What follows is adapted from my booklet, “Communion and the Concubine.” If you’ve found the story in Judges 19 and 20 disturbing (and most have), I hope you will check out the booklet and find the story redeemed by how Christ is revealed in it.
Judges 19 contains one of the most horrific stories in scripture: a man and his concubine come to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. Hours later, they have no lodging, so a kindly old man puts them up in his home. That night, wicked men surround the old man’s home and shout, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him” (Judges 19:22). The old man implores the mob to abandon their wickedness but they refuse. To appease them, the traveler sends out his concubine, whom the mob rapes and abuses throughout the night (Judges 19:25). In the morning, the traveler finds his concubine dead, her hands stretched out toward the doorstep.
When the concubine’s master mustered the wherewithal to act, he did something as shocking as the gang rape itself: “he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel” (Judges 19:29).
In Judges 20 we learn that the concubine’s master was a Levite, a priest of Israel. In this, we can see Jesus. Before the cross, Jesus held up the Passover loaf and said, “This is my body, given for you” (Luke 22:19). Then He broke it into twelve pieces and gave a piece to each of His disciples (as the man divided his concubine’s body between the 12 tribes). By giving His body and blood, Jesus was acting as our priest. Through His death He brokered a new covenant in which He removed sin and imparted His own life to us: “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). This is what communion symbolizes.
Judges ends rather darkly: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25). During the time of the Judges, the Israelites lost the vision of the kingdom God had called them to be. God’s vision was sidelined by the pursuit of personal interests. But the breaking and parceling out of the concubine’s body unified the tribes of Israel.
Judges 20:1 says, “Then all the Israelites…came out as one man and assembled before the LORD in Mizpah.” This was the first time Israel experienced unity since the time of Joshua. Yet this was not a unity brought about by any leader, but by communion in the concubine.
David is often given credit for unifying the tribes during his reign. While David’s role is undeniable, it is doubtful if the unification of Israel would have occurred without the death of this nameless concubine generations earlier. She was the mustard seed, the least of all seeds, that fell in the ground and died. David’s kingdom grew from that seed (John 12:24; Matt. 13:31, 32).
Later, Judges 20 says, “All the people rose as one man” (Judges 20:8). This prefigures Christ’s resurrection. By breaking Jesus’s body, God destroyed the self- determination and hostility that marks the old man, Adam. Christ then rose as one New Man: “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Eph. 2:15, 16).
Paul says, “And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:17). Communing with Christ causes us to participate in His death and resurrection. Through this communion we come into the union of the New Man. In Him we find a head and king. We no longer do as we see fit.