesus is which is fine to say but not in while claiming to serve him.

 

Paul who a lot of Christianity is based on gets a lot more things wrong. Then John writes a book and the chapter is closed. Why was the chapter closed though? Humanity has been trying to understand god since the day we could understand anything. Trying to divine its will for us is an all important pursuit. So why would we close it off and say that all the writings from that day forth should be about the writings already written and not about god? Why would anyone demand such a thing? Why would any god want such a thing? It would not. And we did not. All this is written by way of prologue because what I really want to talk about is the song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Listen to it if you haven’t. It’s one of the great beauties of this world. The song has 7 verses though most versions of it leave out 2 of the verses. I feel that it should be considered in its entirety. The arrangement of the verses may not be how the man would have wanted it arranged but for me to explain the point I believe he was trying to make this is the best arrangement I could come up with:

 

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music, do ya?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing “Hallelujah”

 

This verse is pretty straightforward and steeped in the religious traditions and mythological stories of his people. David was a great musician according to the bible, he even played the harp for the king he would later betray, go into civil war with, and cause to kill himself. The story is that Yahweh would send a spirit to Saul and this “evil spirit of the Lord” would torment him causing him great pain. The only way that this evil spirit sent by Yahweh could be soothed would be for David to play on his harp. The King was once so overcome by the evil spirit and the things it would whisper into his ear, these seem to be prophecies of his death and the death of all his sons at the hands of his most trusted servant that he picked up a spear and hurled it at David.  Music and beauty please the lord as is clear from this chapter, they even soothe the evil spirits that he calls upon to do his work from time to time and despite this we don’t consider this a hallelujah. The works of man as he tries to understand his world, commune with it, and lift his fellow human beings out of misery are of great pleasure to god. Yet they are not as exalted as they should be. In a local context we have heard over and over  music being demonised, movies being demonised, books being demonised. There are certain Christian denominations that tell their followers not to listen to secular music, they even tell them not to listen to gospel music made by secular artists. The world is full of people who forgot that music, that beauty, that art are praising god’s name in their very creation. They forgot or they don’t really care for it.

 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

 

Praise Jah!! Praise Jah!!! This reggae sounding phrase is actually just a translation of hallelujah. So in your churches, in your clubs, in your bars, praise Jah!!!!

 

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

 

I see three biblical stories here. Further steeping this psalm in that great tradition. It was written by a man cognizant of the law and the prophets and he who some say is the messiah. The first verse refers to doubting Thomas who needed to put his fingers in the holes caused by the nails before he believed that the Christ had risen again. Thomas would go on to be a great name in the church a great saint and one of Jesus’ fiercest knights. Love is important I personally believe. But that insistence on faith that sweeps most religions is not. We live in a world that begs us not to believe in the idea of a loving and all powerful god. It begs us all the time. Religion asks us to believe the impossible, well some of us need proof and for this small sin, this small sin of disbelief we are told that god would have us burn forever?

 

The next two lines are the story of David and Bathsheba. King David saw this beautiful woman bathing on a roof and he had to have her. He sent her husband, Uriah off to war with commands that he should be placed so as to die. Uriah died and David having committed this sin that seems unpardonable proceeded to marry her. The next line is about Samson. Samson was a bad man. A horrid man. He goes down as the first recorded suicide bomber he was that bad. Delilah (don’t these names, Delilah and Bathsheba, call beauty to your mind immediately? And that is the power of the word my friends that is the power of association) who was obviously a spy did all she could to find the source of his strength and sap it. When she finally did, she lovingly cut his hair, Bathsheba on her end lovingly brought to an end David’s intended throne with her son following him onto the throne. Though this last may have been a good thing because David’s original brood contained a man who raped his half-sister and a whole lot of sibling on sibling murder. These women no matter what they led these men to drew a hallelujah from their lips. No man can be this hopelessly in love and not offer it as a hallelujah. A happiness fills the world when you feel that way. A thank you to whoever sent this your way a big up to the big G.

 

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor

I used to live alone before I knew ya
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a lonely Hallelujah

 

And we come out of the bible to something that many of  us can relate to. We have been here before each of us, at the end of love’s holy hallelujah we have been broken by it. We have cried nights and drank bottles and tried our best to fuck it out of us. When we enter the house of love now we know what we are getting into. We walked out into the cold or were forced out before and lived alone for a while. Then this person comes along but you remember Delilah cutting your hair no matter how many times you gave her your trust. Naivety has fled us. Things are clear. We can see the flag on the marble arch and it’s scary, it’s scary because love is not a victory march. We know that love is struggle and suffering and the capacity for heartbreak. That love is hard. That love is cold and that it’s lonely. That this hallelujah we sing is not like the ones before  it’s not joyful, it’s freezing and it’s shattered but in the act of love we still sing it.

 

There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do ya?

