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Q&A with Nancy Tan, author of Resisting Rape Culture: The Hebrew Bible and Hong Kong Sex Workers

Resisting Rape Culture book cover by Nancy Nam Hoon Tan.

Nancy Nam Hoon Tan has featured as activist on the Shiloh Project. From Singapore, where she is now resident, she taught Hebrew Bible at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her published work demonstrates acute sensitivity to power dynamics, focusing particularly on the intersections and tensions between gender, ethnicity and notions of belonging. Nancy’s earlier work showcasing this includes her monograph The ‘Foreignness’ of the Foreign Woman in Proverbs 1-9 (De Gruyter 2008) and her chapter on women, colonialism and whiteness in The Bible, Centres and Margins (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2018).

Her latest book is in the Routledge Focus Series Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible. Entitled Resisting Rape Culture: The Hebrew Bible and Hong Kong Sex Workers (2020), this a tour de force combining scholarship and advocacy.

Here is a Q&A with Nancy…

1. Tell us about yourself! How does your book relate to your work as a whole and how did this book come about?

For many years I was based in Hong Kong, where I taught and researched the Hebrew Bible. I opine that interpretations of biblical texts, both by academics and by faith communities, matter— maybe especially for individuals and communities who use the Bible to guide how they should behave and act. But the Bible and how it is interpreted also has bearing on society well beyond this – maybe more so than we think.

Most of my work has focused in some way on women, gender, power and oppression – and this book is no exception.

While living in Hong Kong, I volunteered as a teacher of English at the Jei Jei Jai Association (JJJ), the city’s first self-help and independent organization run by sex workers. This opened up for me the opportunity to get to know the sex workers as friends and to learn about their profession. This engagement also confirmed for me that the current interpretations of biblical texts on “prostitutes” and “prostitution” promote stigmatization and victimization of today’s sex workers.

With the help of Ms Sherry Hui, the co-ordinator for JJJ, I was able to hold the reading exercises on biblical texts with the sex workers that are at the heart of this book. It was Professor Johanna Stiebert who invited me to contribute the outcomes of these reading exercises in the framework of “rape culture”. Indeed, this couldn’t have been more apt, because the injustices that Hong Kong sex workers are subjected to stem from rape culture. And so… here is the book!  

2. What are the key arguments of this book?

First, this book debunks rape myths such as: “sex workers cannot get raped”, “sex workers are immoral and deserve punishment”, and “if women don’t resist, they aren’t really raped”, etc. The book shows how such rape myths contribute to the escalating violence that Hong Kong sex workers are facing.

Second, the book also shows that biblical scholars rarely consider how certain biblical texts and interpretations of them, too, promote stigmatization of today’s sex workers and rape culture. This is thrown into relief by engaging Hong Kong sex workers in the reading and analysis of three biblical texts of the Hebrew Bible where the Hebrew root word znh, often translated as “prostitute” occurs: namely, Genesis 38, 1 Kings 3:16–28 and Hosea 1–3. Each reading unpacks where rape culture and the stigmatization of sex workers lie and through the sex workers’ standpoints, these texts are revealed in a new light.   

3. What do you hope readers will take away from reading this book?

I hope readers will see the humanity and dignity of sex workers. Sex workers deserve to be respected in every way, and the hatred that society has mounted against them is cruel and unjust. I hope this book will change the way we talk about and the way we treat sex workers. 

I also hope that this book will persuade readers that interpretations of the Bible need to be re-evaluated. I hope it will encourage readers to ask themselves, “Do interpretations do justice to marginalized communities today? Do they promote hatred and reinforce oppression?”

I hope readers will be informed and come to realise how subtle and dangerous rape myths can be: rape myths find support from biblical texts, and, consequently, biblical texts can become justifications for violence against humanity.  

4. Give us one quotation from your book that you think will make readers go and want to read the rest!

“One of the sex workers disagreed with the statements the others made concerning women’s decision to return to abusive men because of the children. … She would not allow anyone to harm her in this way and would rather lose her life to fight for freedom. …She said if women would not protest against such wicked threats on their lives, then the children would not learn to fight for what is right and just. In this way, cycles of abuse continue. She regretted that that is how abusive men keep oppressing women…” Find it and read the rest!

Photo of Nancy Nam Hoon Tan.
Nancy Tan

Nancy’s book is available for pre-order (see here) and will be dispatched by 1 September.

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COVID-19 Lockdown Series: Mmapula Kebaneilwe

A Bit about myself:

I am Mmapula Diana Kebaneilwe, a Womanist scholar and Senior Lecturer of Hebrew and Old Testament Studies at the University of Botswana. I did my PhD with the University of Murdoch in Western Australia, and completed in 2012. The title of my Thesis was “This Courageous Woman: A Socio-rhetorical Womanist Reading of Proverbs 31:10-31.” (The thesis can be found online here.) I have a wide range of research interests, including; women and the Bible; HIV, Aids, the Bible and women; women, gender and the Bible; the Bible and environmental issues; rape culture, gender and the Bible. Above all, my keen interest concerns gender justice and hence, researching on issues relating to women is important to me. The quest stems from my own context, which is patriarchal and marred by gender-based violence.

What I have been up-to during the COVID 19 Lock-in

To be honest, COVID 19 has left me confused, worried and without motivation or energy to do much. However, as the lock-in proceeds into the third week in my country (Botswana), I seem to be unstiffening a bit and I guess I am now getting accustomed to my ‘new normal’ of being just at home. I believe I am also getting to grips with the current reality and learning to live with the fact that the entire world is faced with a pandemic and everyone is affected in some way or other. On a more positive note, I have been doing what I enjoy most, which is gardening. I have started a small vegetable garden, which I have mixed with my usual plants and flowers that I tend every day. I find this very healing to my soul.

I also have a lot of academic work to do during this time (much of it is backlog from a few months ago). The work includes co-editing for a volume on ‘Mother Earth’, a book project, which is a collaboration with different scholars who presented papers at the 2019 Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, held in Gaborone, Botswana. I am also working on my book, which is adapted from my PhD thesis and which has come back from a second round of the review process, just a few days ago. I have also received back reviews for a chapter that I am contributing to a project on #Jesus Too, edited by Jayme Reaves and David Tombs.

Aspects of my work, past and present that might of interest to the Shiloh Project supporters?

