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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Judges 19

 

 

Verses 1-21

SECOND SECTION

The Story Of The Infamous Deed Perpetrated At Gibeah, And Its Terrible Consequences Another Illustration Of The Evils That Result When “every Man Does What Is Good In His Own Eyes.”

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A Levite, whose concubine has left him, goes to her father’s house, and persuades her to return. On their journey home, they enter Gibeah to pass the night there, but are inhospitably left in the market-place, until an Ephraimite resident of the city takes them home

Judges 19:1-21.

1And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side [in the hinder parts] of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah 2 And his concubine played the whore against him,[FN1] and went away from him unto her father’s house to Bethlehem judah, and was there [some time (namely),] four whole [omit: whole] months 3 And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again,[FN2] 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 4 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 5 And it came to pass on the fourth day, when [that] they arose early in the morning, that [and] he rose up to depart: and the damsel’s father said unto his Song of Solomon -in-law, Comfort [Strengthen] thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way 6 And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for [and] the damsel’s father had [omit: had] said unto the Prayer of Manasseh, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all [pass the] night, and let thine heart be merry 7 And when the man rose up to depart, his father-in-law urged him: therefore he [turned and] lodged there again 8 And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel’s father said, Comfort [Strengthen] thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried[FN3] until afternoon [until the day declined], and they did eat both of them 9 And when the man rose up to depart, Hebrews, 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 [pass the] night: [and again:] behold, the day groweth to an end [declines], lodge here, that [and let] thine heart may [omit: may] be merry; and to-morrow [you shall] get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home [and thou shalt go to thy tent]. 10But 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 11with him. 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 12 And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither[FN4] into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children [sons] of Israel; we will pass over to [as far as] Gibeah 13 And he said unto his servant, Come,[FN5] [forward!] and let us draw near to one of these [the sc. neighboring] places [,] to lodge all [and pass the] night, [omit:,] in Gibeah, or in Ramah 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 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 [the open space] of 16 the city: for [and] there was no man that took them into his house to lodging. And behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also [and the man was] of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah; but the 17 men of the place were Benjamites. And when [omit: when] he had [omit: had] lifted up his eyes, he [and] saw a [the] wayfaring man in the street [open space] of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou? 18And he said unto him, We are passing from Beth-lehem-judah toward the [hinder] side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Beth-lehem-judah, but I am now going to the house of the Lord [Jehovah];[FN6] and there is no man that receiveth me to house 19 Yet there is [we have] both straw and provender for our asses; and there is [we have] 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 20 And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever [only], let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street [open space]. 21So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 19:2 Dr. cassel renders : und es gelüstete seinem nebenweib über ihn hinaus; which may possibly be good interpretation, but cannot be admitted as translation. The Sept. and Vulg. do not render the phrase at all, while chaldee softens it down to “she despised him ”. Hence, it has been thought that the present reading of the Hebrew text is wrong; but the fact that the Peshito has it, and that the other ancient versions do not agree in their reading, shows that the diversity arose from a sense of incongruity between what was affirmed of the woman and the efforts of the Levite to recover her. עָלָיו is “against him”.—Tr.]

2 Judges 19:3—The keri לַהֲשִׁיבָהּ is evidently the more appropriate reading, as Studer and Bertheau have conceded. [In the kethibh, לַהֲשִׁיבוֹ, the suffix refers to the preceding לֵב: “to cause her heart to return,” i.e, to turn again to her husband. Compare keil, who deems the keri a “needless correction”.—Tr

3 Judges 19:8—הִתְמַהְמהוּ. Older Jewish expositors, as Abarbanel and Meir Obernick, very properly take this, not as imperative, but as 3 d per. perf. It is against the sense to make the father say : “Delay till it become evening.”

4 Judges 19:12—The “hither” of the E.V. seems to be intended as a rendering of הֵנָּה, which, however, belongs to the next clause. הֵנָּה must be taken with אֲשֶׁר in the sense שָׁם . . . . אֲשֶׁר,“where.” “It is true” (says Bertheau), “that הֵנָּה does not elsewhere occur in this construction with אֲשֶׁר but this is the only suitable way of taking it here, for it cannot be the plur. fem. pronoun, and must therefore mean ‘there.’ ” The proper rendering of the verse, then, would be : “We will not turn aside into the city of the stranger, where there are none of the sons of Israel.” The E. V. leaves it doubtful whether “that” refers to “city ” or to “stranger.” Dr. Casel refers it to the latter, and ignores the הֵנָּה altogether.—Tr

5 Judges 19:13—לְךָ is for, לְכָה, the imperative of הָלַך, with He paragogic.—לַנּוּ is the 1 per. plur. perfect, contracted from לַנְנוּ—Tr.

