An Atheist Reads The Book Of Judges: Rape, Massacre & Chaos

If you think about it, Judges is a misleading title for this book as none of the characters are judges or do any judging. Instead they are warriors and rebels, who spend their time fighting other nations, but the Bible is silent on how (if) they governed or how Israelite society was at the time. That would have been more interesting than endless repetition of the same story. Instead of judgement, with get constant war, the massacre of innocents and brutal rape. The chaos of the book was probably exaggerated to provide legitimacy for the later kings and it contains some of the most horrible stories of the Bible, especially towards women.

I notice a theme in the Bible that the original is pure and the modern is corrupt. Religion is backward looking with a strong tendency to view the past as a golden age and the future as decadent. I have a feeling that the writers of the Bible would love to freeze time and keep us in a pure primitive state. It is constantly repeated how God sends a message but over time people stray from it. The message of the Bible is very depressing, in that it keeps repeating how people fail to live up to God’s standard, how we are not good enough, how we keep doing evil and don’t deserve God. This is the core of the book of Judges, with its message of how the Israelites deserve to be conquered and slaughtered as punishment for their sin.

So chapter 11, begins with yet again (sigh) more evil and the turn of the Philistines to rule. Whoever wrote the Bible had a serious lack of imagination and I don’t know how they haven’t gotten sick of telling the same story again and again. The Book of Judges is the one story told six times without much variance or imagination. This time Jephthah (who happens to be a son of a prostitute) saves the Israelites. He promises that if God grants him victory he will sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home. Unfortunately that turns out to be his only daughter. This is one of the most shocking passages of the Bible, as a father has to sacrifice his only daughter who he loves so much. She is given two months to go to the mountain to weep for her virginity (what does that mean?) before he kills her. Is there any crime God hasn’t committed? Could he not have excused Jephthah from the obligation to murder his daughter? (You know, like a loving and forgiving person would?) The poor girl doesn’t even get a name, nor do we know how old she was. Afterwards, Jephthah goes to war with Ephramite and kills everyone who can’t correctly pronounce Shibboleth (42,000).

More evil, so Philistines comes again. So God sends Samson, who actually gets some of back story and some details. Unfortunately, they are very trivial details told in a long and boring way. There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about an angel predicting his birth and warning that he must never cut his hair. One day Samson is walking along and kills a lion with his bare hands (as you do). Later a beehive forms in the corpse of the lion which gives Samson an idea for a riddle. At his wedding he offers a prize of 30 garments to anyone who can guess the riddle, but if they can’t, they must give him 30 garments. No one can guess it so they threaten his wife that they will burn her and her father’s house unless she tells them the answer. When she tells them (for which I can’t blame her) the spirit of the lord comes on Samson, so he kills 30 random men he meets on the street and steals their clothes to give as the prize. This almost sounds like God made him commit this mass murder of random people

After a few days Samson goes to visit his new wife, but is told that her father thought Samson hated her, so he gave her to Samson’s best man. Instead her sister is offered to him (women are passed around and offered like pieces of furniture). For unclear reasons this causes Samson to attack the Philistines by sending 300 foxes with torches tied to their tails through their crops. As revenge the Philistines burn the woman and her father. Samson gets caught and tied up, but the spirit of the lord came on him (as it does), melted the ropes and he killed 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. This made Samson the judge of Israel for 20 years.

Samson loved a woman Delilah who turned out to be a seductress who betrayed him to the Philistines (another common biblical theme is that you cannot trust women). She asks him where his strength comes from and how it can be overcome (not suspicious at all). Samson lies and says if he is tied down by seven fresh bowstrings he loses his strength. So while he sleeps, Delilah does this and calls the Philistines, but Samson bursts free (and presumably killed them). This should have made Samson suspicious especially when Delilah again asks and this time he says new, unused ropes can bind him. Again Delilah does this and again Samson breaks free. Now alarm bells should really be warning at this stage, but Samson seems to be a bit of an idiot, so this time he tells Delilah that if she weaves seven locks of his hair and fasten it with a bun, he will lose his strength. She does this and again the trap fails. Finally Samson tells her that the strength is in his hair and when Delilah shaves his head he is captured.

