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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Judges 19

Verse 1

CHAP. XIX.

A Levite passes the night in Gibeah of Benjamin: the men of Gibeah abuse his concubine to death: the Levite divides her body into twelve parts, which he sends to the twelve tribes.

Before Christ 1426.

Judges 19:1. Took to him a concubine Women of this sort differed little from the wife, except in some outward ceremonies and stipulations, but agreed with her in all the true essences of marriage, and gave themselves up to the husband, (for so he is called in the next chapter, Judges 19:4.) with faith plighted, with sentiment, and with affection. See Selden de Jur. Nat. et Gent. l. v. c. 7.

Verse 2

Judges 19:2. And his concubine played the whore against him The Chaldee renders this, she despised him, &c. the LXX, she separated herself from him, with which Josephus agrees. It is probable, that this is the true reading; for one can hardly imagine, that otherwise her husband would have made such haste to follow, and obtain a reconciliation with her.

Verse 3

Judges 19:3. And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her In the original, to speak her heart, to refer to their former endearments, and to ask how she could be so unkind to him, and so very unkind to herself. Even the upbraidings of the quiet and relenting are sweet: not like the strivings of the fierce and inexorable, who bite and devour all that have thwarted them in their way; but they are calm, and courteous, like the spirit which watches over their character. How could such a temper woo the damsel, and not bring her back? Or how could the father of the damsel, beholding such a scene, have a heart open to any impressions but those mentioned in the latter clause; that when he saw him, he rejoiced to meet him; urged his stay, from day to day, with that soft invitation, comfort thine heart,—and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry. If mercy and truth thus meet together in settling this account, love would surely be of the party: great, great is its power in cementing what has been broken, and wiping out wrongs even from the memory itself: and so it was; for the Levite arose up, and with him his concubine, and his servant, and they departed.

REFLECTIONS.—The events of the following chapters are proofs how great a misery it is to any people to be without good government. We may observe here, (1.) That where there is real remorse in the offender, the injured should nor be implacable. (2.) Though parents should be very jealous how they receive those into their houses who have deserted their husbands, yet it is highly dangerous, by severity, to render those desperate, who, by milder methods, may be reclaimed. (3.) Generous hospitality to our friends and relations is very becoming, and a proof of our regard to them. (4.) Though we may yield somewhat to the importunity of friends, yet every man has calls at home, and Levites especially, which will not admit of long absence. (5.) Let kind friends beware of selfishness in their solicitations, lest their intended kindness do us real injury.

Verse 19

Judges 19:19. Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses The laws of hospitality were extremely sacred in ancient times; but the men of Gibeah, as they were grossly abandoned in vice, so were they wholly defective in this virtue, suffering this stranger, and traveller, to remain in the streets, without any invitation; which, at length, he received from a poor man who was himself only a sojourner among them. It should be remembered, that then, as now, there were no such things as inns in these countries; travellers usually carried with them not only provision for themselves, but for their beasts. Thus the Levite tells the old man, that he hath both straw and provender for his asses. The author of the Observations informs us, (p. 209.) that, as they have little or no hay in those countries, they are therefore very careful of their straw, which they cut into small pieces with an instrument, which, at the same time, thrashes out the corn. This chopped straw, with barley, beans, and balls made of bean and barley meal, or of the pounded kernels of dates, are what they are wont to feed them with. See 1 Kings 4:28. Isaiah 30:24.

REFLECTIONS.—Though the men of the city were so unkind or uncivil, there was one, though only a sojourner, who was of another spirit. He was an Ephraimite himself, but seems to have had some possessions near Gibeah; an old man, who had lived in better days, and consented not to the wickedness of the rising generation. Having spent the day industriously in the field, returning at night he sees and inquires into this stranger's business, and, ready to open his hospitable doors, receives him, doubly welcome as a Levite, and his countryman also. The Levite wanted nothing but a lodging, having sufficient provision and provender with him; but the good old man, too generous to permit this, entertains him at his table, and takes care of his cattle: this done, they, without doubt, began to look upon themselves as happy in the opportunity of spending a comfortable evening together. Note; (1.) A truly charitable heart looks out for, and is happy in an opportunity of doing good. (2.) The company of a minister of God is good payment for a hearty welcome. (3.) A good man will not wish to be troublesome to others when he has a provision of his own. (4.) We are sometimes rejoicing that our troubles are at an end, when we foresee not the darker cloud which is gathering.

Verse 22

Judges 19:22. Behold, the men of the city, &c.— As many circumstances of this horrid affair are very similar to those in Genesis 19., we refer to the comment on that place.

Verse 25

Judges 19:25. But the men would not hearken to him It is plain, from Jdg 19:5 of the next chapter, that all the particulars of this matter are not related. The Levite, resolutely bent to defend his own chastity, probably found no other way to save that and his life, than by giving up his concubine, and therefore of two evils chose the least.