6 Judges 19:18.—ואֶת־בֵּית יְהוָֹה אֲנִי הֹלֵךְ. The meaning of this clause is obscure. The Sept. renders as if it read בֵּיתִי instead of בֵּית יְחוָֹה: I am going to my house. The Targum, Peshito, Vulgate, and among moderns, Bertheau, De Wette, Bunsen (the two latter in their versions), take אֶת־בֵּית יְהוָֹה as the accusative, and render as the E. V. Others, as Studer, Keil, and our author, take אֶת as a preposition, in the sense “with,” “at,” or “by:” “I walk by (or, in) the House of Jehovah,” i. e., I perform priestly service in connection with the sanctuary. This gives a good sense (cf. the commentary below), but the mode of expressing it seems singular. On the other hand, there is no compulsory evidence in favor of this and against the other rendering. The sanctuary being at Shiloh, there is (so far as the site of this place is known) no conflict between the Levite’s first statement that he is going to the “hinder parts” (a necessarily indefinite expression) of the mountains of Ephraim, and his subsequent supplementary statement that he is going to the “House of Jehovah.” Keil’s objection that הָלַךְ אֵת does not mean to go to a place, but to pass through it (cf. Deuteronomy 1:19; Isaiah 1:10. etc.), cannot be considered decisive. Since the “through” does not lie in the אֵת, it proves only that the accusative may indicate either the place to which, or that through which, one goes. It is true, that the place to which one goes, is usually put in the accusative without אֵת, either with or without ה local; but as אֵת was constantly used with the definite accusative, and had withal so entirely lost all meaning of its own, it is certainly quite conceivable that it might almost unconsciously slip from the pen in a place where ordinarily common usage did not employ it. And since, as already remarked, the idea of “through” does not lie in אֵת, it may well be asked whether the instances referred to by Keil are not exceptions to common usage quite as much as the present phrase. Upon the whole, we are inclined to adopt the rendering of the E. V.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 19:1. When there was no king in Israel. The following narrative has, indeed, as was already remarked, no special connection, either chronological or local, with the history related in chaps17,18; but it none the less affords, in conjunction with that history, occasion for a series of observations which testify, in a highly instructive manner, of the organic idea which pervades the whole Book. We shall attempt to indicate them at the close of the narrative. “There was no king in Israel:” this alone it was that made the occurrences of both chaps17,18, and chaps19–21possible. In the present history also, a Levite is involved. The decay of the priesthood is here also indicated. From the connection it is sufficiently clear that the conduct of the Levite who, living in the northern part of the mountains of Ephraim, procures himself a concubine out of Bethlehem—probably for no other reason than that, as Josephus rightly conjectures, he was smitten with her beauty,—is not approved. From the fact that the residence of the Levite is here spoken of as being in the “hinder parts” of the mountains, by which the northern parts are to be understood, no reliable inference can be drawn as to the locality of the writer; for the Levite himself uses the same expression ( Judges 19:18). Since the Levite took a concubine (אִשָּׁה פִּלֶּגֶשׁ), it must be assumed that he already had a wife. Else why did he not make this woman his wife? For other grounds, such as have been conjectured, find no support in the narrative. Precisely here lies the blot upon the character of the priest, which the narrative hints at. The word פִּלֶּגֶשׁ is both etymologically and in sense identical with the Greek and Roman πάλλαξ, pellex, παλλακίς; but Benfey’s derivation cannot be received. The sense “concubine,” which the word has, may perhaps be explained from פָּלַג. Among the ancient Greeks also the taking of a concubine was not considered exactly blameworthy, but Laertes refrained from touching Eurycleia for “fear of the anger of his wife” (Odys. i434). The sequel shows that the Levite had done better if he had not taken a concubine. A concubine also was the ruin of Gideon’s family ( Judges 8:31).

