What do you say when no isn't enough,
What do you do, when actions aren't heard--
And if the odds are not in your favor
How do find yourself when the situation is lost?
If the blame fell on you, simply because
No one believed the betrayal you claimed
And your motives were questioned
Your entire life placed on display
For the world to examine...
How do you cope when the world
Is still deciding what is and isn't--
What you should and shouldn't feel
If you are or aren't responsible,
And the odds are not in your favor?
Do you scream, do you fight,
Do you lock the pain away in a secret box
And hide your shame from prying eyes--
Suffer in silence to avoid the world?
Do you ever become whole again?
If the odds were never in your favor?
Hey guys welcome back to the PSALMS to God podcast.
Did you know that from the time you clicked play until right now, statistically speaking, at least one person in the U.S. was raped. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (otherwise known as RAINN) an American is raped every 98 seconds. Every 98 seconds! That means, by the time we get to the end of this conversation, approximately 18 people in the U.S. will have been raped; and 17 of those will be women with 1 being a man. Between RAINN and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, it's been estimated that either 1 in 5 or 1 in 6 women in the US will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. And 1 in 71 men will experience the same. In 80% of these cases, the perpetrator was someone the person knew. 51% of women reported that the aggressor was an intimate partner, and 40% reported the person was an acquaintance.
These statistics are both alarming and depressing. And I wish I could just write them off as people playing with numbers and overhyping or dramatizing the world we live in, but the number of female friends that I've had confide me their own experiences with sexual assault and the traumas that they've experienced tell me that these numbers are very, very real. And you have to wonder when we live in a society like this, what exactly the Bible says about it. What should the Church be saying and doing at a time like this? But unfortunately the Church seems to be silent.
And the reason I know that the church is silent is not just from my own personal experience, where only one of the churches that I've ever attended in my entire life has broke the topic of consent or sexual assault or anything in that realm, but because the majority of white evangelical, so-called, Christians had no problem voting for Donald Trump, who basically endorsed sexual assault. Even more people were okay with Brett Kavanaugh being appointed to the Supreme Court; and he has been accused of sexual assault. And it's not really surprising that when you have a leader of the country, who is saying the things that he's saying, and nominating a person who has a questionable history, and when you have a Supreme Court where Brett Kavanaugh is not the first person to be appointed to the seat with allegations of sexual assault trailing behind him, then it's not really surprising that when issues happen in our country, we have situations like this... Where Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexual assault and only received six months in prison, actually only had to serve three. Meanwhile, Cyntoia Brown who was basically sold into sex trafficking as a teenager—a teenager!—and repeatedly raped... She escaped by her attacker by killing him, and she was sentenced to life in prison. And she's already served 13 of those years—and she's still there!
This is the society we live in, and it's disheartening that the conversation is not being had amongst believers; and what's more disheartening is that there are some perfect, perfect, stories in the Bible to talk about just this. And that is a reason why I titled today's episode "Most Likely to be Forgotten." I know that from a high school yearbook superlatives situation this would never make the cut because of the negativity surrounding the actual superlative, and it's not that I'm saying that the people I'm about to talk about are forgettable. It's quite the opposite. I feel like once you read their stories they are absolutely unforgettable, and that's why it's mystifying that we don't talk about them, ever, in church. And I feel like as I start to name these people many of you will not know who they are, because I found only people who were avid Bible readers, do know who they are. And that's why I wanted to highlight their stories. Because I feel like many of the women and men who have experienced sexual assault will relate to these stories. But I also feel like the outcomes and the aftermaths of their stories have important lessons and consequences for us today.
So, without further ado, I actually have three people in mind for today's episode. I really couldn't decide who deserved to be talked about. I felt like all of their stories were worth mentioning, and so I gave the official superlative to one person, but I decided to talk about all three anyway. So the person I gave the superlative to is Dinah.
Dinah is a daughter of Jacob and Leah. Yeah, Jacob and Leah had a daughter. Jacob—everyone knows Jacob, everyone knows he had his wives, and everyone knows he had 12 sons; a lot of people don't know that he had a daughter. So, the story of Dinah is told in Genesis 34. The events are basically summarized in the first 4 verses, where we find out that Dinah went into town to see some of the women in the area. Most likely, these were her friends. She went out; she wanted to see some people, have a nice little conversation—whatever people did back in those days. And while she was there, she caught the eye of this man who was son of the chief of the area. So, this guy was basically a prince, of sorts. He was infatuated with Dinah, and decided to rape her. After he raped her he thought he deserved her as a wife.