I think some of my work that might be of interest to supporters of the Shiloh Project may include first, my PhD Thesis (2012). This is so because in that I explore some of the issues that relate to the intersection between, the Bible, culture (in this case Botswana culture) and women. Attention is paid to the portrayal of a woman in rather strong and affirmative ways in Proverbs 31:10-31. Such is not commonplace in the Bible. I bring the portrait into engagement with how women are treated in my culture, especially in relation to their male counterparts and in relation to marginalization and disadvantages for women on different levels. My conclusion is that the text of Proverbs 31:10-31 unapologetically advocates for gender equality.

Another of my past works that may be of interest is an article titled “The Vashti Paradigm: Resistance as a Strategy for Combating HIV.” Ecumenical Review 63/4 (2011): 378-384. As the title suggests, in this article I see Vashti, a female character in the biblical book of Esther, as a heroine. Her subversiveness and defiance in the face of male oppressive authority celebrates her dignity as a woman. I advocate that Vashti can speak also to those who find themselves in similar situations of oppression. My conclusion is that despite the potential danger in challenging oppressive systems, cultures and contexts, like Vashti did, ‘it is never too late to say no to oppression’. 

A forthcoming article might also be of interest, “The Untold Story of Mrs Noah: The Hebrew Bible, Gender and Media: An Intertextual Critical Discourse Analysis.” This is forthcoming in the BOLESWA Journal of Theology (2020 sometime). This piece is co-authored with a colleague and friend, Dr Sibonile  E. Ellece, from the English Department of the University of Botswana. We try to reconstruct the life story of the wife of Noah. We argue that because of its androcentric nature, the Bible tends to omit the stories of many women, including that of Noah’s wife. We call the otherwise unnamed woman ‘Mrs Noah’ in order to problematize the un-naming, which not only obscures but virtually erases her identity. Our conclusion is that in our patriarchal contexts, too, women often suffer from a lack of media coverage, conveying the sense that their stories do not really matter, at least not as much as men’s stories. But in reconstructing Mrs Noah’s story, using intertextual critical discourse analysis, we maintain that she was a woman of courage: a wife, a mother, a home-builder and Noah’s pillar. She, too, like her legendary husband, must have professed strong faith, ensuring her survival and that of her family, while most of the entire world perished.

What is helping me most during this unprecedented time of COVID 19?

Like I mentioned before, gardening and decorating my home is something I enjoy doing. I spent my first day of lockdown painting one of the rooms in the house. I love it. I then started spending mornings and evenings doing some gardening, which includes planting vegies, trimming duranta plants, cultivating the soil around my little roses and other flowers, and just cleaning the yard – stuff I often do not have much time to do under normal circumstances. I have since been doing some yoga and pilates each evening in order to stretch my otherwise aching joints. This has been very helpful and is making me feel good, both physically and emotionally. I have now added some skipping rope exercises where I do 300 skips a day and that makes me feel fantastic. Of course, I am also trying to stay away from frequent visits to the kitchen and the fridge for some nibbles, because though these are particularly accessible ‘places’ currently (given the stringent restrictions on movement) it is not such a good idea to spend too much time there.

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COVID-19 Lockdown Interview Series: Barbara Thiede

Rabbi Dr. Barbara Thiede

When my university (University of North Carolina, Charlotte) went on spring break March 2, I made the decision to see if I could put all my classes online. Because I also teach online for ALEPH Ordination Programs (a Jewish seminary which ordains rabbis, cantors, and rabbinic pastors), doing so was not as difficult for me as for some of my colleagues. In the meantime, my spouse, Ralf, and I moved roomfuls of furniture around in our little ranch house to accommodate our son and daughter-in-love, who moved out of a tiny one-room studio apartment in Brooklyn, New York,  into our tiny home library (now outfitted with a bed, sitting area, and workspace!).  We joked about how much the room would go for on Airbnb and promptly dubbed it R&B (Ralf and Barbara). We’ve been alternating the cooking, so I’ve been treated to some real culinary variety.

Next, we started a huge project in our backyard, clearing away a veritable mini-forest of dead shrubbery that wisteria had marked, claimed, and devoured, and built three raised garden beds. This also necessitated digging up loads of mulchy dirt, moving it aside, creating the beds, refilling the beds with the dirt and home grown compost, and planting our vegetables. This explains the picture of me lying face down in the grass while our son grins up at his dad. His back is stronger. So far, everything is thriving and we look forward to the first products gracing our table.

For the first weeks, working was very difficult indeed. Finding a routine was challenging. My students have felt the stress and, since we take the time to check in, it is clear to me that they are facing a range of serious issues.  One is a refugee whose mother works at Wal-Mart; another is taking care of an elderly and sickly grandmother. I’ve known what it is to have students in vulnerable situations every semester of my teaching life, but now, I think it is fair to say, they all are vulnerable. One student has a daughter whose best friend died of Covid-19 — she was in her early thirties; another was clearly suicidal and needed connections with health care professionals. Sometimes, I start our check-ins with lighter questions just to relieve the stress: “A package just arrived at your door. It is perfectly safe to open it. What’s inside?” Answers included, of course, masks, cures, vaccine. And they included: “My mom!” “A puppy!” “A boat!”

Which aspects of your work past and present might be particularly interesting for supporters of the Shiloh Project?

My current book, Male Friendship, Homosociality, and Women in the Hebrew Bible: Malignant Fraternities, treats a set of texts that  demonstrate how male friendship depends on women’s bodies for its creation and sustenance. I am also preparing a paper for SBL entitled “Gang Rape, Murder, and Dismemberment in Judges 19-21 and Little Bee: How Biblical and Modern Authors Inflict Moral Injury.”

How are you bearing up and what’s helping you most? Am I behind in my work? Of course. Do I feel — all the time — that I can’t actually grasp the depth of dislocation the world is experiencing? I do. Do I sometimes resent the “we can get through all this” when so many won’t? Yes. Do I fear that we will not learn the lessons of this experience? I do. Humankind is notoriously insufficient at caring for humanity and the planet it lives on. 
I am bearing up by walking a lot, by gardening as much as I can, and by listening to a lot of Sephardic-Ladino-Iraqi-Turkish music. It reminds me to dance. And I hope and pray for humanity to pay attention to the obvious lesson, here. We share this world unequally. We suffer its pain unequally. We are obliged to flatten that curve, too.

