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The problem with most Christians' understanding of the Bible is that they believe everything in it is either a) a moral lesson to be learned, b) a "literal" history of the world, or, most likely, c) both.

The key, I think, to understanding this particular little adventure is its context. The last verse in Judges is "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.". That's the point of this story - it's an example of the unfocused bedlam of this particular era in Jewish history.

Judges is a wonderfully bleak and amoral book. It contains two of my favourite Bible characters - Ehud and Jephthah. Go on, give'em a look.


(Monday. INT: apartment, Pinball is wandering around in the background)

JH (uncomfortable): Jesus. Okay, and the Benjamites get massacred, and their homes are burned down and all their ANIMALS are slaughtered, for some reason.
JH: And everyone makes a vow not to let their daughters get married to Benjamites, so the whole tribe will go extinct.
JH: Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not in favour of gangrape and murder, but I'd say genocide is officially an overreaction.
JH: And... and the other tribes agree with me, apparently, but they can't go back on their word and let the Benjamites marry their daughters...
JH: So the Benjamites show up at a festival and start kidnapping the female dancers? And the dancers' relatives agree to LET them? What?
JH: And... and wow, that's the end of the book of Judges. Way to end on a high note.
EB: So what do you think?
JH: I think I know why Pastor Tim at the Friday youth group never did a lesson on this one.