Unfortunately, this guy is not one of a kind. We all know this guy. This is the entitled guy that cannot take no for an answer; no matter what you say, no matter what you do, he still thinks it means "yes, I'm in love with you." He's probably contacts you on every single form of social media—you've had to block him on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter... You've had to block him out of your cell phone. He just won't giving up. That's exactly what kind of guy this sounds like.
Anyway, after all of this happens he convinces his dad to go see her dad—Jacob—and try to sort out a marriage. Now, Jacob finds out that his daughter has been raped, and we know that he is angry because of the context of what happens in the chapter, but he seems to want to wait to have a family discussion about what should happen next. So he waits on his sons; but we see that his sons leave the field immediately when they find out what happened. So it seems like he sent a message to them, to come, and the reaction of all the people around Dinah is to take immediate action, or at least immediate action to discuss the situation—to find out what happened, and to figure out what to do next. So when the rapist shows up at their house with his father asking for a marriage, I'm pretty sure there were a whole lot of words going through their minds—I don't know if they came out their mouth, but I know there were some words going through their minds. And what they end up telling the prince and his father is that, if they will get their entire community, their entire nation, to be circumcised, then they will allow this man to marry their sister—or daughter, in Jacob's case. The whole concept behind this is obviously, you know, circumcision was very important from an Israelite standpoint, with the covenant from Abraham. They told them this would allow them to become one people and it was kind of a blending of cultures, if you will. But this was all a farce. OK? Jacob's sons had totally different ideas of revenge in their mind. So when the prince and his father agree to this and went out and actually did it, and had all of the men in their nation circumcised, the sons of Jacob—two of the sons specifically—went out and killed all of the men in the town. And of course they couldn't fight back because they were in pain from being circumcised. And what you're going to see, as we go through each of these stories, is that in every single instance blood is spilled.
The next person that I want to talk about is Tamar. Tamar is also the daughter of a very, very famous man. She is the daughter of King David. Tamar's story is told in 2 Samuel 13, and ooo wee, it's, yeah... So, Tamar's brother—yeah you heard that right, her brother—his name is Amnon. He is infatuated with Tamar. Once again we have a man that's infatuated with a woman. And he decides that he wants his sister, and not only is he just thinking this in his head, he actually says this out loud to someone who he considers a friend. And this so-called friend doesn't give the reaction we expect. He doesn't tell this boy that he's insane and that he needs to get over himself and find a woman that he can actually marry to be infatuated with. He, instead, condones this nonsense and comes up with a plan to help Amnon rape his sister. So they conspire, they come up with this plan, and they carry it out. So Amnon is able to rape his sister, and I'm going to warn you if you go to read 2 Samuel 13, it is one of the harder passages to read out of the 3, because you actually get some of Tamar's perspective. For Dinah we just get a really short, you know, excerpt—this is what happened. With Tamar we actually get the recorded conversation between her and her brother, where she is saying "don't do this" and "this isn't right." For me, when I read that story it reminded me of when you hear sexual assault survivors trying to bring legal action against their attacker and they have to recount the events. And it's just hard and heartbreaking to read that. So after this happens—once he has raped his sister—he no longer has any use for her. He's gotten what he wants, he—whatever craziness is gone on in his head is still there, but he has decided he no longer desires his sister—and so he kicks her out. And this is equally shameful to her, and so she is completely distraught.
When David finds out, he's angry but he doesn't do anything. This is one of David's shortcomings and I feel responsible to point out here that nobody in the Bible is perfect but Jesus (and God of course). So even though David was a man after God's own heart, he was not perfect—we know this; he committed adultery, he committed murder to cover up his adultery. David wasn't perfect, but this is also one of the issues where he fell short, and so we also see that bite him in the butt. So the person who comes to Tamar's aid is her other brother, Absalom. You may be familiar with Absalom and his name, because Absalom ends up throwing a coup against his father, and it stems from this very issue.
So Absalom is extremely furious at Amnon, to the point that he plots for two years. And when he gets the occasion, he takes it, gets Amnon drunk and has his servant kill him. That's right, Amnon dies at the hands of Absalom, and the specific reason Absalom gives for killing him is that he raped Tamar. It is after this that Absalom ends up rebelling against his father and trying to take the throne. It's a failure, obviously because God knew that Solomon was to be the next king, but there is a skirmish; some people side with Absalom, some people side with David. This is a battle situation and it's something that the nation, nor David would have had to experience, if David has taken a stand and done something about Amnon himself. 'Cause let's be real, if you found out that your dad knew that your brother raped your sister and did nothing, you'd have a problem with your dad too, I mean I would. So, that's what happened with Tamar.