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COVID-19 Lockdown Interview Series: Rhiannon Graybill

1. Tell us about yourself. What have you been doing and are you able to work during this COVID-19 lock-in? 
I was already on sabbatical before social distancing started, so for me it’s been less of a change to my daily routine (especially since I was already doing my writing from home). I’m also at the point in my research where I’m mostly writing, rather than researching things, which is very lucky given that all the libraries are closed. I’m trying to stick to my pre-pandemic pattern of working on my book in the morning and then other projects in the afternoon or evening. Of course, I’ve been having trouble concentrating and getting work done, but I’m not being too hard on myself about that — we’re in a pandemic, these are not normal times! On a personal note, my husband is also an academic and working from home; we don’t have children and we’re not currently taking care of any family members (or home schooling!). This gives us a very different experience of shelter in place than other friends and colleagues, especially those with kids, and I’m very sympathetic to what they’re juggling right now. 

2. Which aspects of your work past and present might be particularly interesting for supporters of the Shiloh Project? 
Right now I am finishing up a book called Texts after Terror: Rape, Sexual Violence, and the Hebrew Bible, which is a study of biblical rape stories. I argue that the frameworks we use to talk about sexual violence in the Bible are dated and un-feminist, and that we need new models for reading and theorizing “rape stories” (a term I use to refer both to biblical texts about rape and to texts that involve rape culture more broadly). One model that I offer in the book is a framework for describing sexual violence as “fuzzymessy, and icky” — fuzzy in that it’s not always that clear what happened or how it was remembered, messy in its consequences, as well as in the ways that sex and bodies are often messy, and icky in the ways that sexual violence fails to fit into neat patterns of evil perpetrators and innocent victims. I first developed this argument in a lecture I gave at the Shiloh Project’s inaugural rape culture and religion conference in 2018 in Sheffield; it’s even posted on the website! In  addition to this book project, I’m also finishing up an edited volume on Margaret Atwood and the Bible with my colleague Peter J. Sabo called “Who Knows What We’d Make Of It, If We Ever Got Our Hands On It?”: The Bible and Margaret Atwood  — the quote in the title is fromThe Handmaid’s Tale, a novel that I’m sure many Shiloh Project supporters know well. 

3. How are you bearing up and what’s helping you most? 
Like a lot of people, I’ve been video-chatting with friends and family, which has definitely helped. Yesterday, my niece turned one, and we all celebrated together on Zoom and watched her eat her first cupcake (she loved it!) I’ve also been reading a lot of murder mysteries, just to give myself a break. My family is all far away in Montana, and my friends are scattered all over the place, so there are a lot of people I’m worried about. 

4. Send us a picture that captures your COVID-19 days.
Here’s a picture of my research assistant helping me with my book project! 

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COVID-19 Lockdown Interview Series: Adriaan Van Klinken

The first week of this lockdown I spent closely following the news with updates about the pandemic across the globe, which became depressing. I also felt sad about having to cancel a trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe, where I had a friend’s wedding, a holiday with my husband, a conference and two book launch events lined up – a trip I’d been planning and looking forward to for months. After that first week or so, I decided to only check the news twice a day, and to take a distance from social media, especially WhatsApp where groups were constantly buzzing, and instead to make the most of “working from home”. 

I’m lucky that I’m on research leave at the moment – so I could ignore the many emails that the University sent about student education related matters, while feeling sympathy for my colleagues who suddenly had to experiment with online teaching methods. My planning for research leave has been greatly affected by the current crisis – in addition to cancelling the South Africa trip, I also had to postpone a trip to Kenya in May to launch an AHRC funded research network, not knowing when I can reschedule; I’m also uncertain whether or not I should start preparing for my inaugural lecture that’s planned for June. In recent days I spent quite a lot of time planning the sessions of the African Religions unit for the AAR annual meeting in November, with on the back of my mind the idea that the meeting may soon be cancelled. 

With all the uncertainty, I decided to prioritise a couple ofprojects I can actually easily do from home: preparing the launch of a documentary film, completing a book manuscript, and processing and analysing the data of a research project. Each of these projects might actually be of interest to Shiloh readers! 

The film is called Kenyan, Christian, Queer, and is related to my book with the same title that was published last year. The film features an LGBT church in Kenya and the work they are doing to create an affirming space for LGBT Christians in a mostly conservative society. The actual production of the film is done by Aiwan Obinyan, a British-Nigerian film maker who is a friend of mine. I’ve been giving feedback on drafts, communicating with relevant stakeholders, and preparing educational resources for using the film in classroom settings. Unfortunately the African Studies conference where the film was to be launched has been cancelled, so we’re currently making alternative plans. 

The book I mentioned is titled Reimagining Sexuality and Christianity in Africa, and I’m authoring it with Ezra Chitando, a colleague in Zimbabwe. It’s aimed at a non-specialist audience of students, religious leaders and activists, thus requiring a more accessible writing style than the typical academic monograph. The book seeks to interrogate the dominant narrative of Christian homophobia in Africa, demonstrating how Christianity also serves as a site to imagine alternative possibilities of sexuality in African cultures and societies. Thereto we discuss a number of African thinkers, ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to feminist theologian Mercy Oduoye, but also a range of creative and cultural expressions, such as novels, films and poetry.

Then, with my Leeds colleague Johanna Stiebert I’ve been working for the past year on a British Academy funded project for which we work with a group of Ugandan LGBT refugees based in Nairobi, Kenya. It focuses on the life stories of participants, and how biblical stories can be used to narrate and signify their experiences, struggles and hopes. The group we are working with is truly amazing – in terms of their creativity and resilience – and so is Johanna as a very inspiring colleague and collaborator. Going through the transcripts of interviews and focus group discussions brings back many wonderful memories. The creative bible studies we did, about Daniel in the lion’s den and about Jesus and the “adulterous woman”, resulted in drama plays that have been video recorded. This project is also supposed to result in a book, and the lock down gives us the time to start working on it. 

So, after the initial setback I’m now managing reasonably well. I intersperse my working hours with gardening – hooray for the goldfish that we were able to buy the weekend before the lockdown started, which make the garden pond so much livelier –, with a daily run along the canal, and checking in with friends and family nearby and far away to try and help them cope with the current situation. The reports I get from friends and colleagues in Kenya and other parts of Africa do worry me – the lockdown there has an enormous impact on people’s livelihoods. The whole situation makes me aware, again, of my own privilege and makes me reflect upon what solidarity means in these times. As much as it’s true that the virus does not discriminate, the effects of the pandemic are felt most severe by communities that are already vulnerable and marginalised. (On that note: If anyone reading this is able to offer some support to the above mentioned group of Ugandan refugees, who really struggle economically in the current crisis, please get in touch.)

