I've been learning Prophets on the Shabbat, and honestly, I was quite disturbed by the violent fate of the concubine of Gibeah. But even worse, the poor woman was cut up into 12 pieces by a Levite after her outrageous death (Judges 19:29):

וַיָּבֹ֣א אֶל־בֵּית֗וֹ וַיִּקַּ֤ח אֶת־הַֽמַּאֲכֶ֨לֶת֙ וַיַּֽחֲזֵ֣ק בְּפִֽילַגְשׁ֔וֹ וַֽיְנַתְּחֶ֨הָ֙ לַֽעֲצָמֶ֔יהָ לִשְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָׂ֖ר נְתָחִ֑ים וַֽיְשַׁלְּחֶ֔הָ בְּכֹ֖ל גְּב֥וּל יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the borders of Israel.

How is it possible that the Levite didn't give her a proper burial and send her presumably torn and bloody clothes instead as evidence?

  • 4
    My impression was that he wasn't trying to provide evidence. He was trying to freak people out, which he did. The entire nation dropped whatever they were doing and gathered together to decide on a response.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 18:58
  • 4
    This was the period of the Judges, when "every man did what was right in his own sight". Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 19:07
  • I always assumed this was just another example of the horrible behavior that was at that time.
    – robev
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 19:46
  • 2
    Perhaps a contemporary equivalent would be for the relatives of the victims of COVID to leave their deceased loved ones' bodies in the many lax synagogues and wedding halls. While it might superficially not seem like the best way to honoring the dead, it probably would prevent more death and would therefore be a greater honor than just interring them, as per the principle: "eis laasos lashem heferu torasecha" - "a time to do for the sake of G-d, they have annulled your teaching"
    – Loewian
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 19:46

1 Answer 1


I have no sources, but I will venture my own interpretation for the sake of discussion: the Levite was so outraged by the total desecration of human life in the Land that he wanted to confront his countrymen with the hard reality of what had occurred and was occurring in Eretz Israel. I believe he was saying ‘this is what human life amounts to in your land’: as we know, the concubine was treated like nothing more than a piece of meat, and this fact the Levite chose to demonstrate in unmediated form, like a piece of ‘performance-art’: ‘the play’s the thing wherein to catch the conscience of the king’, as Hamlet said. The modern day equivalent would be an anti-abortion protestor displaying a foetus that has been killed / removed and publicly throwing it in a garbage can: it would show the bystander what they are doing by not taking action against the people who are doing such things. In short, I believe the Levite was saying ‘this is what you are doing if you do not take action’. He was holding a mirror up to Israelite society, confronting them with Truth rather than trying to convince or persuade them of it. ‘Mediation’ of any kind would have been too soft on his audience. Dadaism might be considered a modern parallel to this approach.

  • I expect that the twelve pieces of the corpse would have been symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel, as well.
    – nick012000
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 3:26
  • Not symbolic- he sent a piece of the.corpse to each of the tribes! Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 5:38

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