And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too

And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

This strikes me as a nostalgic verse. It is to a lover. There was a time when they shared everything. This is something else we all know. There was a girl I loved and she loved me and we talked about everything. Every little thing that she was she showed to me and I accepted it. The days with her passed in a blink, being with her was happiness. It’s not like that anymore. The 4th and 5th line are about sex. And I can remember the sex I had with her I still think about it. It was truly beautiful, the joining of flesh. We made love there is no other way to put it and while I moved in her the holy dove was moving too. God the Holy Spirit was with us in that moment of togetherness. We were a trinity and every moan and gasp that we let out, every single breath was hallelujah.

 

Maybe there’s a God above
All I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

 

It’s entirely possible that there is a god above. Anybody who says different is preaching a different brand of fanaticism.  And we all hope that this god is love, that he is the purest distillation of love. Despite this all we have ever learned from love was how to hurt somebody first. The two verses before this show this sad education, or rather the results of this sad education. This is the worst result of it. In order to protect our fragile hearts we will break another person’s fragile heart.  This is nothing to be proud of. it’s not a cry you will ever hear at night. Nobody will ever claim that because they did this they saw the light. This pain we cause ourselves and others, this suffering , a suffering that only exists because we have loved and lost is still a hallelujah. A cold and a broken one.

 

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to ya?

There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

 

Who can claim to know the name of god. To understand what it means when we don’t understand the things we see, when we can’t even understand ourselves. Thomas Aquinas wrote:

“Yet since God is simple and subsisting, we attribute to Him simple and abstract names to signify His simplicity, and concrete names to signify His subsistence and perfection, although both these kind of names fail to express His mode of being, because our intellect does not know Him in this life as He is.”

There is a charge levelled against people that they have taken the name of the lord in vain. You can hear it if you listen close enough. It is considered blasphemy to continue in our attempts to understand him, to call for the bible to be opened up and allow more thinking about god in it. But how is it possible that my attempts to understand him can be called taking his name in vain. My failure and trials anyway for my intellect to “know Him in this life as He is.” And if it is, if it really is, that is between me and it. No man should stand there and condemn me for that, nobody has a right. This, if it’s a sin, is one of the few that does not involve human beings. So really what’s it to ya? And then he goes on to specify that every single word we say, every attempt to say his name, to understand him is filled with a blaze of light. All of it is a hallelujah. It may be the holy one that was sang before when the holy dove moved in us or the broken one that is the march of love but it’s a hallelujah. And when I say my hallelujah really what’s it to ya?

 

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

 

I am human and we all are. So our  best, our very best is never much. We can push as hard as we can and the only guarantee that we have is that we will still fail. It becomes more and more difficult to feel. To feel love as we get older, to feel faith as we think about the world. We can’t feel love so we try to touch and hope sex banishes the cold. We can’t feel faith so we try to touch the wounds on the hands of god if only to remind ourselves that it can relate to us. It knows what it is to be human and loves us for it. The third line is him saying that all that comes before comes from his heart. This is the truth according to Cohen and he has me convinced. When I write this, right now I believe it all. I’m not trying to fool you or mislead you. This is how I feel. And even though it all went wrong… I love these three lines. It all went wrong. It all went to shit. Things are bad. Things are horrible. Each of us failed ourselves, our loved ones and our god and were failed by each of them in turn. Despite all of this if the day comes when we shall stand before the lord of songs and understand finally what it was trying to do. Understand finally why this hell had to exist. Understand it all. When such a day comes when all of god’s children are gathered and we are standing next to Satan who has also made his way back to the love. There will be nothing on our tongues but hallelujah.

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the levite and his concubine

There is a story in the Bible, the story of the Levite and his concubine. It is a horrible story spanning three chapters of the book of Judges at a time when the lifetimes of many of the greatest leaders of the tribes of Israel were dispensed with in less than half a chapter.

A Levite, the tribe that were consecrated as priests, marries a woman. The woman is unfaithful to him and eventually she leaves him and runs back to her father’s house. The man does not want to live without her and goes back to ask for her back. He does that noble thing that in many conversations with women I hear that men cannot do, that no matter how much they love or who they are they cannot go back to a woman who was unfaithful to them. As if the capacity for forgiveness only exists in women as if male ego obliterates all that is good in each of us. He has that thing we try and try to see in God’s image a capacity for renewal and second chances. However this man is not a role model, this is the last noble thing he does in this story.

He gets back his concubine after a strange couple of verses where her father offers him food and drink to make sure that he doesn’t leave. Eventually he does and because he timed it too late and night-time falls he has to stop at a stranger’s house to seek food and shelter. This stranger gives him space to make himself comfortable. However another band of the homosexual rapists that periodically rove through the bible show up. They knock at the house and demand of the host “bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.” The host is understandably horrified and tells his neighbours that he will do no such thing, he will not allow such blight brought upon his home.

The host is also understandably protective but overreacts by offering not just his own virgin daughter but also the man’s concubine in exchange for the safety of this man. With just a piece of dialogue the bible does something that only a great book can do. It shifts the whole paradigm of the narrative. At first we were witnessing a lone hero standing up to a gang of men who take what’s not theirs. A man who feels that this is not right and will not easily give in to such intimidation. A sentence later we are in shock at the old man. The old man who offers up in exchange for the safety of this man his own virgin daughter and the man’s concubine, he is willing and ready to give up a person he should love above all else in order to protect a perfect stranger. But the Old Testament never put much stock in daughters. They were expendable and forgettable. The Levite’s concubine has meantime lost all guest status just because she is a woman.

