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Writing the WrongsWomen of the Old Testament among Biblical Commentators from Philo through the Reformation$
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John L. Thompson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195137361

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195137361.001.0001

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Four Expendable Women

Four Expendable Women

(p.179) 3 Four Expendable Women
Writing the Wrongs

John L. Thompson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The story of the Levite and his (possibly) adulterous wife in Judges 19 (like Lot's exposure of his daughters to the men of Sodom in Genesis 19) is often seen as a horrific example of how women are treated as chattels in the Bible: not only does the Levite thrust her into the hands of townsmen who rape her to the point of death, he then butchers her into a dozen pieces as an object lesson and rallying point for the 12 tribes of Israel. The history of interpretation of Judges 19 followed two lines: since the Septuagint text said nothing about the woman's unfaithfulness, patristic writers (who relied on the LXX) were generally sympathetic to her, but later medieval Christians read the Hebrew Bible's report of her harlotry and saw some justice in her unhappy fate. What unites both stories (Judges 19 and Genesis 19), however, is that even when the woman was seen as providentially punished, no one excused her husband or her assailants, even as Lot was roundly censured for his callousness – despite considerations of the duties of hospitality and the appeals to compensatory evil or temporary insanity that were usually factored into the moral equation.

Keywords:   compensatory evil, feminist exegesis, Genesis, homosexuality, hospitality, Judges, Levite's wife, Lot, precritical interpretation, rape, sodomy

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