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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Judges 19

Verse 1

And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah.

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 ... 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; because 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.

Verse 2

And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months.

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 of the flight from her husband's house to be, that she was disgusted with him through frequent brawls.

Verse 3

And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father's house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.

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.

Verses 4-7

And his father in law, the damsel's father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 8

And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel's father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them.

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 have breakfast until from 10 to 12 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.

Verse 9

And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel's father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home.

The day draweth toward evening - Hebrew, 'the pitching time of day.' Travellers who set out at day-break usually halt about the middle of the afternoon the first evening, 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.

Verse 10

But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him.

The man ... departed, and came over against Jebus, [ Yªbuwc (H2982), trodden down; a threshing floor.] Lightfoot infers from this and other names that the old Canaanites, spoke Hebrew. 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.

Verses 11-12

And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 13

And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah.

In Gibeah, or in Ramah. The first of these places was five miles northeast, the other from four to five north, of Jerusalem.

Verse 14

And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 15

And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.

He went in ... 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; and 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 sheikh, 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); and that the same hospitality was not shown in Gibeah seems to have been owing to the bad character of the people.

Verse 16

And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites.

There came an old man from his work ... which was also of mount Ephraim - and perhaps his hospitality was quickened by learning the stranger's occupation, and that he was on his return to his duties at Shiloh.

Verses 17-18

And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing.

There is no want of anything. 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 any one, because he possessed all that was required to relieve his needs. 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 use chopped straw, which, with a mixture of barley, beans, or such-like, forms the provender for cattle. The old man, however, in the warmth of a generous heart, refused to listen to any explantation, and bidding the Levite keep his stock 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.

Verse 20

And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.

Peace be with thee - the genuine Hebrew and Oriental salutations still in use.

Only lodge not in the street. Since this is no rare or singular circumstance in the East (see the note at Genesis 19:2), 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.

Verse 21

So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.

So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses, [ wayaabaal (H1101), and mingled (food)] - i:e., chopped straw and barley.

Verse 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.

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 toward his wife, disclose a state of morality that would have appeared incredible, did it not rest on the testimony of the sacred historian. Both the one and the other ought to have protected the female inmates of the house, even though at the expense of their lives, or thrown themselves on God's providence. It should be noted that the guilt of such a foul outrage is not fastened on the general population of Gibeah. At the same time, the indulgence of debasing passions reveals the true origin of the strong addictedness to idolatrous rites. 'In the relaxing, oppressive climate of the Ghor the most odious vices appear native; and this explains the demoralized condition of the Benjamites in whose territory this plain was situated (Joshua 18:1-28.)' (Drew's 'Scripture Lands, p. 100; also Stewart, 'Tent and Khan,' p. 375).

Verses 23-28

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 29

And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.

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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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Judges 19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/judges-19.html. 1871-8.