|Light iron-age reading
|Gabbin' with God
Gibeah is a city mentioned in the Bible, most notably in Judges 19:21. In that story, the city was under the control of the Tribe of Benjamin (the Benjamites) who were noted throughout the Bible for their pugnacious nature.
The story in the Book of Judges
The story of Gibeah begins and ends with the statement that in those days Israel had no king. At the end of the story it is also stated that because there was no king, the Israelites basically did whatever they saw fit to do.
The Levite and his concubine
In Judges 19, a Levite travels to Bethlehem to retrieve his "unfaithful"[note 1] concubine[note 2] from her parents' home. After several days at her parents' home, the Levite departs with the woman and his servant. They approach the city of Jerusalem late in the afternoon. The servant suggests that they spend the night there, but the Levite refuses to stay in a town that isn't controlled by Israelites. They continue on to the city of Gibeah.
In Gibeah, an old man offers to put up the three travelers for the night. As night falls, several men of the town surround the house and demand that the old man send out the Levite so that they may have sex with him. The old man refuses. As a consolation, the Levite sends out the woman. The men of Gibeah spend the night raping her to death. When the Levite finds her on the old man's porch the next morning, he puts her body onto his donkey and goes home. When he arrives at his home, he cuts her body into twelve pieces and sends them around to the other tribes with the story of what happened to her.
Destruction and repopulation of the Benjamites
In Judges 20, members of the eleven tribes are outraged by the death of the woman. They call upon the Benjamites to deliver Gibeah for retribution, but the Benjamites refuse. With the permission of Yahweh, the eleven tribes then raise an army of 400,000 and crush Gibeah and the Benjamites. After laying waste to Gibeah, the eleven tribes destroy several other Benjamite cities.
Judges 21 opens with the eleven tribes of Israel upset that the Benjamites — the ones they just wiped out — are not in attendance at Bethel. Because the twelve tribes had sworn a blood oath to regularly gather at Bethel, the members of the eleven surviving tribes decide that there is only one thing to do: send out marauders to kill the surviving non-virgin Benjamites for not sending representatives to Bethel. After killing all the non-virgin Benjamites, the eleven remaining tribes make peace with the survivors. However, there are only 400 virgin Benjamite women left alive — not enough for the surviving Benjamite men to repopulate the tribe. Since the eleven tribes had also sworn another blood oath that they would not willingly give their women to the Benjamites, they had to come up with a way to allow the Benjamites to have some Israelite women without breaking this oath. They decided to allow the Benjamites to kidnap Israelite women at random from an orchard at Shiloh.
Parallels to other myths and bible stories
- As with Sodom and Gomorrah, the crux of the story is built around three strangers who arrive in an Israelite town. In both stories, men of the town demand to be allowed to have sex with at least one of the visiting men. In Sodom, Lot offers his two daughters to the men of the town. They refuse the offer. Later, the daughters are impregnated by their father. In Gibeah, the Levite offers the woman to the men of the town. They accept the offer. Later, she ends up dead and dismembered.
- According to the Old Testament, when the Israelites became wicked, Yahweh allowed them to be conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. In this story, one tribe becomes wicked and Yahweh allows the other eleven tribes to pound the hell out of them.
- The abduction of the Israelite women by the Benjamites near the vineyards of Shiloh parallels the Roman history/myth of the rape of the Sabine Women.
- Although the King James version says that she "played the whore against him", this doesn't necessarily mean that she was having sex with others. It may just mean that they had a fight and she went home to be with her mother.
- An old term for common-law wife. Some translations even refer to the Levite and the woman's parents as in-laws.