Judges 19:2. And the concubine lusted after others beside himself. The concubine was unchastely disposed. This is only a stronger expression for what the moderns mean when with palliative extenuation they say: “She did not love her husband.” Her sensuality was not satisfied with the Levite. In this way the narrator explains the ground of her leaving him. The correctness of וַתִּזְנֶח was frequently doubted in former days, but only because the connection of the entire narrative was misapprehended. זָנָה is to play the harlot, not only in Acts, but also in disposition and spirit (cf. μοιχεύειν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ, Matthew 5:28): hence used also of idolatry. In the added עָלָיו, “over him,”[FN7] it is delicately indicated that she did not so act as to be put away by him, but that she was of such a disposition as to be unwilling to live with him. That she left him without his consent can have had its ground only in her concupiscence, which the narrator intentionally designates by the term זָנה, in order to blame the Levite for yet running after such a woman.[FN8] For it is written, Leviticus 21:7 : “A זֹנָה, harlot, and one polluted, they shall not take to wife.” Although this passage speaks only of the sons of Aaron, it applies nevertheless to all who, as the Levite says of himself, “walk in the house of Jehovah” ( Judges 19:18).

And she was there some time (about) four months. She had perhaps gone away under pretext of visiting her parents, and did not come back. The יָמִים before the more definite statement of time, expresses the Latin circiter. As she had already remained away some four months, it looked as if she would not return to her husband’s house at all; wherefore the Levite set out to persuade her to come back. He should not have done this, since she was such as that it was said of her: וַתִּזְנֶה. Her father, for his part, ought to have sent her back; for the Levite had undoubtedly not failed to pay him a morning-gift (cf. Exodus 22:15), the remembrance of which, and the fear that if his daughter did not go back with her husband he might be called upon to return it, had probably no little influence in producing the friendliness with which he received him. Such was also the ancient Homeric custom, as illustrated in the instance of Hephaistos, who having proved the infidelity of his spouse, demands back the gifts with which he had presented her father (Odys. viii318).

Judges 19:3. And her husband arose and went after her. The Levite, however, desires only the woman, not any money. Hence it is said that he went after her in order to speak “to her heart.” And he shows it by bringing two asses with him,—one of them for her use. It never occurs to him to think that her father may perhaps provide her with one. Only after the daughter has again become friendly to him, does he allow her to lead him to her father. The uncommon hospitality which the latter extends to the Levite, has, it must be allowed, a peculiar by-taste to it. No doubt, it is apologetic in its design, and expressive of a wish for reconciliation. This is clearly enough expressed in the acts of eating and drinking together. But the urgency with which after three days he presses the Levite to remain, although the latter is desirous of returning home, is not sanctioned by the delicate laws of ancient hospitality. The incident illustrates the beauty of the words which Menelaus addresses to Telemachus who desires to go home (Odys. xv69): “I will not detain thee here; for I also am angry with a host who through troublesome friendship offers trouble some enmity, for order is best in everything. Equally bad are both he who hastens the guest who would stay, and he who detains him who would go” (cf. Nägelsbach, Hom. Theol. p256). The injuriousness of exaggerated hospitality is here also put in instructive contrast with the utter absence of it, which it fell to the lot of the Levite soon to experience.

Judges 19:4-9. And his father-in-law detained him. The carnal nature of the Levite manifests itself here also. Soon after the reconciliation, he wished to depart again; but he yields, and spends three days in eating and drinking. On the fourth morning, he will go; but his host urges him first to take a “morsel of bread.” He might nevertheless have set out on his journey; but “they ate and drank,” and it became evening. He proposed indeed to go, but turned about and remained. On the fifth morning, everything is ready for a start. But refreshments are first taken at the request of the host: they “both ate,” and thus spent the day until the evening approached. No right-minded Levite manifests himself here. We hear of nothing but eating and drinking. It reflects no honor on a man who “walks in the house of God,” that he runs after a concubine, and cannot resist a good table.

When, however, at last he sets out, late in the afternoon, his conscience appears to urge him forward, and to make him ashamed of having remained so long. Perhaps he has no time to spare, if with his servant and animals, he is to rest at home on the Sabbath. For if we may suppose that the reconciliation took place on the Sabbath, the first three days of feasting would fall on our Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday: the “fourth day” of Judges 19:5 would be Wednesday, and the “fifth day” our Thursday; and he might think it possible to reach home before the next evening. But in that case no time was to be lost. His experience is that of all weak and vacillating people: first, unnecessary delay, and then overstrained hurry.