The Unnamed Concubine(00:17:19)
Now the third person that we're going to talk about is The Unnamed Concubine—yeah, they didn't even give her a name, so you already know that it's completely fitting for me to mention her in the podcast about "Most Likely to be Forgotten." They didn't bother to give her a name; they didn't bother to give her husband a name. That's how, I guess, lowly ranked these two people were. But I feel like it's one of the most powerful stories in the Bible, particularly because of the fact that they're unnamed. These two people were basically nobodies, and they ended up starting a civil war, or a battle, between the tribes of Israel over an issue. And it's one of the most gruesome stories, at the same time.
Essentially, the man and his wife were traveling, and as they were traveling they got to a place they needed to stay. An old man offered them a place to stay for the night, and from there the story kind of takes on a Sodom and Gomorrah-ish twist. A bunch of men surround the house. They request to rape the man, or to have sex with a man, and they are denied this request. Instead, the men offer the women of the house, which is bizarre—that's a story in and of itself. We're not going to focus on that issue of the story, because we're going to focus on what happens in the aftermath. Essentially, The Unnamed Concubine is turned over to this mob, and she is gang raped. After she is gang raped, she tries to make her way back—or back to the man's home—where her husband is. And the husband finds her the next morning by the door, dead. Once he finds that she's dead, he takes her body back to his home, cuts her body into multiple pieces, and send the pieces of her body to the tribes of Israel. Like I said, it's gruesome, y'all, gruesome. But when he sends the pieces of her body to the different tribes in Israel, it is a message about what happened. And I assume he sent some sort of letter with it; I don't really know how you would understand what happened with just getting a body part. Whatever the case may be, once the tribes of Israel found out what happened and what occurred, they are rallying together to avenge this woman.
All except the Tribe of Benjamin. The Tribe of Benjamin refused to avenge her, basically because the people who did it were from The Tribe of Benjamin, and so they stood opposition to the rest of Israel. And in that, God gave the tribes of Israel permission to fight The Tribe of Benjamin over this issue. They went to war—or battle whenever you would like to call it—and they killed 25,000 men from The Tribe of Benjamin. And after this, the other tribes decided that they would no longer consider Benjamin part of them. So they refused to give their children to marry Benjamin's children, so their daughters couldn't marry their sons, their sons couldn't marry Benjamin's daughters. The Tribe of Benjamin almost went extinct because of this—and I forgot to mention the verses, you guys, it's Judges 19-21; it's also the longest of the 3 stories that we've covered today.
Relating to Today (00:21:25)
And the reason I wanted to point out these stories is because not only do they follow the trends that we talked about in the beginning: they are women being raped, obviously of the number of women mentioned in the bible we do see a similar parallel of statistics, also we see that two-thirds of the women were betrayed by somebody they knew—Tamar being raped by her brother; and The Unnamed Concubine, even though she was raped by strangers, was basically offered up to the strangers by her husband, which is somebody she knew so the betrayal was still personal. We see that in every case it's an abuse of power, just like now, just like we have an abuse of power with the Supreme Court having people who are accused of sexual assault making our laws and upholding our laws. We have a president who is okay with saying such crude things leading the country; he's setting the tone for the morality in the country, which is a scary, scary thought. But that's true in each of these stories, as well. I mean come on, it's Amnon, the son of King David; King David was one of the most powerful kings in the history of Israel. He's a prince! Of course he thinks he can get away with it. And then we have the prince who rapes Dinah, also a prince, also very powerful. He also probably thought that he was above the law, just like so many people today.
We see enablement from the male community, otherwise known as "rape culture." We see that after the event happens with Dinah, his father is there, you know, egging this on trying to arrange the marriage. Instead of him chastising his son, or trying to, you know, put out a punishment for his son that you know the family does not have to carry out, he is basically okaying it, and he's like "oh OK, well yeah sure go marry her." The same thing in the story with Tamar: this guy's friend is the one telling him and helping him conspire to rape his sister. Who endorses that kind of behavior? It's a horrible thing, right? When we get to The Unnamed Concubine, while we don't know the station of the men who gang raped her, we know that it was a gang. They surrounded the house. This wasn't one man, it wasn't two men; it had to be a mob of men. And so we know that this was a widespread thing that was happening.