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COVID-19 Lockdown Interview Series: Deryn Guest

These days, most of us will be having to live such different lives than we are used to – keeping self-isolated, working from home,juggling commitments to our family, work, and research, as well as caring for the health and wellbeing of ourselves, our friends, and our loved ones. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be asking some of our Shiloh members and supporters how they are dealing with this “new normal”way of life. We hope this helps to keep our community connected with each other, and can serve to inspire us, reassure us we’re not alone, or even distract us a little from everything else we are dealing with right now.

Our series kicks off with one of the greats of biblical studies, Deryn Guest. Deryn teaches Biblical Hermeneutics in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham and is a trailblazer in the areas of gender theory, queer theory, and psychological theory as these relate to the Hebrew Bible.

Co-editor of The Queer Bible Commentary (SCM, 2006), co-author of Transgender, Intersex, and Biblical Interpretation (SBL, 2016), and author of Beyond Feminist Biblical Studies (Sheffield Phoenix, 2012), all of which break new and important ground in the discipline, Deryn has published extensively on the book of Judges in particular. At present, Deryn is writing an Earth Bible Commentary (Bloomsbury) on Judges. Deryn’s is a totally distinctive voice, blending whip-smart scholarship and integrity and never compromising on either.

So, what’s up, Deryn Guest?

Gosh, even introverted home birds miss social contact. Such was my realization as the morning work schedule kicked in during week one of lockdown. I was no longer filling up my kettle at the water cooler with office staff and colleagues, chatting about moments of hilarity on the Great British Bake Off, or the over-crowded commute that morning, or, of course, the perennial topic of the weather. Bonhomie at the water cooler – a convivial, social start to the academic day.

I rely now on my usual pre-commute morning ritual: a lit candle, a steaming cup of tea, some quiet moments of contemplation. After that, I’m ready for organizing the day into varied activities that keep the body oiled as well as the mind. A couple of hours on research, break for half an hour gardening, answer emails, take exercise, create some online teaching material, skype supervisions for postgrads. And I’m bearing up well. The quietness of being at home is good for my soul. The office of choice is the garden where I am accompanied by the chatter of birds communing socially at their own water coolers based at strategic points in the garden.  When wet, I work in the kitchen where I can see the garden through the patio windows. Either function well for writing an ecological commentary on the Book of Judges, which is the current project.

Fresh in my mind as I work on the story of the abducted women in Judges 21 is the capture of the Yazidi women taken into sexual slavery against their will by ISIS soldiers, dislocated from their place of home and family. Warfare, ancient or modern, always has severe consequences for the bodies of women. Writing ecologically, I think of how the land can act as witness to atrocities; how the sacred energies of a place are desecrated; how, in Judges 21, the pulsing, whirling of girls’ feet was suddenly felt no more, leaving the earth bereft of its place in the dance.  Being in the garden, watching the birds, listening to their singing and scolding (of cats), I wonder what the sounds of the places called Shiloh and Sinjar were in usual times, what were the sounds during the abduction, and then, with sadness, I ponder the sound of the aftermath.

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Q&A with Helen Paynter

Further to the announcement of the publication of Helen Paynter’s book Telling Terror in Judges 19: Rape and Reparation for the Levite’s Wife, the second in the Routledge Focus series ‘Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible’, here is a Q&A with the author herself!

Tell us about yourself, Helen. How does your book relate to your work as a whole and how did this book come about?

I am a Baptist minister, serving in Bristol; and a tutor in biblical languages and Old Testament at Bristol Baptist College. The main areas of my research are into the interpretation of biblical violence and the ways in which the Bible is weaponised against people. I have been troubled by the dreadful story of Judges 19 for a long while, but felt dissatisfied with both the traditional commentators, which tend to write the woman’s suffering out of the text; and with many of the modern feminist interpretations, which view the text as irredeemably misogynistic. I then came across the reparative hermeneutic of Eve Sedgwick, and thought that it might provide a helpful hermeneutical lens to apply to the text. I hope my readers will agree with me that it does.

What are the key arguments of your book?

I’ve begun to outline them above. I use the work of Sedgwick, and also use affect theory and Judith Butler’s concept of grievability to try to discover the levels of communication within the narrative. I argue that the raped and murdered woman has surprising subjectivity in the narrative, and ‘speaks’ powerfully at a number of levels – in many ways she is not obliterated at all.

What do you hope your readers will take from this book?

I hope they will be disturbed by the appalling sexual violence it portrays, and the many modern situations that parallel it. And I hope that they will gain a fresh appreciation for the way that the biblical story is quite powerfully critiquing such actions. If my work should prove persuasive enough to inspire other scholars to approach other texts with the same methodology, I’ll be delighted.

Give us one quotation from the book that you think will make a reader go and read the rest.

‘Beli-Fachad is given voice in moral critique of the nation. She is, perhaps, the book of Judges’ other female prophet, or one of its only true judges.’

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A second volume in the Routledge Focus series ‘Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible’ is out today! Congratulations to Helen Paynter!

From the Routledge site…

Telling Terror in Judges 19 explores the value of performing a ‘reparative reading’ of the terror-filled story of the Levite’s pilegesh (commonly referred to as the Levite’s concubine) in Judges 19, and how such a reparative reading can be brought to bear upon elements of modern rape culture. Historically, the story has been used as a morality tale to warn young women about what constitutes appropriate behaviour. More recently, (mainly male) commentators have tended to write the woman out of the story, by making claims about its purpose and theme which bear no relation to her suffering. In response to this, feminist critics have attempted to write the woman back into the story, generally using the hermeneutics of suspicion. This book begins by surveying some of the traditional commentators, and the three great feminist commentators of the text (Bal, Exum and Trible). It then offers a reparative reading by attending to the pilegesh’s surprising prominence, her moral and marital agency, and her speaking voice. In the final chapter, there is a detailed comparison of the story with elements of modern rape culture.