The delineation of these scenes, which repeat themselves so frequently in life, is notwithstanding its brevity, full of vivacity and beauty. The guests continually rise at early daybreak (בַּבֹּקֶר); but the evening still finds them in the same place. The host is unwearied in encouragements “to refresh the heart” (וְיִטַב לבָבֶךָ,סְעָד לִבְּךָ);[FN9]but the “refreshing” continues until “the day declines.” Verses8,9 especially give a striking picture of irresolution and dilatoriness. They permit us to follow the various stages of the day that were thus dissipated. With breakfast they lingered along (הִתְמַהְמהוּ) until נְטוֹת הַיּוֹם, say after noon. While they prepare themselves anew to take their departure, time passes, and the host begs them to remain, “for the day draweth toward evening;” and after a little more lingering—for this idea must be interposed before הַיּו̇ם חֲנוֹת—he is able to urge, “spend the night, for the day declines.”

It is unmistakably clear that the father-in-law meant it well with the Levite, when, according to general popular usage, he overwhelmed him with food and drink and pressing invitations; but it is incumbent on Levites especially, not to be too much taken up with such matters. It is better that they make it evident, that in case of necessity they are quite content with a path lechem, a morsel of bread.

Judges 19:10 ff.. But the man would not tarry that night. At last—but now unseasonably, for the night is at hand—he is firm in his resolution to depart. The sun is already rapidly declining, when he comes past Jerusalem, at that time still called Jebus,[FN10] for the tribe of Benjamin had not yet conquered it ( Judges 1:21). He will not turn in thither, although advised to do so by his servant, because he has “two saddled asses and his concubine with him,”—the repetition of which statement is thus explained,—and the city belongs not to Israel. In other words, he fears lest in Jebus the rights of hospitality might be violated, and himself be plundered. He hastens forward, therefore, in order to reach one of the Israelitish cities farther on, Gibeah, perhaps, or Ramah. He succeeds only in reaching the former. Darkness had set in: it was unavoidably necessary to stay there over night. It will soon be seen that it would have been better if he had not suffered himself to be detained in the morning, and that he could not have done worse if he had turned into the heathen city.

Judges 19:15-21. And no man took them to his house. Gibeah (the present Jeba, Geba),[FN11] lies an hour from Ramah (at present er-Râm), about two and a half hours from Jerusalem,[FN12] and towards four hours from Bethlehem. It belonged to Benjamin. Strangers disposed themselves on the open space or square of the city (רְחֹב, platea), whence according to ancient usage the residents took them to their own homes. Ælian relates (Var. Hist. iv1), that the Lucanians went so far as to make the man who did not show hospitality to the stranger entering the city at sunset, liable to legal punishment. But here in Israel, where love toward the stranger was enjoined by the law ( Deuteronomy 10:19), and where Job exclaims: “The stranger did not lodge in the street” ( Job 31:32), no one invited the traveller to the shelter of his roof.

This inhospitable disposition was characteristic only of the inhabitants of this city; for a man of Ephraim, who resided in Gibeah, did not share it. When Hebrews, an old Prayer of Manasseh, came from the field, and saw that a stranger had already made preparations to pass the night in the open air, he went to him with hospitable intent. That he first asks, Whence art thou? and whither goest thou? is only the result of his astonishment that anybody should purpose to pass the night in Gibeah out of doors. For the city had probably a bad name in the neighboring region, so that, when possible, it was shunned by travellers. Hence the question, Whence comest thou, that thou hast turned in here for the night?

My walk in life is at the house of Jehovah. The narrator has hitherto spoken of the Levite only as “the man.” The character of a Levite did not show itself in him. But now, in his answer to the aged Ephraimite, the Levite himself makes mention of his order. I come, he says, from Bethlehem, but reside behind the mountains. The purpose for which he went to Bethlehem, he does not communicate; but, on the other hand, he does take occasion to state that he is a Levite (Josephus). He expresses this paraphrastically, by saying that “he walks in the house of God,” namely, as a servant of God. He chooses this form of expression in order to invite hospitality, and to place the refusal of it in its worst light. A man who is at home in the House of God, no one here receives into his house. But one degeneracy follows in the wake of another. When Levites are so weak as he has shown himself, the virtues of others cannot continue strong. The dignity of which it now occurs to him to speak, he himself should have respected heretofore. The explanation of וְאֶת־בֵּית יְהוָֹה אֲנִי הֹלֵך, as if it meant, “and I am going to the house of Jehovah,” is not only philologically difficult, but on account of the sense, impossible.[FN13] Whither he goes, he has already said, namely, to the rear part of the mountains; he wishes now to say who he is; that he enjoys the dignity of walking “with (i. e, in) the house of Jehovah,” as its servant. He is very anxious to obtain shelter, for the prospect of spending the night in an inhospitable city without a roof over him, could not but fill him with apprehensions. The same cause prevented him from continuing his journey. Hence the humble request to the aged householder to take him in. He has everything necessary with him,—his entertainer shall be at no expense. He speaks of himself as his “servant,” and of the woman as “thy handmaid.” The old man gladly complies with the ancient hospitable usage, according to which animals are fed first, and the wants of men are attended to afterwards.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Judges 19:2 Dr. cassel renders : und es gelüstete seinem nebenweib über ihn hinaus; which may possibly be good interpretation, but cannot be admitted as translation. The Sept. and Vulg. do not render the phrase at all, while chaldee softens it down to “she despised him ”. Hence, it has been thought that the present reading of the Hebrew text is wrong; but the fact that the Peshito has it, and that the other ancient versions do not agree in their reading, shows that the diversity arose from a sense of incongruity between what was affirmed of the woman and the efforts of the Levite to recover her. עָלָיו is “against him”.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Judges 19:3—The keri לַהֲשִׁיבָהּ is evidently the more appropriate reading, as Studer and Bertheau have conceded. [In the kethibh, לַהֲשִׁיבוֹ, the suffix refers to the preceding לֵב: “to cause her heart to return,” i.e, to turn again to her husband. Compare keil, who deems the keri a “needless correction”.—Tr

