Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Judges 19:1-15. A Levite going to Bethlehem to fetch his wife.
it came to pass in those days — The painfully interesting episode that follows, together with the intestine commotion the report of it produced throughout the country, belongs to the same early period of anarchy and prevailing disorder.
a certain Levite took to him a concubine — The priests under the Mosaic law enjoyed the privilege of marrying as well as other classes of the people. It was no disreputable connection this Levite had formed; for a nuptial engagement with a concubine wife (though, as wanting in some outward ceremonies, it was reckoned a secondary or inferior relationship) possessed the true essence of marriage; it was not only lawful, but sanctioned by the example of many good men.
went away from him unto her father‘s house — The cause of the separation assigned in our version rendered it unlawful for her husband to take her back (Deuteronomy 24:4); and according to the uniform style of sentiment and practice in the East, she would have been put to death, had she gone to her father‘s family. Other versions concur with Josephus, in representing the reason for the flight from her husband‘s house to be, that she was disgusted with him, through frequent brawls.
And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her — Hebrew, “speak to her heart,” in a kindly and affectionate manner, so as to rekindle her affection. Accompanied by a servant, he arrived at the house of his father-in-law, who rejoiced to meet him, in the hope that a complete reconciliation would be brought about between his daughter and her husband. The Levite, yielding to the hospitable importunities of his father-in-law, prolonged his stay for days.
tarried — with reluctance.
until afternoon — literally, “the decline of the day.” People in the East, who take little or nothing to eat in the morning, do not breakfast till from ten to twelve A.M., and this meal the hospitable relative had purposely protracted to so late a period as to afford an argument for urging a further stay.
the day draweth toward evening — Hebrew, “the pitching time of day.” Travelers who set out at daybreak usually halt about the middle of the afternoon the first day, to enjoy rest and refreshment. It was, then, too late a time to commence a journey. But duty, perhaps, obliged the Levite to indulge no further delay.
departed, and came over against Jebus — The note, “which is Jerusalem,” must have been inserted by Ezra or some later hand. Jebus being still, though not entirely (Judges 1:8) in the possession of the old inhabitants, the Levite resisted the advice of his attendant to enter it and determined rather to press forward to pass the night in Gibeah, which he knew was occupied by Israelites. The distance from Beth-lehem to Jerusalem is about six miles. The event showed that it would have been better to have followed the advice of his attendant - to have trusted themselves among aliens than among their own countrymen.
in Gibeah, or in Ramah — The first of these places was five miles northeast, the other from four to five north of Jerusalem.
when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city — The towns of Palestine at this remote period could not, it seems, furnish any establishment in the shape of an inn or public lodging-house. Hence we conclude that the custom, which is still frequently witnessed in the cities of the East, was then not uncommon, for travelers who were late in arriving and who had no introduction to a private family, to spread their bedding in the streets, or wrapping themselves up in their cloaks, pass the night in the open air. In the Arab towns and villages, however, the sheik, or some other person, usually comes out and urgently invites the strangers to his house. This was done also in ancient Palestine (Genesis 18:4; Genesis 19:2). That the same hospitality was not shown in Gibeah seems to have been owing to the bad character of the people.
Judges 19:16-21. An old man entertains him at Gibeah.
there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim — Perhaps his hospitality was quickened by learning the stranger‘s occupation, and that he was on his return to his duties at Shiloh.
there is no want of any thing — In answering the kindly inquiries of the old man, the Levite deemed it right to state that he was under no necessity of being burdensome on anyone, for he possessed all that was required to relieve his wants. Oriental travelers always carry a stock of provisions with them; and knowing that even the khans or lodging-houses they may find on their way afford nothing beyond rest and shelter, they are careful to lay in a supply of food both for themselves and their beasts. Instead of hay, which is seldom met with, they used chopped straw, which, with a mixture of barley, beans, or the like, forms the provender for cattle. The old man, however, in the warmth of a generous heart, refused to listen to any explanation, and bidding the Levite keep his stocks for any emergency that might occur in the remainder of his journey, invited them to accept of the hospitalities of his house for the night.
only lodge not in the street — As this is no rare or singular circumstance in the East, the probability is that the old man‘s earnest dissuasive from such a procedure arose from his acquaintance with the infamous practices of the place.
Judges 19:22-28. The Gibeahites abuse his concubine to death.
certain sons of Belial beset the house — The narrative of the horrid outrage that was committed; of the proposal of the old man; the unfeeling, careless, and in many respects, inexplicable conduct of the Levite towards his wife, disclose a state of morality that would have appeared incredible, did it not rest on the testimony of the sacred historian. Both men ought to have protected the women in the house, even though at the expense of their lives, or thrown themselves on God‘s providence. It should be noted, however, that the guilt of such a foul outrage is not fastened on the general population of Gibeah.
divided her into twelve pieces — The want of a regular government warranted an extraordinary step; and certainly no method could have been imagined more certain of rousing universal horror and indignation than this terrible summons of the Levite.
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