13 October 2013

Levite's Concubine: Sacrifice

 Judges 19


My blood,
poured out upon your doorstep.
My dignity,
trampled underfoot.
My virtue,
offered up,
a sweet sacrifice
to their idol of lust.

Here I lie instead of you,
ravaged, ruined,
destroyed, defiled,
your human shield,
your sweet sacrifice
to selfish fear.

Because a woman
is never worth
a man's self-sacrifice.

You should be my protection,
but I'm protecting you,
taking the blows,
devoured by their lust,
thrown out to the dogs
by one I should trust,
my sweet sacrifice
- for what?

Because a woman
is just a body
to be used and abused
until it dies.

And so it dies,
this creature
that was never worth
more than a lamb of sacrifice
to pacify the wolves
and save your skin.
So it dies -
and all my pieces cry:
why?

Do you think God is pleased?
For God Himself would sacrifice
Himself for a woman like me.

__________________________________________________________________________

[10. October 2013]

Short summary: a Levite is travelling with his concubine; they stop at Gibeah where no one wants to offer them hospitality except for an old man. In the middle of the night, a group of men knocks on the door demanding the old man to hand out the Levite so they can rape him (it's basically like Sodom and Gomorrah, but this was happening in Israel). The old man offers up his daughter and the Levite's concubine instead. When they don't listen, the Levite throws his concubine out to them where she is raped all night. In the morning, she dies on the doorstep. The Levite takes her body home and cuts it into 12 pieces, which he sends around the country to bring attention to what happened (hence "all my pieces cry").

It's a terrible story. When I read it I felt like the men were using the concubine like their protection, or a replacement sacrifice. I only noticed after writing this that the way I used the sacrifice imagery here is pretty ironic, considering the Levite's job was to sacrifice for the people - and here he's sacrificing his concubine to save himself. As I wrote, this poem turned into something about the worth of women - how a male-centred mindset led to this woman being treated as something dispendable, her life and well-being less important than a man's. When God created both men and women in His image, and no one is worth less or more than the other. The people in this story were in a terrible and difficult situation. But just throwing this woman out to suffer so the men could get away... I don't think that was right. They were treating her like something it was all right to lose. It makes you see why she got angry at the Levite and went home to her father in the first place...

Picture by Gustave Doré

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