So in each of these stories, we see the same dangers and the same problems that we have in our society that we have yet to fix. The difference is that in our society the woman is always blamed; it's always "oh what was she wearing?" or "oh what did she say to him? She led him on; she was showing her shoulder, or her ankle or something. He couldn't help himself." You know, all of these other things that have absolutely nothing to do with the issue, and the fact that it's the man who committed a crime. And in the Biblical stories every single time people went to avenge the woman, and every single time the person who committed the rape was killed. Now, I'm not saying that we should go out and start a war or that we should kill, you know, whole cities because somebody is sexually assaulted, but I do think that it shows how seriously they took it, particularly in the story of The Unnamed Concubine, where the entire nation stood against injustice. And I think if you were to stop and think about what our nation would look like if everyone took that kind of a stance against sexual assault. If we decided we were not having it, and we were willing to— yeah, to go to war—over something like that. What would our nation look like and how would these statistics change?
There's no way that I could say everything that needs to be said about this issue, in a podcast, but I wanted to encourage those of you who listen that are leaders in your congregation or those who aren't even in congregations, whoever you are wherever you are, I wanted to encourage you to think about this issue. And I wanted to encourage those who have the authority and have the power to think about how they are handling themselves and how they're handling the situations around them. If you're a father, an uncle, a friend, whatever the case maybe, what are you teaching the men and the boys around you? What kind of example are you setting? And, you know, how are you protecting your female friends—and your male friends, because like I said in the beginning it happens to men too.
And so, I just want to leave you guys with the thought that, in each case this story was placed in the Bible for a reason. God knows everything; He knows everything that will happen, and He knows when it will happen, and He knows what we need. When you go back, particularly to the story of Dinah, and this is one of the reasons that I gave her the actual superlative, it doesn't fit the narrative of the history of Israel; it doesn't fit the genealogy of Jesus; it doesn't fit the prophecies of Jesus, or the end of the world, or anything. It's just there. And because it's just there, we know that God told Moses to put it there for a reason, and the reason God told Moses to put that there is, because he did not forget about what happened to Dinah. And He didn't forget about what happened to the countless other women who have experienced sexual assault. He knew that Dinah was just a girl, an innocent girl who went to see your friends, and ended up being assaulted. And He knew that that's happened to so many people since her. And He knew that her story needed to be heard just like their story needs to be heard.
Thank you for tuning into this episode; you can find the transcripts at www.psalmstogod.com/forgotten. In the meantime, don't forget to subscribe so that you can receive bonus content in addition to the weekly Monday episodes. Thanks for tuning in, I'll see you next time
References and Footnotes
- I wrote this poem in April 2014; it is called . It felt very appropriate for this episode.May The Odds Be In Your Favor
- "Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics". Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN); visited December 2018
- "Get Statistics". National Sexual Violence Resource Center; visited December 2018
- I have to give the church I currently attend credit for hosting a summit on consent for the youth, as well as, having a speaker for the whole congregation on mental health who touched on the topic of sexual assault. It is the only place I've ever seen God's people bring up this topic.
- Sarah Pulliam Bailey. "White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, exit polls show". The Washington Post. November 9, 2016
- Transcript: Donald Trump’s Taped Comments About Women". NY Times. October 8, 2016
- Ellen Cranley and Michelle Mark. "Here are all the sexual-misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh". Business Insider. September 27, 2018
- Kevin Liptak. "The FBI did investigate Anita Hill's accusation, and it took 3 days". CNN. September 20, 2018
- Christine Hauser. "Brock Turner Loses Appeal to Overturn Sexual Assault Conviction". NY Times. August 9, 2018
- Christine Hauser. "Cyntoia Brown, Trafficking Victim Serving Life Sentence for Murder, Will Get Clemency Hearing". NY Times. May 3, 2018
- I definitely meant about and not to..."the people I was going to talk about"
- You know, because having part of your penis cut off is not punishment enough.
- Acts 13:22
- So, "throwing" might not have been the right word here...orchestrating?
- Genesis 19
- Jacob is not happy that his sons have killed the entire nation of men, and the family quickly seeks out God for repentance. It is possible that Jacob was willing to accept the original agreement as punishment. Nonetheless, he was aware that something had to be done and he does not blame Dinah for the situation.
- Tamar would have been seen as defiled after this point and the men who should have been suitors for her would no longer be interested. On top of this ostracism and alienation, the brother who put her in that position was not willing to stand by her or take care of her (remember without a husband to provide for her, Tamar wouldn't have had many rights or options).
- The Red Tent was inspired by the story of Dinah. I have a lot of thoughts on it, so be on the lookout for a post about it.