FN#3 - Judges 19:8—הִתְמַהְמהוּ. Older Jewish expositors, as Abarbanel and Meir Obernick, very properly take this, not as imperative, but as 3 d per. perf. It is against the sense to make the father say : “Delay till it become evening.”

FN#4 - Judges 19:12—The “hither” of the E.V. seems to be intended as a rendering of הֵנָּה, which, however, belongs to the next clause. הֵנָּה must be taken with אֲשֶׁר in the sense שָׁם . . . . אֲשֶׁר,“where.” “It is true” (says Bertheau), “that הֵנָּה does not elsewhere occur in this construction with אֲשֶׁר but this is the only suitable way of taking it here, for it cannot be the plur. fem. pronoun, and must therefore mean ‘there.’ ” The proper rendering of the verse, then, would be : “We will not turn aside into the city of the stranger, where there are none of the sons of Israel.” The E. V. leaves it doubtful whether “that” refers to “city ” or to “stranger.” Dr. Casel refers it to the latter, and ignores the הֵנָּה altogether.—Tr

FN#5 - Judges 19:13—לְךָ is for, לְכָה, the imperative of הָלַך, with He paragogic.—לַנּוּ is the 1 per. plur. perfect, contracted from לַנְנוּ—Tr.

FN#6 - Judges 19:18.—ואֶת־בֵּית יְהוָֹה אֲנִי הֹלֵךְ. The meaning of this clause is obscure. The Sept. renders as if it read בֵּיתִי instead of בֵּית יְחוָֹה: I am going to my house. The Targum, Peshito, Vulgate, and among moderns, Bertheau, De Wette, Bunsen (the two latter in their versions), take אֶת־בֵּית יְהוָֹה as the accusative, and render as the E. V. Others, as Studer, Keil, and our author, take אֶת as a preposition, in the sense “with,” “at,” or “by:” “I walk by (or, in) the House of Jehovah,” i. e., I perform priestly service in connection with the sanctuary. This gives a good sense (cf. the commentary below), but the mode of expressing it seems singular. On the other hand, there is no compulsory evidence in favor of this and against the other rendering. The sanctuary being at Shiloh, there is (so far as the site of this place is known) no conflict between the Levite’s first statement that he is going to the “hinder parts” (a necessarily indefinite expression) of the mountains of Ephraim, and his subsequent supplementary statement that he is going to the “House of Jehovah.” Keil’s objection that הָלַךְ אֵת does not mean to go to a place, but to pass through it (cf. Deuteronomy 1:19; Isaiah 1:10. etc.), cannot be considered decisive. Since the “through” does not lie in the אֵת, it proves only that the accusative may indicate either the place to which, or that through which, one goes. It is true, that the place to which one goes, is usually put in the accusative without אֵת, either with or without ה local; but as אֵת was constantly used with the definite accusative, and had withal so entirely lost all meaning of its own, it is certainly quite conceivable that it might almost unconsciously slip from the pen in a place where ordinarily common usage did not employ it. And since, as already remarked, the idea of “through” does not lie in אֵת, it may well be asked whether the instances referred to by Keil are not exceptions to common usage quite as much as the present phrase. Upon the whole, we are inclined to adopt the rendering of the E. V.—Tr.]