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Daniel in the Homophobic Lion’s Den

Here’s a post by Shiloh Project co-director Johanna Stiebert about her second research visit to Nairobi, where she participates in a project with Ugandan LGBTQ+refugees. The project has the title “Tales of Sexuality and Faith: The Ugandan LGBT Refugees Life Story Project”and is funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust. Its lead investigator is Adriaan van Klinken

The project is focused on stories: life-stories, stories of the Bible, and stories that combine the two. At its heart and centre is a group of refugees, a collective called The Nature Network. Johanna talks about the project and its intersections with Shiloh-relevant themes, such as religion and vulnerability to violence, in an earlier post. Here are some of her reflections on the project’s recent developments. 

Stories and Lives

Stories matter. In my life certainly stories and story telling have played a major part since as far back as I can remember. Growing up, I was the youngest member of a multi-generational household and even before I learned to read stories, stories were told and read to me. I loved folk stories and fairytales but I especially liked stories about me, set in the-time-before-I-could remember. I loved the stories of when I was very small, about the funny or naughty things I did. 

I demanded to hear such stories of my earliest life over and over again. I demanded details and eventually heard multiple versions, with different embellishments (and probably some exaggerations and inventions). Those stories somehow linked me to the protagonists of other stories; they made me feel important, an agent. They linked me to the past, to a bigger, world-connecting meta-story. I like stories to this day.

My academic work focuses on the study of the Bible. It was the stories that first drew me in but also the people I met through studies and teaching – and their stories. Approaches of biblical interpretation have become more honest about how our identities and experiences shape our interpretation and increasingly, life stories and Bible stories have been coming together for me.

Nairobi Stories

Adriaan has been travelling to Kenya, making friends, hearing stories, making stories, and gathering material for his publications for some years. When he and the people who move into and out from The Nature Work developed ideas around life stories and Bible stories, I was eager to get involved. By then, I had also become involved in a number of other projects, all of them relevant to the Shiloh Project, that explore the use of stories and images derived from the Bible to open up discussions about gender-based violence. Because the Bible – while variously interpreted in different settings – is a shared text, it has been an effective medium for connecting me with people whose identities, lives and experiences are very different to mine.

I have only been to Nairobi on two short visits – the second was last month, in January. My impressions of the city are a succession of little snapshots – of bustle and crazy traffic, but also of sweeping parks with leafy trees; of roadsides displaying an array of wares, from potted plants to double beds, playground items to beaded bracelets; of colourful roadside fruit and vegetable markets and little enterprises selling cut flowers or grilled corn on the cob. We drove several times through Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum, which is highly concentrated with busy-ness – washing drying, wood being cut, tiny shops crammed together selling everything from cellphone units to clothes alteration. Sometimes, such as in the large malls, I could completely forget where I was – other times, in Kibera, or seeing grazing warthogs by the roadside, marabous perched on monuments, or monkeys on the walls of residential buildings, you knew you were definitely in Kenya.

But back to life stories. When something sharp happens in our lives, when we are, for instance, accused of something we haven’t done, then the telling of our stories becomes more carefully constructed. We choose our elements with care, so as to recount vividly and persuasively what really  happened. This also happens when we are treated unjustly in other ways – and many of the stories we heard at The Nature Network reported being accused of ‘recruiting’ minors, of being willfully deviant, of choosing depravity to dishonour family and community and religious affiliation. The life stories collected as part of this project were invariably told with vividness and fluency. The refugees were used to telling their stories – they were often telling them for survival, including as part of their efforts to secure resettlement with UNHCR. 

The stories told featured rejection, threat, violence, vulnerability, condemnation from family and community and church representatives. Sometimes there were stories of a painful past and of a present in which the story was turning towards more hope. New families were formed within The Nature Network, families not of blood ties but of ties of love and solidarity and acceptance. New religious networks were established, with prayers that bonded together and with a God who loved unconditionally – a God who created queer and whose image was therefore queer. 

The Story of a Project: Tales of Sexuality and Faith

The first stage of the project consisted of collecting life stories of refugees associated with The Nature Network. The majority of this was conducted by two members of the Network one of whom, Raymond Brian, is its co-founder. During interviewing, contributors were asked about the role and presence of religion in their lives and whether they had a favourite Bible story. Some interesting things emerged here. Many stories – from all over the Bible – were sources of inspiration. Jesus was repeatedly identified as an ally – as someone who embraced those on the fringes of society and who spoke out against condemning others. One interviewee mentioned identifying with David in the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). The reason was that the interviewee felt small and up against a Goliath of mighty and imposing challenges in day-to-day life. Like David they had little to work with – a small stone, metaphorically-speaking. But that small stone could be utilized to achieve something bigger and assert their rights and be vindicated. A second story that popped up was Daniel in the Lions’ Den (Daniel 6) – because the interviewee this time identified with the threat all around but simultaneously with a strong sense, too, that like Daniel they had done nothing to justify such threat and hostility. It was this story that seemed like a good one to draw on more.

Daniel in the Homophobic Lions’ Den

Before Adriaan and I arrived in Nairobi, the members of the Nature Network spent time reading the story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den and discussing it in groups. By the time we joined them the story was quite familiar. Now it was time to relate it to personal experience.

On 12 January we all gathered at the Network’s main venue, on the outskirts of Nairobi.

We shared breakfast and introduced ourselves and each other; we discussed expectations for the day – which ranged from the practical (to receive a refund for travel expenses) to the experiential (to learn, be entertained, and form connections and new friendships) – and rules (to respect one another and listen, and to all participate). 

Next, Chris gave a summary of the earlier meeting – where the text of the Bible was read and discussed in focus groups. A decision was made to read the text again – this time with the specific plan to try and make the story relevant to the present.

In our groups, as soon as we sat down with the biblical text, printed out on paper, to read it aloud together, a mood of seriousness descended. I think this is discernible in the pictures.

When we all got together to pool what had taken place in our groups, the discussion got very lively. We looked together at the characters and at the events of the Daniel story – who and what could these be in the present setting?

In the Daniel story there is a king, King Darius, who is somewhat sympathetic to Daniel but none the less submits to his governors who remind him of the laws. Who is this king today? Who are the governors?

