Judges 19 As A Paradigm For Understanding And Responding To Human Trafficking -- By: Chuck Pitts

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 29:4 (Autumn 2015)
Article: Judges 19 As A Paradigm For Understanding And Responding To Human Trafficking
Author: Chuck Pitts

Judges 19 As A Paradigm For Understanding And Responding To Human Trafficking

Chuck Pitts

Chuck Pitts is a native Texan. He received his BA from Houston Baptist University and both his MDiv and PhD from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the latter with a major in Old Testament. After spending nine years in northern Minnesota in various ministry positions, including church planting, he moved back to the Houston area. He was professor of Old Testament at Houston Graduate School of Theology from 1999-2015 and began teaching at Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology High School in the fall of 2015. Chuck is active with the organization, United Against Human Trafficking.

Judges 19 contains a seldom read, let alone studied or discussed, story of misogyny, subjugation, rape, murder, and dismemberment. Determining how to handle such atrocities in the Bible makes texts such as these difficult to address. More than thirty years ago, Phyllis Trible labeled Judg 19 as one of the “texts of terror” in the Hebrew Bible (along with the stories of Hagar, Tamar, and the daughter of Jephthah).1 Texts of terror tend to be avoided unless the reader can clearly separate the perpetrators of evil in the text from themselves. David Garber and Daniel Stallings have argued that the church must stop ignoring sexually explicit texts “because the story of the Levite’s concubine and the brutality contained therein speak vividly to issues of sexual violence that persist to this day. The silencing of sexually explicit biblical texts in American churches mirrors the silencing of issues of sexual violence in contemporary society.”2 This article will begin with a look at various approaches to exegesis of this text and then seek to show that we cannot exempt ourselves from this text of terror in light of its application to the twenty-first century problem of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking.

The Biblical Story

First, here is the story. A Levite (hence, an apparently important man) from the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem. A concubine was a woman used for a man’s pleasure without the legal protection of a primary wife;3 indeed, some would argue that the concubine in Judg 19 is not a “wife” at all, but is part of a “mistress-type relationship.”4 The primary wife is not mentioned in this narrative, which lends a bit of irony to the story. The concubine left the Levite and returned to her father’s house in Bethle...

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