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NPNF2-10. Ambrose: Selected Works and Letters
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Chapter XIX.

The crime committed by the inhabitants of Gibeah against the wife of a certain Levite is related, and from the vengeance taken it is inferred how the idea of virtue must have filled the heart of those people of old.

110. What regard for virtue our forefathers had to avenge by a war the wrongs of one woman which had been brought on her by her violation at the hands of profligate men! Nay, when the people were conquered, they vowed that they would not give their daughters in marriage to the tribe of Benjamin! That tribe had remained without hope of posterity, had they not received leave of necessity to use deceit. And this permission does not seem to fail in giving fitting punishment for violation, since they were only allowed to enter on a union by a rape, and not through the sacrament of marriage. And indeed it was right that they who had broken another’s intercourse should themselves lose their marriage rites.

111. How full of pitiful traits is this story! A man, it says,734734    Judg. xix. 1–3. a Levite, had taken to himself a wife, who I suppose was called a concubine from the word “concubitus.” She some time afterwards, as is wont to happen, offended at certain things, betook herself to her father, and was with him four months. Then her husband arose and went to the house of his father-in-law, to reconcile himself with his wife, to win her back and take her home again. The woman ran to meet him and brought her husband into her father’s house.

112. The maiden’s735735    Judg. 4–9. father rejoiced and went to meet him, and the man stayed with him three days, and they ate and rested. On the next day the Levite arose at daybreak, but was detained by his father-in-law, that he might not so quickly lose the pleasure of his company. Again on the next and the third day the maiden’s father did not suffer his son-in-law to start, until their joy and mutual regard was complete. But on the seventh day, when it was already drawing to a close, after a pleasant meal, having urged the approach of the coming night, so as to make him think he ought to sleep amongst friends rather than strangers, he was unable to keep him, and so let him go together with his daughter.

113. When some little progress736736    Judg. xix. 10–21. was made, though night was threatening to come on, and they were close by the town of the Jebusites, on the slave’s request that his lord should turn aside there, he refused, because it was not a city of the children of Israel. He meant to get as far as Gibeah, which was inhabited by the people of the tribe of Benjamin. But when they arrived there was no one to receive them with hospitality, except a stranger of advanced age—When he had looked upon them he asked the Levite: Whither goest thou and whence dost thou come? On his answering that he was travelling and was making for Mount Ephraim and that there was no one to take him in, the old man offered him hospitality and prepared a meal.

114. And when they were satisfied737737    Judg. xix. 22–26. and the tables were removed, vile men rushed up and surrounded the house. Then the old man offered these wicked men his daughter, a virgin, and the concubine with whom she shared her bed, only that violence might not be inflicted on his guest. But when reason did no good and violence prevailed, the Levite parted from his wife, and they knew her and abused her all that night. Overcome by this cruelty or by grief at her wrong, she fell at the door of their host where her husband had entered, and gave up the ghost, with the last effort of her life guarding the feelings of a good wife so as to preserve for her husband at least her mortal remains.

115. When this became known738738    Judg. xx. 1 ff. (to be brief) almost all the people of Israel broke out into war. The war remained doubtful with an uncertain issue, but in the third engagement the people of Benjamin were delivered to the people of Israel,739739    Judg. xx. 48. and being condemned by the divine judgment paid the penalty for their profligacy. The sentence, further,740740    Judg. xxi. 1 ff. was that none of the people of the fathers should give his daughter in marriage to them. This was confirmed by a solemn oath. But relenting at having laid so hard a sentence on their brethren, they moderated their severity so as to give them in marriage those maidens that had lost their parents, whose fathers had been slain for their sins, or to give them the means of finding a wife by a raid. Because of the villainy of so foul a deed, they who have violated another’s marriage rights were shown to be unworthy to ask for marriage. But for fear that one tribe might perish from the people, they connived at the deceit.

116. What great regard our forefathers had for virtue is shown by the fact that forty thousand men drew the sword against their brethren of the tribe of Benjamin in their desire to avenge the wrong done to modesty, for they would not endure the violation of chastity. And so in that war on both sides there fell sixty-five thousand warriors, whilst their cities were burnt. And when at first the people of Israel were defeated, yet unmoved by fear at the reverses of the war, they disregarded the sorrow the avenging of chastity cost them. They rushed into the battle ready to wash out with their own blood the stains of the crime that had been committed.


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