Richard Mourdock and Biblical Values – He’s right.

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” – Richard Mourdock, the GOP candidate for Senate (Indiana)

As deplorable as the statements by Mourdock are, it is not completely unbiblical. As a matter of fact, kidnapping and rape are in fact a biblical value used to create life from death. For a brutal example of this, we must turn to Judges 21. This chapter details the rescue from oblivion of the Tribe of Benjamin. In gruesome, misogynistic fashion, the Tribes of Israel discovered that by their oath of never allowing their daughters to marry the sons of Benjamin, they had killed the tribe. So, the next best thing was to discover who did not take the same oath. They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead, a town from the half-tribe of Manasseh, had not taken the same oath.

The assembled leaders decided that the next best thing to do was to slaughter the men along with all women who had previously engaged in sexual congress. Of the town, only four hundred women were found to be pure (virgins). They were given to the remnant of Benjamin, but two hundred Benjaminites remained without a woman. I like what the NET says here. “But there were not enough to go around (Judges 21.14).” So, the people decided to kidnap women who were going to worship the LORD at Shiloh. Granted, these were Jewish women so they should have fallen under the same oath. However, the excuse was made that the oath is not valid because these women were not voluntarily given. In other words, because the women were kidnapped and forced into marriage and sex, everyone was okay. No oaths were broken.

Let us examine, for a moment, the theological perimeters behind this. The Israelites realized that the oath taken to not allow the Benjaminites to intermarry would have eventually wiped them out of existence. They were a dead tribe of six hundred men. The only reasonable solution was to kill hundreds or thousands of innocents, taking the remaining virgins as booty (pardon the pun, please). This was not enough, so stil refusing to break the oath, the leaders of Israel allowed the remaining wifeless men to kidnap for marriage women from the other tribes who were going to celebrate the LORD. Theologically, Benjamin, once dead, was made alive again through sacrifice. Oaths were kept. Justice was done (to Benjamin, who got their cake and found time to eat it as well). This wasn’t just marriage. Marriage does not equal the ability to force your spouse into sexual congress at your whim. This was rape. The women of Shiloh were kidnaped and raped, under the guide of marriage.

A few things, now. First, “biblical values” are in fact nothing more than a misnomer. “Biblical values” are those values we choose to use against others in favor of ourselves. Second, if we are to take seriously the fundamentalist view of Scripture, then we must understand that the single man who has no prospects for a relationship is allowed to kidnap and rape a woman, as long as he marries her (Deuteronomy 22.28). Third, at no point in Judges 21 does God give permission to do such things. If you read Judges from start to finish, the mistreatment of women, the devaluation of women, the break down in society (tribal kinship, etc…) grows until murder, kidnapping, and rape are deemed more justifiable than breaking an oath. But, again, no where in chapter 21 is God found except in the distance, and only as an object to which vows were taken — God is increasingly distant from the Israelites the more holy they become. That sounds like the Religious Right today, doesn’t it?

Post By Joel L. Watts (10,125 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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