This is it. I won’t be dealing directly with this story any more after this. This might feel like a bit much after I’ve spent so much time on this story, but I think it’s necessary.
This story is not well-known in the Bible. When you start listing off Bible stories, this one is never on the list.
I get it. We like happy stories. We want stories that reaffirm us and give us warm, squishy fuzzies inside. I get that this story is not on the Bible’s top 25 or even top 50. In fact, anyone who says that this is their favorite Bible story should seriously think about therapy. I feel like I need it after all of this.
While this isn’t on a top whatever list, it’s not on any list. Like I said, I had this story as part of my studies in grad school. But I grew up a good Christian boy. I did the Sunday school thing and even beyond that. I thought I knew the Bible pretty well. Sure, I struggled with a lot of Isaiah and I can’t quote Psalms and Proverbs like a lot of people, I thought I had major stories down.
When I came to Samson, well, my eyes were opened a bit. I knew the sanitized version, and the uncut (sorry [not sorry] for the pun) story in the Bible changed things a bit. I knew I wasn’t exactly in Kansas, any more. I needed to pay attention to stories I thought I knew and look at them with fresh eyes.
But I was completely unprepared for Judges 19-21. It floored me. I thought, like I’m sure a lot of people do, that I was in some kind of weird re-telling of Sodom and Gomorrah. But I wasn’t. I was confused and had no way to process what I was reading. Not only was this an awful story, I had no inkling that such a story ever existed in the Bible.
And I’m not alone. This story almost never gets talked about. It gets skipped over as if it doesn’t exist. It is Sir Not Appearing in This Book.
But it shouldn’t be.
I’m here to advocate for this story. We need this story. We don’t want this story, but we need it. While we want happily ever afters (HEA) and good triumphing over evil, we also need to know why. This story is why. This is what happens when evil triumphs. This is what happens when the bad guys have their way.
We have a lot of dystopian, post-apocalyptic books and movies these days, but many of them embrace the HEA to throw down the evil government or shine a ray of hope that the plucky protagonist will change things for the better.
We don’t live in such a world, though. Bad things happen. All the time. We should be aware of what that looks like. We should know how evil actions can lead to more evil actions and lead to still more evil actions.
This story has no ray of hope. It has no plucky protagonists. In fact, it has no names. The faceless story of evil is meant to be generalized because we are the evil. We can’t lay blame as laying blame is what takes us down this road. Even when trying to find justice, we confuse it for vengeance and visit more evils upon ourselves.
This story is a warning. It’s essential that we know stories like this or we will repeat them. We must confront the horrors of our past. Confront them, remember them, know them, and talk about them.
Otherwise we repeat them.
It begins like Sodom and Gomorrah to remind us that stories are cycles, that we will forever repeat the story until we learn not to.
This feels more sermonized than I intended, but I do feel this strongly about the stories and histories that make us uncomfortable. We shouldn’t flinch away from them.
I think that’s why the Greeks favored tragedies over comedies.