A Levite and His Concubine
19 In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him. And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there. And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.” So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl’s father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.” And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again. And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl’s father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them. And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”
But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.
And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?” And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the LORD, but no one has taken me into his house. We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.” And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.” So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.
As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know 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 has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.
And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”
Judges 19 Commentary
by Hank Workman
When I taught high school Bible, the book of Judges was a part of the curriculum. This was mainly because the book as a whole is filled with the most extraordinary stories and also the most shocking. The reason for this choice was 2-fold. The first was to have the students discover that the Bible is interesting and filled with the unexpected. Most definitely this book held their attention.
But the second reason was the underlying thought throughout the continued cycle of the Israelite’s who chose to follow what they wanted instead of God and how it brought such hardship. This strange story was one that brought mouths to drop and questions to fly.
When I look at the story as a whole there are some overarching aspects which can most certainly speak to us. First we have a Levite who took on a concubine. On many aspects a concubine was a legal mistress. Although we read of others in Scripture who had one, such as Abraham, Jacob, Caleb, David, Solomon and Rehoboam, this was never God’s intention.
This type of relationship was never blessed by God. These concubines in the stories show how difficulty and hardship prevailed because of such a union. It also speaks toward the Levite’s position of feeding his own wants rather than following God.
Finally returning home, they did at least avoid a town of pagans but where they landed is apparently worse. They walked into a lair of sin. But as vile the men of Gibeah were the Levite and host of the home were just as guilty. They were willing to sacrifice another for the sake of saving themselves. As commentator Wolf writes: “One can easily see why the concubine had left her husband in the first place. She was sacrificed to save his skin as the men abused her all night.” What he does next to her shows the heartlessness of the man himselfWolf touches on something that must be looked at. The Levite was all about the Levite.
- He was looking out for himself from the very beginning of the story. He went and wooed his concubine in an attempt for what? The loss of a companion or the loss of his reputation that she had left him? Did her father actually see through the tactics which is why he went beyond the cultural times of hospitality in not wanting his daughter to leave?
- He looked out for himself when it became known that the men of the city wanted to have sex with him. He literally saved his skin when he allowed her to be put on the porch and ravaged horrifically.
- He looked out for himself when he went out the next morning, acting as if everything was ‘normal’ and it was time to move on to their destination.
- And he looked out for himself when he then, for who knows what reason, chose to cut his concubine up piece by piece and ship it off to the 12 Tribes. Was he trying to be the hero in the story he had allowed to happen? Was he trying to take the focus off of his self-centered attitude? Was he trying to cover up the sin of his own selfishness?
Judges 19 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
This is a terrible story, to say the least. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find a more shocking chapter in the Bible. In a horrifying scene of events, we get a picture of just how bad it has gotten within Israel. It would not be as surprising to witness such events within the pagan tribes surrounding Israel, but here we have a Levite priest who willingly gives his concubine over to men to rape and eventually kill.
There is almost a ho-hum, ordinary nature of these events. A perfect illustration is how easily the Levite man sleeps at night (knowing she is outside the door being raped and abused), and then wakes up, walks out to find her, and tells her to “get up” because he’s ready to go. There is no remorse for her suffering. We can conclude that when he attempts to get her back by going to her father’s house and speaking kindly to her, it wasn’t because he loved her but because it was to his own benefit.
Then the Levite man cuts up her body and sends the pieces to each of the 12 tribes! What is going on here???
First and foremost, this chapter illustrates the severe moral decline of God’s people. Gibeah offered no hospitality which was a breach of God’s law (Leviticus 25:35). The old man who finally offers lodging to the couple is actually from their same region (the mountains of Ephraim). This is a serious condemnation for the town of Gibeah. This earned Gibeah a reputation that would continue throughout Scripture.
They are hopelessly evil in what they do, just as they were at Gibeah. God will remember their sin and punish them for it.Hosea 9:9 GNB
The LORD says, “The people of Israel have not stopped sinning against me since the time of their sin at Gibeah. So at Gibeah war will catch up with them.Hosea 10:9 GNB
The suggestion of these perverted men to rape the Levite is bad enough but the fact that the Levite willingly offers his concubine for their pleasure is horrendous and disgusting. The old man is equally guilty for being willing to offer his own daughter!
The cutting of the concubine into pieces and sending her parts to the 12 tribes was most likely a wake-up call of sorts. It was drawing attention to the grotesque sin that had overtaken the nation.
I have referred to it many times but this is what happens when we “do what is right in our own eyes.” The worst part about this chapter is that there’s no redemptive quality to any of the characters. All of them, to some degree, have made appalling compromises to the truth of God. The greatest compromise in all this is the Levite priest who was supposed to be held to a higher standard as a teacher of the Lord.
When we engage in sin repeatedly, our hearts become calloused. We no longer feel the heartbeat of God. Evil becomes ordinary. The frightening part about this story is that these same things are happening in our nation this very day! Gibeah had become as evil as Sodom and Gomorrah and I would say our culture today is not much different.
Oh how we all need more of Jesus in this life!