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The Levite And His Concubine
v. 1. And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, when so many things happened which would not have taken place if there had been some one to enforce law and order in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of Mount Ephraim, living outside of a Levitical city, in the more distant parts of this range, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehem-judah, a secondary wife in addition to his real wife, this in itself indicating a decay of the priesthood.
v. 2. And his concubine played the whore against him, beyond him, she became unfaithful to the man whom she had willingly followed, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehem-judah, probably for fear of punishment, Deuteronomy 22:22, and was there four whole months, literally, some time, about four months.
v. 3. And her husband arose, he set out from home, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, to speak to her heart, to show her that he carried no grudge against her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him and a couple of asses, one for the woman to return on; and she, having permitted herself to be assured of his entire friendliness, brought him into her father's house, for only then would he accept his father-in-law's hospitality; and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.
v. 4. And his father-in-law, the damsel's father, retained him, kept him from returning home by the exercise of an uncommon, exaggerated hospitality which may have been prompted to some extent by a feeling of guilt for not having returned the Levite's concubine sooner; and he abode with him three days; so they did eat and drink and lodged there.
v. 5. And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart; and the damsel's father said unto his son-in-law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, a true Oriental exaggeration of humility, for they were continually feasting, and afterward go your way.
v. 6. And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together, the women not being permitted to eat together with the men ; for the damsel's father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, he asked that favor of him, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry.
v. 7. And when the man rose up to depart, with an uneasy feeling that he really ought to be at home, his father-in-law urged him; therefore he lodged there again.
v. 8. And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart; and the damsel's father, still with the same excess of hospitality, said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, literally, till the day declined, till past noon, and they did eat, both of them.
v. 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, literally, the day sinks down, I pray you tarry all night; behold, the day groweth to an end, the pitching time of the day was near. Lodge here that thine heart may be merry; and tomorrow get you early on your way that thou mayest go home. The Levite's experience was that of all weak and vacillating people: first, unnecessary delay and then overstrained hurry.
v. 10. But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem, for the road from Bethlehem to the north passed by Jerusalem ; and there were with him two asses saddled; his concubine also was with him.
v. 11. And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent, it was late afternoon; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, for the city was still in the hands of the heathen at that time, and lodge in it.
v. 12. And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel, for the Benjamites had not yet taken the city, Judges 1:21, and he feared to be plundered by the Jebusites ; we will pass over to Gibeah, about as far north of Jerusalem as Bethlehem was south.
v. 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, another town nearby.
v. 14. And they passed on and went their way, having still some six or eight miles to travel. And the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin.
v. 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, in the open place or square of the city, where they expected some resident of the city to invite them into his house, according to ancient usage ; for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging, no one invited the traveler to the shelter of his roof.
v. 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, he was not a citizen of the town; but the men of the place were Benjamites.
v. 17. And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city, feeling the lack of hospitality in this city of Israel; and the old man, mindful of the love toward the stranger enjoined in the Law, Deuteronomy 10:19, said, Whither goest thou? And whence camest thou? This was said, either in true hospitable interest, or in surprise that a man should not have heard of the inhospitable disposition of this town.
v. 18. And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehem-judah toward the side of Mount Ephraim; from thence am I; and I went to Bethlehem-judah. But I am now going to the house of the Lord, that is, his walk in life, his occupation was at the house of Jehovah, the Levite thus mentioning his order; and there is no man that receiveth me to house, probably because they knew his occupation and were hostile to everything that reminded them of the true religion and of purity of life.
v. 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 anything; they were not looking for charity, but only for shelter for the night.
v. 20. And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever, let all thy wants lie upon me, he would care for all the needs of the travelers; only lodge not in the street.
v. 21. So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses; and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink, enjoying the hospitality of the old man. True hospitality is a virtue which cannot be practiced too often, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares, Hebrews 13:2.
The Shameful Act of the Men of Gibeah
v. 22. Now, as they were making their hearts merry, as they became better acquainted during the evening meal, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, worthless, profitless, vicious fools, among whom, apparently, were also the leaders of the city, beset the house round about, to prevent escape, and beat at the door, becoming more insistent right along, 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. They wanted to commit the same revolting crime of Sodomy or pederasty upon the Levite which had brought destruction upon Sodom, Genesis 19:6-8.
v. 23. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, as Lot had done in the same situation, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, being protected by the ancient rules of hospitality, do not this folly.
v. 24. Behold, here is my daughter, a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, in making them objects of their lust, and do with them what seemeth good unto you; but unto this man do not so vile a thing, in committing an act of infamous immorality.
v. 25. But the men would not hearken to him, for even ordinary fornication did not satisfy their depraved desires; so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them, hoping thereby to save himself, to prevent one sin by committing another; and they, turning their wantonness upon the woman, since no other victim seemed available, knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning, in an orgy of devilish lust; and when the day began to spring, at the first dawn of morning, they let her go.
v. 26. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, just as it was getting light, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord, her husband, was, till it was light, deprived of her life by the beastly treatment accorded her by the mob.
v. 27. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way, considering the idea of ever recovering his concubine as being utterly hopeless in this den of iniquity; and, behold, the woman, his concubine, was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold, her arms stretched out, as though seeking help.
v. 28. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. His wife was dead. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up and gat him unto his place.
v. 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, divided after the manner of slaughtered animals, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel, messengers going forth to explain the meaning of their gruesome burden, according to an ancient custom of inviting men to join in wreaking vengeance upon the perpetrators of such a beastly act.
v. 30. And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day. Consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds; they were to think over the case, to take counsel one with another, and get ready to act in the matter, for it was out of the question that such a horrible deed should go unpunished. That is the result when men forget and forsake the living God every form of uncleanness and immorality, the most unnatural horrors: Let the heart of every man be firm in the fear of the Lord, lest he take part in deeds of darkness and become a slave of the Prince of Darkness.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Judges 19". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27