Suggestions came in thick and fast: the king is the government of Uganda, or the President of Uganda. The governors are oppressive elements of African culture and pastors using the Bible to condemn, as well as members of parliament. Daniel is the LGBTQ+ community – being unjustly persecuted. The lions are maybe family members who are sometimes harmful and obstructive but not always, or enemies within the LGBTQ+ communityitself who sometimes deny their sexuality, or who choose to blackmail others when it suits them to do so. The den is identified as Kenya and as prison… Some spoke up to say they found the punishment of the governors’ wives and children wrong, others saw this as collateral damage, or as the punishment of those who didn’t speak up but benefited from their powerful family members’ privileges. 

After some discussion, a play was put together, performed and recorded. This all happened very quickly– from discussion to completion of the recording took no more than 3 hours. The idea of weaving stories together and of transporting an ancient story into the lived present was quickly embraced and vividly imagined and reenacted. There were some fabulous spontaneous ideas and there was much articulate expression both of condemnation encountered and liberation desired.

The King is the President of Uganda. (In this reenactment he has a consort.)

The governors are members of parliament and representatives of churches, as well as a mufti from an Islamic congregation. 

Daniel is a representative of the LGBTQ+ community.

The den is prison.

There are also in this reenactment members of the police force, of the press and supporters of Daniel.

God’s voice can be heard at the beginning and end.

Here is the recording, ‘Daniel in the homophobic lion’s den’. Enjoy.

It was a real joy watching the play at each of its various stages. The strength of feeling and the power of story telling really come across. There is a new immediacy and resonance to the old story of Daniel. I, certainly, will never read this story again in the same way. And when we all watched the completed recording together everyone was very engaged and delighted with the end result.

In time, we – members of the Network, Adriaan and I – hope to publish a book about the project. 

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Why didn’t the Levite’s concubine—that is, his pilegesh—scream?

The Death of the Levite’s Concubine

James E. Harding

University of Otago

Why didn’t the Levite’s concubine—that is, his pilegesh—scream?[1]

A few weeks ago, I visited the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. As I wandered through the maze of rooms in this treasure trove of European painting, I came across a work by the seventeenth century Dutch artist Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621-1674) entitled “The Fieldworker of Gibeah offers Lodging to the Levite and his Concubine” (Der Feldarbeiter von Gibea bietet dem Levit und seinem Kebsweib Unterkunft). Eeckhout was a pupil of Rembrandt, whose far more famous work “Moses with the Tablets of the Law” (Moses mit den Gesetzestafeln) hangs just a few footsteps away.

It was not some particular detail or quality of Eeckhout’s painting that caught my attention, so much as the sheer fact of it. I had never seen any part of the story of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19:1-30) represented in art before. The scene is the moment when the fieldworker, an old man from Ephraim who is living as a sojourner in Gibeah, part of the tribal patrimony of Benjamin, speaks to the Levite and his concubine and offers them the hospitality of his home, while warning them against spending the night in the town square (Judges 19:20). It is difficult to know what someone who knew nothing of the biblical story might make of it, but knowing the details of the narrative in Judges lent the painting a distinct yet subtle sense of foreboding. None of the figures in the scene looks at the viewer. The Levite looks at the fieldworker, while gesturing towards his female companion who, seated and weary from the journey, also looks towards the fieldworker. In the background, a tired and visibly bored young boy leans on their donkey and gazes, like his older companions, at the old man. Leaning on his spade, the fieldworker looks towards the Levite, and although turned slightly away from the viewer, his gaze and hand gesture seem to convey a sense of warning. Hanging from his belt is a large bunch of keys, perhaps to keep his house locked against the violent men of the town. And a knife: is it for work only, or must it double as a weapon for self-defence?

Although the story of the Levite’s concubine is an unusual subject, Eeckhout’s painting is not unique. The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg holds a work by another painter of the Dutch Golden Age, Willem Bartsius (ca. 1612-after 1639), entitled “The Death of the Levite’s Concubine.” Here, the Levite has opened the doors of the house to find his concubine lying senseless on the step (Judges 19:27). He stares at her in shock, while an old man—presumably his host—sits desolate in the shadows behind him (unless I have misidentified the men, and it is the host who is staring at the dead woman in shock, but the wording of the biblical text would suggest I have identified them accurately). Again, I wonder what someone unfamiliar with the biblical story might make of the scene. Would they know the woman has been raped? Perhaps the artist could safely assume that his viewers would know the story, and would therefore instantly recognise what had happened to the woman, but we might then ask how they were accustomed to interpreting the text. With whom would they have sympathised? With the woman, the Levite, the host? I must confess that, knowing the Hebrew text well before ever having heard of this painting, I find the Levite’s visible shock a little jarring. For in the biblical account, he shows no apparent emotion at all. “‘Get up,’ he said to her, ‘we are going.’ But there was no answer. Then he put her on his donkey; and the man set out for his home …” (Judges 19:28 NRSV).

One might, indeed, wonder what the Levite was expecting. After all, he had thrown her out to the men of Gibeah in the first place (Judges 19:25), after the host had begged them not to rape his male guest (Judges 19:23), offering his own virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine instead (Judges 19:24) (incidentally, what did become of the old man’s daughter?). At any rate, it seems that the Levite and his host assume she is dead, as, apparently, did Willem Bartsius.

This is certainly the most common way of reading the story. After all, when the Levite addresses the Israelites gathered before the LORD at Mizpah, he tells them that, “The lords of Gibeah rose up against me, and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she died” (Judges 20:5 NRSV). The Levite’s word tends to be taken at face value, not only by the other characters in the story, but by later readers, both within and without the guild of biblical scholars. To take but one example, the brief summary of the story in Heinrich Krauss and Eva Uthemann, Was Bilder erzählen, tells us that, after being handed over by the Levite, “the next morning she lay dead in front of the door.”[2]

And it may indeed be the case that this is not only the most intuitive way of reading the biblical narrative, but also the one most faithful to the text. It may simply be that the author, for stylistic reasons, chose not to tell us explicitly in Judges 19:26-27 that the Levite’s concubine was dead. The author could have been avoiding redundancy, given that the Levite himself tells the Israelites gathered at Mizpah—and therefore indirectly tells us—that the men of Gibeah raped her until she died (though in point of fact the Hebrew text does not make absolutely explicit the causal link between her rape and her death, and so perhaps Robert Alter’s translation, always attentive to the stylistic subtleties of biblical narrative, may have it slightly better—“Me they thought to kill, and my concubine they raped, and she died”).[3] He—and I am assuming for the sake of argument that the author was male, though I have no firm evidence for this—may have been deliberately reticent in Judges 19:26-27, heightening the pathos of the scene by making the reader draw the most obvious conclusion from her battered and silent body, and incidentally making the Levite’s blunt statement to the Israelites in the next scene all the more stark. Alternatively, by making a distinction between what the Levite tells the Israelites and what the narrator tells us, the author could have been casting into relief the moral bankruptcy of what the Levite has done, and of how he reacted to the woman’s fate—I am leaving aside for the moment the question of the extent to which the Levite’s situation could have been so morally compromised as radically to restrict his freedom to choose what course of action to take, the implications of which are powerfully explored in an important essay by Katharina von Kellenbach[4]—perhaps even hinting that it was the Levite himself who was either the woman’s murderer, or at the very least indirectly responsible for her murder.

