Our reader’s question: In the Old Testament, were women of so little value, except for men’s pleasure, that God did not intervene and stop the wicked men in Judges 19? It is also difficult to comprehend that the two fathers in Genesis 19 and Judges 19 offered their daughters to these despicable men.

There is no doubt that God values women equally with men. In Proverbs we read: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (1:8). Proverbs concludes with the delightful summary of the supremely desirable qualities of “a virtuous woman” (31:10– 31). Malachi challenges the evil of “dealing treacherously” with “the wife of thy youth” and declares that “Yahweh, the God of Israel” hates such behaviour (2:14–16). And the Apostle Paul points out that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). These examples could be multiplied but suffice to demonstrate that there is no doubt that Yahweh our God esteems women equally with men. These comments naturally must be read in conjunction with the very clear scriptural teaching concerning the differing roles of men and women in God’s service (Gen 3:16; 1 Cor 11:1–15, 1 Tim 2:11–15).

Our reader is also correct in identifying the evils referred to as involving “despicable men”. No blame is attributable to God for the terrible deeds of evil men (or women, for that matter). The issue really is: Why did God not intervene to stop these deeds taking place? That question implies a wider one: Why does God not intervene to stop all or any suffering? The answer properly involves more space than we have available here but briefly, such a proposition assumes a creation operating on totally different principles to the present dispensation. Free-will would be removed. No one would be held accountable for the consequences of their actions.

To turn particularly to the record in Judges 19 when “there was no king in Israel” we are confronted with a coward who put his own life above his wife, with the vile men of Gibeah, guilty of lust and murder, and then the awful consequences that flowed from these evils. The final outworking of all this can only come at the judgment seat of Christ, where punishment and blessing will be exercised in perfect righteousness.

There is a further point which must be made. Men speak as though they wanted God to intervene in the affairs of humanity to prevent evil and suffering, but the restrictions such would place on their own freedom to do as they wish is not so palatable. The Apocalypse speaks of those who “blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (16:11). All desire freedom from pain, but precious few want to repent and change the way they live.

The actions of Lot in Genesis 19:7–9 and the old man and the Levite in Judges 19:22–24 are also called in question. Even allowing for the different cultural circumstances of the day concerning hospitality, the actions of the two men in Judges 19 are utterly reprehensible. Instead of protecting the women of the house they were treated despicably by the very men who should have cared most for their safety. Let us however not fail to bear in mind the revulsion they would have felt at the gross sin which was the objective of the men of Sodom and of Gibeah, the sin of Sodom condemned so specifically by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:26.

Lot’s case seems to be different. Though he seemingly offers his two daughters to the men of Sodom (Gen 19:8), it is likely he had no intention of doing so. Unlike the ‘stalwarts’ of Judges 19 who remained well and truly inside the house, Lot went outside to talk to the men and shut the door behind him (Gen 19:6), putting himself in danger to protect his family and his two guests within. The record tells us that eventually “they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door” (19:9). The comments of Peter, when he tells us that God “delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked” (2 Pet 2:7) indicate God’s approval of Lot in the circumstances of Genesis 19 and seems to validate our understanding of what happened at the door of his house on that dreadful night.

Peter’s next comment perhaps can be seen as an over-arching view of some of the issues that arise from our reader’s questions: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Pet 2:9). God is not mocked. Evil finally is punished and, for us, the triumph of the Kingdom is ample reward for enduring the evils of this life.

For a fuller treatment on the issues of evil and suffering, readers could consider the pamphlet, “Why Does God Allow Suffering? The Bible answer to human tragedy”, a Christadelphian Magazine publication available through ecclesial libraries or The Christadelphian website.