Our nameless Levite visits more misery upon us. After returning home, “he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel” (Judges 19:29).
So, um, yeah, that happened.
Now, let’s be clear, this priest, this priest just desecrated his concubine’s body. After she had been beaten and raped to death—yes, we now know that she died—he chopped her into twelve pieces. Jewish burial traditions are very clear on this part, you do not dismember people! As a priest, he knows this! Jewish burials are remarkably similar to current-day practices. The body is washed, purified, and then dressed. There is no viewing of the body or open-casket, however. The body is not to be put on display. Cremation is a no-no as it disrespects the body. The body is supposed to decompose naturally.
It’s not supposed to be cut up into pieces and sent across Israel!
Okay, I admit, I’m pissed at this guy. This is just wrong on so many levels. Not only did this guy throw her to her abusers, he refused to check on her, berated her for being lazy the morning afterwards, threw her across a donkey like a piece of meat, and carved her up! Whiskey tango foxtrot is wrong with this guy?! How does someone like this become a priest? At what point does he start acting like one?
It gets worse. Because chopping her up is not a bizarre form of burial he’s pursuing. It’s motivated by revenge. Her pieces are sent out to every tribe with the message “to all the Israelites, ‘Has such a thing ever happened since the day that the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until this day? Consider it, take counsel, and speak out’ ” (Judges 19:30). He has taken offense that his concubine was beaten, raped, and killed, and is now a prop to get revenge against those perverse men of Gibeah.
He didn’t need to chop her up. He didn’t need to send her dismembered and decaying limbs throughout all of the land of Israel to make his point. It’s the final cut, the final stripping of her humanity. Her body was raped by the men, but now her memory has been raped by her lover. Her body was not treated with respect even in death. She will not have a proper ceremony where people watcher over her and recite the Pslams. Blessings and songs will not be voiced on her behalf.
Proper treatment after her death might have done her well, or at least her memory. Now she can only be an instrument of revenge with no humanity.