The conciseness of classical Hebrew narrative leaves a great deal of room for the reader to probe its gaps and ambiguities, in stark contrast with the instinct of modern philologists, translators, and commentators to explain everything, leaving the reader with almost nothing to do. As Alter comments in the introduction to his recent translation:

Literature in general, and the narrative prose of the Hebrew Bible in particular, cultivates certain profound and haunting enigmas, delights in leaving its audiences guessing about motives and connections, and, above all, loves to set ambiguities of word choice and image against one another in an endless interplay that resists neat resolution. In polar contrast, the impulse of the philologist is—here a barbarous term nicely catches the tenor of the activity—to ‘disambiguate’ the terms of the text. The general result when applied to translation is to reduce, simplify, and denature the Bible.

The problem, however, is that the enigmatic character of biblical narrative prose is such as to leave gaps and ambiguities that may be filled in ways that may be so at odds with the intention of the text (I will leave the putative intention of the author to one side for now) as radically to misrepresent it. Yet what does one do with a text that leaves such ambiguities and gaps?

Even if we cannot be absolutely sure whether a particular gap or ambiguity has been dealt with fairly or not, in view of the range of probabilities that might be inferred from a careful study of comparable ancient texts, we can perhaps learn quite a lot from the way that later readers and interpreters dealt with such ambiguities and gaps. What we learn, though, has at least as much to do with the presuppositions of those later interpreters and readers as with the text they are reading and interpreting. So we might well ask, just why do most readers of the story of the Levite’s concubine assume that she was dead when the Levite opened the doors of the house to find her lying there, silent?

As Phyllis Trible pointed out long ago in her famous exegesis of this passage, this assumption goes back at least as far as the ancient translators of the scriptures into Greek. Where the Hebrew tells us sparingly that “there was no answer” when the Levite ordered her to get up, the Greek of Codex Vaticanus tells us instead that, “she did not answer, for she was dead.” Thus Trible: “The Greek Bible says, ‘for she was dead,’ and hence makes the Benjaminites murderers as well as rapists and torturers. The Hebrew text, on the other hand, is silent, allowing the interpretation that this abused woman is yet alive.”[5] So when the Levite gets home and cuts his concubine up in order to send the twelve bloody chunks of her body to each of the tribes of Israel, could it be that he is also her murderer? Trible notes a suggestive and disturbing parallel here to the Aqedah, where Abraham raises a knife to his still living son Isaac (Genesis 22:10). She writes:

Does he intend to slay the concubine? Though the Greek Bible rules out such a possibility, the silence of the Hebrew text allows it. Moreover, the unique parallel to the action of Abraham encourages it. Perhaps the purpose in taking the knife, to slay the victim, is not specified here because indeed it does happen. The narrator, however, protects his protagonist through ambiguity.[6]

So we need at least to consider the possibility that the concubine was not, in fact, dead when the Levite found her, and that he was in the end more directly responsible for her death. How might this alter our reading of this text, and our moral response to this most brutalised of biblical characters?

In a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, written against the background not only of the Harvey Weinstein trial but also recent rape trials in the United Kingdom, Sonia Sodha raises some vital questions about how victims of sexual assault are expected to respond when they are attacked, in light of the range of responses survivors actually report. For some survivors, the instinctive response is, in effect, to freeze, a response that has been termed “tonic immobility” or “rape-induced paralysis,” or in Sodha’s words, “the evolutionary equivalent of playing dead.” This “freeze” response is a key part of Rape Crisis Scotland’s current public awareness campaign #ijustfroze, which aims to raise awareness of the variety of responses to sexual assault that survivors actually experience, and thereby to challenge popular misconceptions of how they can be expected to react. The neurobiology of sexual assault is not something that, to my knowledge, has yet been considered in any depth in the study of the fate of the Levite’s concubine. Perhaps it is time for this to change.

It may be instructive to compare the narrative in Judges with the laws in Deuteronomy that cover what we would now call rape (it is important to bear in mind both that there is no single word in the Hebrew of the Tanakh that corresponds to the English word “rape,” and that there are major social and cultural differences between our world and that of Iron Age Israel and Judah—but we need somehow to find a vocabulary that enables us to speak intelligently about both contexts, and to draw out the points of comparison and contrast between them).

There are two laws in Deuteronomy 22:23-27 that deal with the case of a virgin (betulah) whom a man has found and had sex with. In the first case, the man found the girl and had sex with her in a town. They are to be taken to the town gate and stoned to death, because on the one hand the girl did not cry for help, and on the other the man has committed the crime of adultery against another man. In the second case, the man comes upon the girl in the countryside, where no-one could hear her cries for help. The man alone should die, because even if the girl had cried for help, there was no-one to hear her screams.

A lot could be said about this passage, but for now let us look at what distinguishes the two cases. While one might, with some justification, say that the law at least does seem to recognise the distinct personhood of the girl—the acknowledgement that she may have cried for help in the second case suggests that she is not only regarded as a part or extension of her father’s property (contrast Exodus 22:15-16, which like Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is so worded as to exclude entirely the matter of the girl’s consent, making it impossible to tell how far the language of “rape” can be meaningfully applied, though in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 the man is admittedly said to have “seized” the girl rather than “seduced” her), or the property of the man who had paid the brideprice for her, and she does indeed seem to be given the benefit of any doubt there might have been as to whether she was in fact forced by the man to have sex—nonetheless the distinction between the two laws is significantly determined by the reaction of the girl to a man having sex with her. But why, in the first case, should anyone assume that the girl’s silence denoted her consent? What if the man had indeed forced her to have sex with him, entirely against her consent, and she simply froze due to the trauma of the assault?

