Four Expendable Women

John L. Thompson

in Writing the Wrongs

Published in print October 2001 | ISBN: 9780195137361
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834730 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Historical Theology

                   Four Expendable Women

Show Summary Details


The story of the Levite and his (possibly) adulterous wife in Judges 19 (like Lot's exposure of his daughters to the men of Sodom in Genesis 19) is often seen as a horrific example of how women are treated as chattels in the Bible: not only does the Levite thrust her into the hands of townsmen who rape her to the point of death, he then butchers her into a dozen pieces as an object lesson and rallying point for the 12 tribes of Israel. The history of interpretation of Judges 19 followed two lines: since the Septuagint text said nothing about the woman's unfaithfulness, patristic writers (who relied on the LXX) were generally sympathetic to her, but later medieval Christians read the Hebrew Bible's report of her harlotry and saw some justice in her unhappy fate. What unites both stories (Judges 19 and Genesis 19), however, is that even when the woman was seen as providentially punished, no one excused her husband or her assailants, even as Lot was roundly censured for his callousness – despite considerations of the duties of hospitality and the appeals to compensatory evil or temporary insanity that were usually factored into the moral equation.

Keywords: compensatory evil; feminist exegesis; Genesis; homosexuality; hospitality; Judges; Levite's wife; Lot; precritical interpretation; rape; sodomy

Chapter.  25905 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.