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This weekend the Bayern bandwagon makes the short trip for a Bavarian derby to face this week's third-placed team in surprising Augsburg. Minnows Augsburg have catapulted themselves up the table after four successive wins, a feat they have never managed in the Bundesliga. Markus Weinzierl's side have hit back to win the two, despite trailing by a goal at the break.
The value of a cultural context can often get lost in translation. The story of the concubine in Judges 19 is an example of value lost in translation. The word concubine is often associated with sexually explicit relationships.
Judges the story of the unnamed woman
However, in some cultures like my own, concubine can represent a lower status wife who has not received a bride price. This becomes a challenge to translate as western cultures do not have the bride price marriage system. The understanding of this story can be enriched when one understands the full value of the unnamed woman in this passage.
This story is dear to me, because it holds cultural context that I am able to relate to as a Zimbwean-American. Since this man is my guest, do not commit this crime. Ravish them, or do whatever you want with them; but against the man you must not commit this wanton crime. They had relations with her and abused her all night until the following dawn, when they let her go. So the man placed her on an ass and started out again for home.
Judges the story of the unnamed woman
Take note of it, and state what you propose to do. Unlike most stories in the Bible in which we can find a more polite and diluted way to teach the story in Sunday School, Judges 19 has no such luck. There is no triumph for God and His people and no hero to admire.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part of reading this story is that it has no happy ending to come; the story only le to unspeakable tragedy. Readers of this story have tried to find a way to make sense of this text but the question is how? How do we explain this text and even more complicated, what do we take from this text?
In addition to these Scholarly interpretations, I add in my own understanding of the text from my own cultural context as a Zimbabwe-American woman. In Judges 19, we are introduced to a man from the hill country of Ephraim who is said to have taken a concubine from Bethel in Judah.
The man takes his concubine and servant and set out to Jebus. In Judgesthe man is trying to find a place to rest for the night as it has gotten dark before they reached their destination.
The servant suggests stopping among the Jebusites for the night and the man refuses to stay in the city because it is a foreign land and the people are not of Israel. Instead they head toward Gibeah and unfortunately nobody welcomes them into their home, except for an old man who is also from the hill country of Ephraim.
The man took them to his house and extends great hospitality by washing his guests feet, giving his guests something to drink and eat and even feeding the horses. In Judges the story takes a turn for the worse, however. The old man refuses and offers instead his own virgin daughter and the concubine in place of the male guest. The concubine is then given to the men to do as they please with her granted with the permission of her husband.
In Judges a strange thing happens in the translation; no longer does the author refer to the man as a husband but a master.
In Death and DissymmetryMeike Bal suggests the translation of the Hebrew word pileghesh can be taken out of context because the original word used to describe the woman can be taken out of context because of different cultural ideas. She points out that, in most texts the term appears to mean a wife of lower status.
How can we perceive that cruel act in a way that still allows one to posit a husband and wife relationship? A more unique approach that Yee brings is the economic value of the concubine. Another perspective that helps clarify the misunderstood realities of this story is from Ken Stone. The act that she left her husband and returned home is in itself culturally considered unacceptable in this time. The author suggests this may be why such harsh language is used to address the woman. Another question readers may pose when reading this text is why the host decides to offer the women instead of his male guest.
Why not offer a male servant or relative? The host was willing to sacrifice the dignity of the two women for the protection of a male guest. Such an attitude reflects both the social subordination of women and the fact that homosexual rape was viewed as particularly severe attack on male honor. This is a great example of the misogynistic culture and the mistreatment of women in that particular time.
As we already know concubines are associated with being secondary or lower status wives. Yee explains how this secondary status can result in a more inferior relationship to a husband than if she were a wife. The act of being raped by men would show submission a state that is associated with the feminine.
In a selfish act he was trying to keep his own dignity. All the scholarly perspectives that I have read have helped my understanding of the story.
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However, I think I have a unique perspective because a concubine is not a foreign concept to me but one that is familiar from the culture of Zimbabwe, a cultural context I know well. In the Shona culture when a woman is to be married, her husband must part take in the ritual of paying her bride price.
Without this union in my culture, a woman who lives with a man in then considered a concubine. My paternal grandmother never received her bride price from my grandfather. Although they had a family together and my grandfather had no other wife, she felt dishonored because her family could not claim that they received her bride price.
On her death bed she cursed my grandfather because he had failed to provide her bride price. I can only imagine that the concubine must have felt the same anger. She may not have been a dishonor to her family but the notion that she was an unpaid bride would have brought discomfort to her family.
In conclusion, there are many questions that come with trying to understand Judges 19, however I have found the story carries more meaning when it is given cultural context. The Euro-American perspectives on Judges 19 missed the cultural context that could assist us in making sense of the story in our present time. Awareness of diverse traditions involving marriage and bride prices outside of Europe and North America allows African exegetes to make fresh contributions to biblical studies.
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Here cultural awareness le to a different appreciation of the female character in Judges The woman who is ravaged may not have been an adulterous; the Greek version of the text suggests that she was the party upset. The woman may only have been a wife of secondary status. Lack of awareness of bride price traditions and status markers lead to impoverished readings of Judges Awareness of these realities allows us to return to the woman the dignity befitting her story. The fact that the man seeks out his wife or concubine argues against a reading that she was unfaithful. Rather, he seems to have been in the wrong and to wish to make up with his wife.
Eerdmans Publishing Co. By: Christine Mafana Abstract The value of a cultural context can often get lost in translation. Skip to toolbar.