The Conundrum of Free Will

Dov Michaeli

First published 5/30/11 on The Doctor Weighs In

The Israelite discovers his concubine, dead on his doorstep - by Gustave Doré, Circa 1880

In every child’s life there is a story that is going to stay etched in his memory for the rest of his life. Mine was a biblical story that left me puzzled to this day.

There was a traveller of the tribe of Levi and his concubine who came to Gibea, a town southwest of Jerusalem, in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. As they sat down to dine they were attacked by the townspeople and he offered his concubine to the mob in order to prevent being assaulted himself. The concubine was raped all night by the mob. The next morning the man carried his murdered concubine to their home town, cut her body into twelve pieces and sent them to the twelve tribes of Israel. The people, especially those of the tribe of Ephraim, upon hearing about the dastardly deed were outraged and proceeded to raze several Benjaminite towns, killing every man woman and child in them.

Outrage at Gibeah, the Levite carries his dead concubine away - by Gustave Doré, Circa 1890

I was shaken by this story. The image of the man carrying his woman’s body, all alone, silent, grieving, probably crying quietly, tugged at this little boy’s heartstrings. Why did the townspeople do it? I asked the teacher. They were bad people, but they believed they were carrying out God’s will, was the answer. And why did the people of Ephraim kill every man, woman and child? Because they believed they were meting out God’s punishment. Of course, a young child cannot quite put his finger on the philosophical inconsistencies of the answer. But six decades later I am still asking the same questions about Muslims raping, maiming and killing their own because it’s God’s will.

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