What happens next is horrifying too. The Levite sends out his concubine to the men. “…and they raped her and abused her throughout the night and at dawn they let her go.” Judges 19:23. The man takes the woman who he had gone back to win from her father’s house and sends her out to these men to do with as they please. He stays and cowers indoors, soundproofing did not exist back then and the horrendous sounds she makes as they rape and abuse her throughout the night come back into the house. He hears them all and when they let her go at dawn she comes back to the house, staggers to the door, falls down near it and lays there till daybreak. Which is when the Levite thinks to come out and see what is wrong. He sees her on the floor and….ok there may be people who still think that this Levite will gather her up in his arms and nurse her back to health racked with guilt and pain at doing what he did. The romantics will still hope that he spends his life in the wilderness attempting to win back the favour of the woman he betrayed. But let’s not forget what book this story is drawn from we get instead one of those lines of dialogue that the bible should really be more famous for…

“Get up; let’s go.” Judges 19:28

When there is no answer he puts her on his donkey and goes home. Once there he cuts up her body into twelve pieces. A thankless task that has him cutting through bone and gristle, muscle and tendon so that he can quarter her instead of giving her a decent burial. He then sends one of the twelve pieces to each of the tribes of Israel. The Levite is a horrible man, this cannot be denied. However he is resourceful. He can somehow send out rotting pieces of a woman’s body to all the different areas that the tribes occupy and make sure that they are delivered to the leaders of the said tribes. He is also a master of propaganda because once the people lay their eyes on this they ask what happened.

The Levite using satellite TV or twitter or whatever you could use in those days to speak to everyone at the same time tells the Israelites what happened. He obfuscates because he knows if he tells this story as it happened then he may be in pieces. In his version of events the men had come with the intention of killing him then they raped his concubine and she died. In the version that he tells he seems to have been unable to do anything. A gang of men. His life on the line. The rape of his concubine and her death. Nowhere does he say that he sent her out to be raped on his behalf or that when they were done he got up from his night of rest and without first offering her even a cup of water told her to get up and go.

The men who had raped the concubine were from a place called Gibeah and of the tribe of the Benjamites. The Israelites being a warlike people immediately responded the only way they knew how, by taking ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel and going up against Gibeah in order to give that town what it deserves. Remember these are the same people who call their warlords judges so this is not too surprising. The benjamites are not game with having a town of their people wiped out because maybe some of them were innocent of this crime and the example of Sodom and Gomorrah has to be stopped at some point.

So there is war 26,000 Benjamites including 700 left-handed who could sling a stone at a hair and not miss against 400,000 of their fellow brother Israelites. The Israelites mass up and go to battle and lose. They lose heavily, they lose 22,000 men that day. The ground is slick with blood because this is hand to hand combat. The sand in the plains turned into the thickest, foulest smelling mud you ever saw. You can also be sure that the 700 lefties proved themselves in battle, maybe this is where they lost.

They weep to their Lord who is the same Lord that the Benjamites are thanking right at that moment. They ask with all the seriousness this question deserves whether they should take up arms against their brothers again. Answering as if his throne had been usurped by a Greek god of war who wants only chaos and blood the “Lord answered “go up against them”” Judges 20: 23.

18,000 Israelites are killed the next day.

They regroup, they weep, they fast, they pray. They get an assurance from the Lord. “Tomorrow.” And tomorrow slaughter happens. There is military manoeuvring, fake retreats, slippage past their enemies and a complete routing of the Benjamite forces. The math lays it all bare. The Benjamites had 26,700 soldiers. 25,100 are struck down by the Lord in front of the Israelites that day. 600 escape. This means that in the preceding days the Israelites lose 40,000 men to Benjamin’s 1,000. Shit all we need in wars are left handed people with slingshots.

Their victory is complete. In the grand tradition of Israelite battles they have killed not just the men but the women and the children too. Now though they have a problem, where to find wives for the remaining 600 Benjamites. They took a solemn oath not to allow any of their daughters to marry a Benjamite and they don’t want a whole tribe to disappear from amongst them that we can all agree would be a horrible solution. They show a little mercy. They gather together and ask which of the people of Israel had not shown up for their war council. It is found that the people of Jabesh Gilead had not shown up. They had therefore not made the oath forbidding their daughters from marrying the Benjamites.

The Israelites not having learned from their rash and warrish actions send 12,000 men to put this town to the sword. They kill all the men. They kill all the children. They kill every woman who has ever had sex. Then they take the virgins, 400 in number and offer them to the people of Benjamin. A very ironic twist to what had begun this dance of death way back when there was a Levite his concubine, a man and his virgin daughter. These are not enough women so the Benjamites are instructed to abduct women during a religious festival so that they can settle and repopulate.

So the story comes to an end. One of the most gory stories ever written. There are no good guys, nobody to support, no happy endings. The chapter and in fact the book ends without endorsing any of these actions. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” Judges 21:25.

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