Unspeakable Crimes: The Abuse of Women in the Book of Judges -- By: Daniel I. Block

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 02:3 (Fall 1998)
Article: Unspeakable Crimes: The Abuse of Women in the Book of Judges
Author: Daniel I. Block

Unspeakable Crimes:
The Abuse of Women in the Book of Judges

Daniel I. Block

Daniel I. Block is the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he has taught since 1995. His most recent book is The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25–48 in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament.


Few today would deny that the abuse of women has reached epidemic proportions in American society in general and the church in particular. The malady seems to be no respecter of persons, infecting all levels of society, from the courts of the President to the poor ghettoes of our cities and the hollows of Appalachia. As alarming as the scope of the problem is the diversity in its manifestations. The forms of abuse against women chronicled by our newspapers range from psychological violation of innocent young girls to rape and murder of the elderly. While scientific analyses of the problem have been conducted from every conceivable angle, this tide of violence and exploitation has not been stemmed. Explanations for the problem vary, depending upon the discipline in which the research is conducted. For those geneticists who attribute the propensity to commit crimes against women to a fundamental defect in the genes of some males, genetic engineering holds a promise of a cure. Psychologists tend to relate the issue to low self esteem among males, and respond to the crisis by promoting therapy designed to enhance a male’s self-worth. Sociologists see crimes against women by men as natural expressions of fundamentally oppressive patriarchy, and insist that the problems will not be solved until androcentric hierarchical structures are demolished and replaced with truly egalitarian forms.

Since outsiders generally conceive of the church as a major contributor to the problem, it is not surprising that people of the cloth and religious institutions are increasingly marginalized in serious discussions of crimes against women. However, this does not mean that we should be silent. On the contrary, the people of God must seize the initiative in analyzing the social problems of our time and then in proposing solutions that address root causes and not merely symptoms of the malady. This study is offered as a small contribution in the pursuit of this agenda.

I shall begin by examining the biblical book of Judges for evidences and forms of abuse against women in ancient Israel. Then I shall seek to discover the biblical explanation for the problem proposed by this literary document. I am limiting this study to the book of Judges for three reasons. First, although evidence could be drawn from all of the historiographic writings of the Old Testament, space constraints for this article requ...

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