The Levite's Concubine
Take My Story to Heart: Thoughts from the Levite's Concubine in Judges 19
By Kimberly Dickson
No one has asked me my point of view, and I have not had the words to speak of it anyway. I left Bethlehem an innocent girl, excited to be grown up enough to be “married,” and go on an adventure to a place I had never been. I had believed the charming words of the man I accompanied. Now I returned to my parents’ house wise to the world, so hurt but also burning with rage and repulsion. I was alone and barely thirteen years old, yet I had travelled a full day’s journey from the remote hills where my “husband” had taken me. When my father saw me tired and worn at his threshold, he quickly snatched me inside and closed the door behind me. My mother fed and bathed my stinking and unwashed young body. She gasped and began to silently weep when she saw me naked-bruises, burns, and scars. They talked in hushed tones long into the night.
I stayed with my parents for four months, silently helping my mother with her daily work. Though I looked like the same child, I was gone, empty. Still, the familiar routine, my parents’ patient love, and the familiar smells did calm me some. But each time a man passed our home I would become physically sick, vomiting in repulsion. I think my parents, though initially in denial, guessed what had happened. Religious prostitutes are common in this foreign land we have come to inhabit as our own. We have been raised with the lore of our founding fathers. One such story speaks of Judah thinking he had slept with a religious prostitute, when in actual fact he had slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar and produced an heir. But my parents did not suspect that we as a people had fallen to such a point that our own religious leaders, those who are meant to represent YHWH, were tricking families into offering their own girls into prostitution. I think my father knew I would have a harder life than I was accustomed to because I would be the concubine of a Levite. Not only would I not have the status of a wife, but Levites are poor. They don’t even own any land. I would be going from a house in a walled city to a tent in the rural mountains. This really should have stopped my father but the Levite was a smooth talker. I watched my father’s face as he realized that he could do a holy act by offering his daughter to a poor Levite who could carry on his family name as the mother of his children.
In the four silent months that I stayed with my family, my “husband” never sent word, though someone must have told him I had returned home. Then one day, while I was preparing bread, I heard his voice on our threshold. He used his same calculating charm he had used when my father first gave me away. And to my horror, my father accepted him in with great joy. I immediately was sick, but willed myself to make it through the three obligatory days of hospitality my father must offer before he would send him away with the bride price returned. Instead they partied for five days pleasing their own hearts, my husband a drunken fool. Did my father not want him to leave? On the fifth day, late in the afternoon, my pimp – I mean husband - insisted through his slurred words that we leave. The partying turned into a rather loud confrontation, though my father was still trying to look and sound jovial. He argued that we should not leave during the most dangerous hours of the day. With some defeat – I imagine at the cessation of the party – my father promised to let us leave early in the morning when it was safe.
I was alarmed. I would have to return with this evil man? Why didn’t my father insist on the return of the bride price? Did he not know what brutality I would be returned to?
My pimp refused my father’s offer and made the servant gather the donkey and me. I had bravely left this horrid situation when I found the opportunity, but now there was no escape – I was caught between the men who were meant to protect me. I had less value than the donkey. I caught a look in my father’s eyes when I walked away, I think they were tears as he gazed at me. Perhaps I was wrong and he did his best to protect me. It is true that when others would have stoned me for the crimes my husband made me commit, my father accepted me home immediately and kept me for four months with no questions or effort to send me back. But there’s no point in dwelling on it, in the end, his power failed.
My pimp was in a querulous mood and would not listen to the servant’s wise advice that we stop in Jebus for the night. He had a mistrust of foreigners and insisted we moved on to Gibeah, a Benjamite settlement. It no longer mattered to me. With bitter satisfaction, I was glad when no one in Gibeah offered us hospitality. At least my husband had to face he was wrong about our fellow countrymen. They were not any different than him, fundamentally cold. He could not use them. For once his Levitical sniveling did not serve his purposes. But just as the sun was setting an old man saw us. My husband effectively told his sob story. Soon we were in this man’s home, with the illusion that we were safe for the night.
Once again my husband enjoyed another’s man’s hospitality and resources, making his heart merry and very drunk. At the height of his partying, a mob of the village men arrived at the door. They wanted my husband and not me for sex. My husband and his host immediately sobered up. This really was a severe violation of hospitality. We as a people are supposed to remember that we were once sojourners and care for others who are sojourners, and we have a special category of care we are meant to offer Levites.
The old man’s immediate solution was to offer me and his own virgin daughter to these men instead. There was no segment of our people to whom I could ever turn for safety. I bowed my head. But the mob did not want me, they wanted my husband. It dawned on me, this was a replay of our ancient legend of Sodom and Lot. Our host was Lot. Would my husband save us like YWHW’s representatives who were Lot’s guests? No, rather with the cold and calculating violence characteristic of any pimp preparing his prostitute, my husband seized me and threw me out in his place. I was simply his property. He had used me for financial gain, selling me over and over. Now he would use me to avoid the indecency of homosexual rape. This infuriated the mob even further. They grabbed me, kicked me and spit on me. I refused to give them the pleasure of one word, one tear, or any sense of the humanity they denied. Survival for me meant that my mind must flee far away. All night long they gang raped me, sodomized me, and abused me in incomprehensible ways. At dawn they let me go. I had nowhere to go so I crawled to the threshold where it all began and collapsed, with my hand reaching for safety. How hope carries on when it should be extinguished. I heard the door open. Would hope materialize? It was him. His denial of participating in any evil was so thorough he acted sincerely surprised to see me, and with a cold and false cheerfulness ordered me to get up and go home. I passed out, sleep – the blessed savior of abused children. Over the next several hours I came in and out of consciousness. I had been flung like a sack of wheat over the back of the donkey, with my head bobbing against its side. My young body refused to die.
I knew we arrived when I was dropped off the donkey in a heap. I was vaguely aware that the Levite had seized a butcher knife and I was to be a human sacrifice killed by Israel’s religious leader, YHWH’s representative. YHWH must be Shatan. Blessed darkness took me when, instead of directly killing me, he began to dismember me, limb by limb.