Verse 26

Judges 19:26. The woman—fell down at the door of the man's house She fell down dead through shame, grief, and the scandalous abuse which she had received from these monsters. For the emphasis of the word Lord, see 1 Peter 3:6.

Verse 29

Judges 19:29. And sent her into all the coasts of Israel No doubt, he enjoined the bearers of this sacrifice to relate all the circumstances of it; upon which a general indignation animated the tribes. They agreed that no such deed had been done or seen among them since they were a people; for it was a mixture of adultery and murder, with a vile attempt at sodomy upon a stranger, upon a Levite, a person consecrated to the divine service. Determined properly to avenge it, they said, as if with one consent, consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds; which words are a prelude to what we find in the next chapter. A modern critic supposes, that the Levite's division of the body of his concubine was an anathema or devotion to the Lord, and that sending of the parts to each tribe clearly signified, that he invited them to revenge him, and to punish the guilty, on pain of being subjected to the curse. This writer compares the action of the Levite with that of Saul in after time, as mentioned 1 Samuel 11:0.; and, indeed, there is some conformity between them. The question then is, whether the Levite's proceeding laid the tribes under an indispensable necessity to espouse his cause and resentment on pain of the divine malediction? See Martin's Explication des Textes Difficiles, p. 118-130.

REFLECTIONS.—Behold another Lot in another Sodom! we have here,

1. The tumultuous assembly of the men of Gibeah. This should have been a city of the Levites; but, perhaps not being sufficiently numerous, the Benjamites, in whose tribe it lay, yet inhabited it; and a vile set of wretches they were, sons of Belial, who neither feared God nor regarded man, intent only upon the indulgence of their brutal lusts, and stopping at nothing to gratify them. In defiance of all laws, human and divine, they beset the house, demand the stranger, and dare avow their infamous designs upon him. Note; (1.) Continuance in lewdness breeds barefaced impudence. (2.) When a sinner is given up to his own heart's lust, he easily sinks into the most unnatural crimes which are shocking but to mention.

2. The good man of the house goes out to expostutate with them, pleads the rights of hospitality and the wickedness of their demands, nay proffers to bring them (a very sinful proposal, indeed, which never can be vindicated) his own daughter, and the Levite's concubine, that he might, by a lesser evil, divert them from a greater; but they are deaf to remonstrance, and their heart is fully set in them to do evil. Note; (1.) Sinners often grow desperate in wickedness, and, like the raging sea, neither will bear restraint nor hear admonition. (2.) We must never commit one evil to avoid a greater, but choose the greatest suffering preferably to the least sin.

3. The Levite's concubine, probably more handsome than the old man's daughter, being thrust out to them, they seize her; and, perhaps, seeing the old man resolute to gratify them no farther, they make her the object of their brutal lust. All night they abused her, till the dawning day casting unwelcome light on such deeds of darkness, they left her, and retired. Her strength exhausted, her spirit sunk with grief and shame, her body covered with mortal bruises, and murdered with this inhuman treatment, she just crawls to the door, falls down, and dies. Note; (1.) Perhaps the lust which had been her sin is now, in just judgment, made her punishment. (2.) They who have ruined the objects of their guilty pleasure may think lightly of their crimes, but will surely meet an avenging God.

4. In the morning the Levite arises to go; and, seeing his wife in this posture, thinks her ashamed of what had passed, or asleep on the ground, and therefore bids her arise: but he soon finds his mistake; she is dead. Hereupon he quietly takes her on his beast, glad to escape with his own life from such a scene of abominations; home he hastens, instead of going to Shiloh, as he proposed: and as there was no kind of general council, from whom he could seek redress, he takes a method which could not but tend to make every Israelite shudder with horror; he divided the dead body into twelve parts, and sent one to each tribe, with an account of what had passed, referring it to them to consider what punishment such atrocious wickedness deserved: one part was probably sent to Benjamin, as well as the other tribes, in case some might be found different from their brethren; or else two parts were for Manasseh, whose lot was divided.
5. Struck with indignation and horror at the deed, the whole body of the people, as one man, declare their sense of such an unparalleled crime. A solemn assembly is resolved upon, where they might meet to determine the punishment of the offenders; and in the mean time the matter is recommended to the serious consideration of each man, that, when they met in council, they might be ready to resolve upon a proper method of proceeding. Note; (1.) Even where the provocation is great, we do well to proceed with deliberation, lest our anger bias our resolutions. (2.) They, who would obtain God's blessing on the land, must seek to purge iniquity from it by executing justice on the criminals.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 19". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/judges-19.html. 1801-1803.