4.33 Judges -- the Levite's Concubine
But things got even worse, in terms of Israel's decline. The Book of Judges honestly depicts the sordid state into which the Israelites had fallen. In this lurid story, a Levite and his concubine were on a journey from Bethlehem to the Levite's home in Ephraim. They traveled north to Gibeah in Benjamin, so that they could stay the night among fellow Israelites. An old man gave them hospitality in his house. But that evening they were set upon by men of the town, demanding that the newcomer be handed over to them for homosexual rape. This is an exact replay of the situation faced by Lot in Sodom (Gen 19:5). Like Lot, the host offered his own daughter to these savages, but they ignored him. So the cowardly Levite threw his concubine out the door, where she was raped and killed. He apparently went to bed and slept through the night! Upon awaking and finding her dead on the doorstep, he bundled up her body and continued his journey. When he reached home, he cut her body into 12 pieces and sent one part to each of the 12 tribes!
This was the grisly equivalent of calling out the tribes to gather for war. Later, King Saul sent a similar message to all Israel, but instead of the body of a human being, he killed and cut up two oxen (1 Sam 11:7).
At this point we have reached the point of no distinction -- there was no difference between the conduct of Israel and the worst of the Canaanites. The "holy nation" was doing the same deeds for which God condemned the Canaanites. Ironically, the Levite specifically avoided the city of Jebus (Jerusalem), which was inhabited by Canaanites, no doubt thinking it would be safer to stay with his fellow Israelites. Yet it was not only the conduct of the townspeople that was an abomination to God. The Levite himself, a guardian of God's law, threw his wife outside as shark-bait to spare his own life.
When the tribes responded to the Levite's summons, an army of 400,000 marched against Gibeah in Benjamin, demanding the surrender of the concubine's murderers. But Benjamin mobilized its own army to oppose them. In the first two battles, the Benjaminites were victorious, causing Israel to weep and fast before the Lord. Then Israel set a trap for Benjamin. They seized the city of Gibeah, burned it, and slaughtered the people. Then they annihilated the Benjaminite army. Over 25,000 Benjaminite soldiers were killed, and only 600 escaped to the desert. Israel proceeded to devastate the land: they burned the cities of Benjamin, and killed all the people and animals. It was a complete cleansing of the land by fire, as extreme as any campaign waged against a Canaanite tribe. And all of this for the sake of one dead concubine!