Study Guide

Book of Judges Men and Masculinity

Men and Masculinity

Then Caleb said, "Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, I will give him my daughter Achsah as wife." And Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; and he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. (NRSV 1:12-13)

And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. (KJV 1:12-13)

Is there any quest manlier than a battle fought for the hand of a beautiful maiden? And yet, could this giving and taking of wives have somehow contributed to Israel's crisis of masculinity?

But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head, and crushed his skull. Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armour and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, 'A woman killed him.'" So the young man thrust him through, and he died. (NRSV 9:53)

And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died. (KJV 9:53)

Did Abimelech preserve his masculinity with this little stunt, or diminish it? He's obviously most concerned here about his reputation as a man, which he thinks would be diminished if other men knew that a woman had killed him.

Then Manoah entreated the Lord, and said, "O Lord, I pray, let the man of God whom you sent come to us again and teach us what we are to do concerning the boy who will be born." (NRSV 13:8)

Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. (KJV 13:8)

Manoah might be the most blameless man in Judges, and certainly the most blameless father. He seems excited about being a new daddy, but he's probably scared he's going to mess it up, so he's asking for God's "New Dad" guidebook.

After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. (NRSV 16:4)

And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. (KJV 16:4)

"The purpose of a man is to love a woman."—Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. Samson, more than anyone else in Judges, covers the two main requirements of traditional masculinity: love of fighting, and love of women. Does the way his romantic relationships go make him more of a man, or less?

While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a depraved lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, "Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him." And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing." But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. (NRSV 19:22)

Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. (KJV 19:22)

This is the biggest masculinity fail in all of Judges, and is probably the most damning evidence that Israel's morality was in the toilet. Masculinity usually involves the protection of family, but here the men are either cowards who give up those in their care to murderous sexual aggressors, or are the aggressors themselves.

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