Strangely, according to the Bible, when his hair was cut, God left him. In fact the Bible seems very muddled on whether his strength came from God or his hair. Surely if he God gave him strength, it shouldn’t matter how long his hair is. It’s a bit bizarre to think that God can only give strength to men with long hair and is powerless to help the bald.

So Samson is caught and his eyes gouged out. The Philistines decide to celebrate and have a feast, so they drag out Samson to mock him. Foolishly, they let his hair grow back (everyone in this story seems pretty thick). Samson uses his strength to pull down two pillars, crashing the roof down on 3,000 people, who must have been guilty of something (the Bible doesn’t say what but we must presume they were).

There is an incredibly long, boring and convoluted story that follows. Seriously it goes nowhere at all; it just drags on for ages. I’m just going to skip right over it.

Chapter 19 has yet another horrifying and cruel story. Once upon a time there was a Levite who had a woman referred to as his concubine or his wife. They came to Gibeah where an old man took them in. In a parallel with the story of Sodom, during the night a crowd of men gathered and demanded the man be sent out so they could rape him. Instead the old man offered his virgin daughter and the concubine. They refused, so the man threw his concubine out to the men who raped her all night. In the morning she collapsed at his door. When he woke up, her master (as the man is called) didn’t look after her or show any concern or affection. Instead he harshly told her to get up and when she didn’t he put her on a donkey. When he got home he took a knife and cut her into twelve pieces and sent them to each tribe of Israel.

People were so horrified at this outrage (the rape, not the cutting of the woman into pieces about no one seemed to have any problem) that an army of 400,000 men is formed against the people of Benjamin who had 26,000. On the first day the army of Benjamin somehow wins and killed 22,000 men. On the second day they win again and kill 18,000 men. On the third day the Israelites set an ambush, defeat them and killed 25,100 men (implying that next to none were killed on the first 2 days). They killed everyone in the city and burnt it.

From that day on the people of Israel swore none of them would marry someone from the tribe of Benjamin. But that left the problem of who would the people of Benjamin marry? So the people of Israel noticed that no one from Jabesh-Gilead had come to the assembly so they sent 12,000 men to attack Jabesh-Gilead, with orders to kill every man, woman and child and only spare virgin girls. They captured 400 young girls and gave them to Benjamin as wives. This is disgusting and undermines the whole point of the story. If the rape of one woman was an outrage that started the war, surely the rape of 400 young girls is even worse! Why is a massacre of an innocent town justified? Why is it done to benefit a tribe that has just been defeated?

But just when the story couldn’t get worse, it turns out there weren’t enough women for the Benjamintes, so the Israelites told Benjamin to go to Shiloh and hide in the bushes and grab whatever women they could. Those women then became their wives. So a war that began due to the rape of one woman, ends with the sanctioned kidnap and rape of hundreds of women. If ever there was a more pointless war.

The Book of Judges ends by summing up the chaos of the time.

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”


Filed under Religion

8 responses to “An Atheist Reads The Book Of Judges: Rape, Massacre & Chaos

  1. Did not God tell him to not cut his own hair, and did he? No, he did not, but he was punished because an evil person did it instead. WTF?

  2. This is clearly all folklore and ‘just so’ stories for the most part. The sort of stuff you find the world over and surely no more or less violent and immoral than much of the output of Hollywood. The question is why do Christians regard this as divinely inspired (im)moral guidance? Is it not obvious that it’s mostly just entertaining fiction, and always was? How do modern Jews regard this material?