My point here is that the way readers of biblical texts concerned with rape continue to interpret those texts may have more than a little to do with wider cultural assumptions about how victims and survivors are expected to react. Sodha makes the point that “the ‘freeze’ response can be appallingly mischaracterised as willing submission and plays into societal myths about what does and does not constitute rape and consent,” referring to the question posed by a defence barrister in a Belfast rape trial two years ago: “Why didn’t she scream?” (He continued: “[T]he house was occupied. There were a lot of middle-class [!] girls downstairs—they weren’t going to tolerate a rape or anything like that”).

Why didn’t the Levite’s concubine scream? Why didn’t she fight back? Why didn’t she try to escape?

The narrative in Judges in fact does not tell us whether she screamed, whether she fought back, or whether she tried to escape from her abusers. To be sure, the narrator tells us that she was abused by “the men of the city,” a gang of men, thus presumably severely limiting her ability to fight back or escape. And of course, we readers are at the mercy of an author who wrote the narrative in this particular way, adopting the persona of a putatively omniscient narrator, and so we are left to wonder, as we puzzle over the gaps and ambiguities, how she might have responded. But perhaps this narrative silence is significant for more than purely literary reasons, for could it not be that the narrative is, whether deliberately or not, drawing our attention to our own temptation to ask precisely the sorts of invasive and presumptuous questions of alleged victims of rape that Stuart Olding’s barrister wished the police had asked?

And then why, when she reached the house where “her master” was staying, did she simply fall at the door? Why did she not then at least cry out for help?

The usual interpretation would imply that she was so bruised and battered by her assault that she simply could not do anything else, could not even raise her voice to cry for help (compare perhaps Deuteronomy 22:24), and that if she was not dead when she fell at the door of the house, her physical trauma was such that she soon died.

It may, however, be worth bearing in mind that it was “her master” who threw her out to the mob in the first place, and his host who offered her, and his own daughter, to them to protect his male guest’s body, and therefore his honour. We also do not know much of the backstory. Why, for example, did the woman flee to her father’s house in the first place? Leaving aside for a moment the possibility suggested by Mieke Bal that the Levite had contracted a sort of marriage in which his wife ordinarily remained in her father’s house, could she have been trying to escape from an abusive partner? The Greek text of Codex Alexandrinus (perhaps preserving the Old Greek reading)[7] tells us she was “angry” with him, without telling us why, whereas the Masoretic Text seems to say she “prostituted herself against” (NRSV note) him, seemingly laying the blame for what happened on her (the precise meaning of the Hebrew in Judges 19:2 is admittedly not at all clear, a number of suggestions having been made to explain it).

It is sobering indeed to reflect on the possibility that, in the society that lies behind this narrative, far too many women may have stayed with violent husbands they were too afraid, or too restricted by the norms and customs of their clan and their society, to leave. It may, then, be worth considering the possibility that in addition to the trauma of a horrific sexual assault, she was now faced with the dread of returning to a house that contained men who had either surrendered her to violence, or offered to do so. Yet not only were they implicated in her assault, and not only may they themselves have been perpetrators of sexual violence, they were now her only source of protection.

So why didn’t the Levite’s concubine scream? Perhaps she did, and we, along with the Levite and his host, have closed our ears. Perhaps the narrator has simply closed our ears for us. Or perhaps she remained silent out of sheer terror, frozen between the horror of what she just endured, and what she might still be about to face from “her master.”


[1] There is some debate concerning the appropriateness of the English word “concubine” to translate the Hebrew noun pilegesh. J. Cheryl Exum, with some justification, prefers “wife,” since the term in this narrative seems to indicate a “legal wife of secondary rank” (Fragmented Women: Feminist (Sub)versions of Biblical Narratives (JSOTSup, 163; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), 177). The term “concubine,” by contrast, might lead the reader to regard her less sympathetically than they would a primary wife. Indeed, the usual interpretation of the Hebrew text of Judges 19:2 might even compound the problem by associating her with prostitution. Mieke Bal, furthermore, has suggested that pilegesh here indicates a wife who continues to dwell in her father’s house after marriage (Death and Dissymmetry: The Politics of Coherence in the Book of Judges (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 83-86), but even if that is the case here, it cannot apply to all biblical occurrences, and it may indeed be the case that the biblical corpus reflects an evolution in the meaning of the term. I have retained the term “concubine” here, despite its problems, because it has been so widely used, and in particular because it is used in the names of the paintings by Eeckhout and Bartsius (the Gemäldegalerie uses Kebsweib and the Hermitage uses nalozhnitsa, respectively). Elsewhere, in discussing this passage, I have left the term pilegesh untranslated in order to signal that the term is not fully understood (see my “Homophobia and Masculine Domination in Judges 19-21,” in The Bible & Critical Theory 12 (2016): 41-74; “Homophobia and Rape Culture in the Narratives of Early Israel,” in Rape Culture, Gender Violence, and Religion: Biblical Perspectives (ed. C. Blyth; E. Colgan, and K. B. Edwards; Religion and Radicalism; Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 159-178). I am assuming, however, that not all readers of this blog are conversant with Hebrew, and that to use the Hebrew term throughout might, in this context, be cumbersome and confusing. I hope that I may be forgiven, then, for continuing to use the term “concubine.”

[2] Heinrich Krauss and Eva Uthemann, Was Bilder erzählen: Die klassischen Geschichten aus Antike und Christentum (5th ed.; München: C. H. Beck, 1998), 218. A sixth edition was published in 2011, but I am quoting from the edition to which I have ready access.

[3] Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2019), 2:152.

[4] Katharina von Kellenbach, “Am I a Murderer? Judges 19-21 as a Parable of Meaningless Suffering,” in Strange Fire: Reading the Bible after the Holocaust (ed. T. Linafelt; The Biblical Seminar 71; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 176-191.

[5] Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (Overtures to Biblical Theology, 13; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 79. Trible is partially drawing here on an earlier work by Robert Polzin, Moses and the Deuteronomist (New York: Seabury, 1980), 200-202.

[6] Trible, Texts of Terror, 80.

[7] Cf. Natalio Fernández Marcos (ed.), Judges (Biblia Hebraica Quinta, 7; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2011), 53.

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