    • Hans

      The stories of the bible is historically accurate. There is no evidence to state otherwise. Yes, the people are completely primitive as all the cases showed in the blog and they were just doing what was right in their very eyes. This is why no Christian would see this as divine inspiration. Surely how could a boring story of warring tribes inspire anyone (just to be honest). However, science and astronomy has proven the argument about God. There are many holes in atheism itself that is ever contradicting. You believe in atheism that there is no God. If there is no God, then the universe came at the big bang. However, you do not believe in a supernatural force. Just to be clear, the Big bang is a state of convergence where based on Einsteins’s general relativity all energy, space, time and matter is created at the exact same moment. This means that all the natural world came into being at one exact moment. If all natural causes were created at the Big Bang, how can u cause a natural cause before the Big Bang to start it??? The answer will only point to a supernatural force that creates the universe with perfection. Just a simple mathematical fact of precision, If the total energy and matter created at time 0 seconds of the Big Bang, was more of it was today, the universe would collapse on itself due to strong gravitational forces. If the matter in the Big Bang was too little, the universe would expand infiniterly forever.
      Secondly, about evolution, have u got any idea how fricking hard (assuming evolution is possible) it is for organisms to evolve? A whale that used to come from a primitive horse would actually at one stage, be amphibious (not to be confused with amphibians). This would mean it would be slow in water, and slow on land, easy prey for those above. Secondly, how can u expect organisms to evolve when the environment is cyclical? Winter then summer then winter again. Food shortage the abundance then food shortage again. If lets say crows grew more more feather to keep warmth in winter, at summer they would have to lose all their feathers in summer. Evolution is even more impossible once we reach the realms of genetics. There is no mechanism to add genes into organisms. The set of genes are set and as a matter of fact, due to its high instability the cells are constantly fixing the genes so that they remain the same. The only time when the genes would change is when we are getting old, and some genes get damaged, and contracting cancer. I cannot possible imagine how you would pick evolutionism based on critical assumptions

      • They’ve actually found the fossils of amphibious ‘proto-whales’, turns out the evolved in India. Several stages have been found over the past 20 years or so.

        As for the ‘big bang’, I’m actually as sceptical of such theories as I am of the Bible. When it comes to matters on such a vast scale, we really know no more of the universe than the proverbial frogs at the bottom of a well know of the ocean.

        If anything in the Bible is ‘historical’ it has been severely distorted to make a good story, just like the legends of any nation, or the way Hollywood usually deals with historical themes. I’m told by historians that there are no independent historical sources for even the existence of Christ (which in fact surprised me!) that the census that required Joseph to travel to Bethlehem never happened and so on. That doesn’t lessen (or increase) the moral message, but even works of fiction can provide moral guidance.

        As someone living in the 21st century in NW Europe with as far as I know, no family or other connections to the Middle East, I find it ridiculous that a series of an imaginary events supposed to have taken place in first century Palestine, should be considered pivotal in the development of Western civilisation, never mind the outrageous belief that they were somehow a turning point in the life of the *entire universe*!

      • Passing by

        Going of the research i have done over the years. I accept there is a posibility(now, in my mind) that Adam n Eve , 7 days, Eve created out of Adams rib n what else is there … part in the Bible is based on something that could have actually taken place.Well……lets just say, it makes more sence logicly, to me, the material that was translated by Jews (actually Jewish, there is a diffrence).talked about a “creator”. Recent studies have showen that our dna, has been changed. To make things more strange, if that isn’t enough for you yet. The ancient chinese writings or what ever you what to call them. Talk about, how their(and by their, i mean only their) creator came on a fire horse from the sky. And just like you, i would have dismised it. Until the summer olympic games in Baijing. Due to OIC medical regulations, the host has to provide a certain amount of liters or what not of every blood group. Well….. intrestingly enough,they had to get it from out of the country. As it turns out, the 1.5bil population has the same blood group. And that is only 1 fact of the top of my head. That made wonder. The more i looked, the more i found.
        There is an article on this blog about conspiracies, wich actualy brought me hear by mistake. Wile i was having trouble finding what i realy was looking for. The kid who wrote it, should really work on his theory of debunking.

    • Passing by

      Funny you should ask. It was actually them, that translated it (or made it up). But they do not belive in it or in JC for that matter.

      On the other hand. Thank you for that. Intresting read. Just what i needed after, looking for sources and reading up on a subject, that was making me feel like my head is about to expload.

  3. Pingback: An Atheist Reads The Bible | Whistling In The Wind

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