FN#7 - The German is: über ihn. The sentence seems to mean that if the woman had actually committed adultery, the fact would have been expressed by תִּזְבֱה alone, but that since, her sin existed only in disposition, the עָלָיו was added to indicate this. But how our author conceives this to be indicated by the preposition and suffix, does not appear.—Tr.]

FN#8 - Other views, as advanced by Starke and others, according to which this journey of the Levite redounds to his praise, do not appear to have any support in the text.

FN#9 - סְעָד. In this unusual form an imperative of courteous respect is probably indicated.

FN#10 - It does not by any means follow from this, however, that the city at that time did not yet bear the name Jerusalem. The place was still a Jebusite city; and that fact is here made prominent in order to explain why the Levite would not turn in thither.

FN#11 - This identification of Gibeah with Jeba does not appear to be tenable; for it makes it incomprehensible how the Levite could come to Gibeah before he came to Ramah, as the narrative manifestly implies that he did. Keil also most strangely speaks here of Gibeah as being Jeba, although on Joshua 18:28, he identifies it with Tuleil el Fûl, a high hill about midway between Jerusalem and er-Râm. This place, fixed upon by Robinson (B. R. i577), and after him by Ritter (cf. Gage’s transl. iv219), and many others, is undoubtedly the site of the ancient Gibeah (cf. Smith’s Bib. Dict. s. v. “Gibeah”). The distance of Gibeah from Jerusalem given by Josephus (compare the next note) agrees with this; for the distance of Tuleil el Fûl from Jerusalem is about two-thirds that of Bethlehem (while Jeba is much farther, cf. Dr. Cassel’s “two hours and a half”). Jeba is the Geba of Scripture (Rob. i440; Bib. Dict. s. v “Geba”).—Tr.]

FN#12 - Josephus has stated the distance at twenty stadia, while from Bethlehem to Jerusalem he reckons thirty stadia.

FN#13 - This also removes the supposition that the Levite was from Shiloh. This is not to be assumed, since it is not stated. The above words give no more information concerning the birth-place of the Levite, than is conveyed in the genera statement that he was a Levite.


Verses 22-30

The wicked deed of the Gibeathites, and the measure taken by the Levite to invoke the judgment of the nation on the perpetrators.

Judges 19:22-30

22Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain [omit: certain] sons of Belial [worthless fellows], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old Prayer of Manasseh, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him 23 And the Prayer of Manasseh, 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 Isaiah 24come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter, a maiden [virgin], and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing25[lit.the matter of this folly]. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go 26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, [and lay there] till it was light 27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold 28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an29[the] ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with [according to] her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts [country] of Israel 30 And it was Song of Solomon, that all that saw it, said,[FN14] There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children [sons] of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 19:30.—“The perfects וְהָיָה,וְאָמַר, Judges 19:30, do not stand for the imperfects with vav consecutive, וַיְהִי,וַיּאֹמֶר, as Hitzig, Bertheau, and others suppose, but are perfecta consequentiœ, expressive of the result which the Levite expects from his action. It is only necessary to supply a לֵאמֹר before וְהָיָה, which in lively narration or agitated discourse is frequently omitted (cf. e.g. Exodus 8:5 with Judges 7:2). The narrator uses the perfects, instead of the imperfects with simple ו, usual in clauses expressive of design, quia quod futurum esse prœvidebat tanquam factum animo suo obversabatur (Rosenmüller). The Levite’s expectation that the moral indignation of all the tribes will be roused against such wickedness, and will lead them to resolve on punishment, is thus represented not as a doubtful conjecture, but as the confident anticipation of a certainly ensuing fact” (Keil). It is impossible to imitate this exactly in English, but the better rendering of the passage would be: “sent her into all the territory of Israel, saying [or, as we would say, thinking] it shall be that all who see shall say. There was no such deed done or seen,” etc. Chapter20 shows, as Keil remarks, that the Levite was right in his anticipations. Dr. Cassel translates as the E. V.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 19:22 ff. The narrator is aware that he has to relate a history similar to the one that occurred in Sodom in the days of Lot; for at suitable points his language takes the same turns of expression (cf. Genesis 19:5; Genesis 19:7-8). Lot was only a resident in Sodom, just as here the aged Ephraimite is in Gibeah. Hebrews, like the latter, had invited the guests to his house. The Sodomites surrounded the house, and demanded the surrender of the strangers, as the Gibeathites do here. Lot proposes to bring forth his daughters, and the aged host of our history makes the same proposition. The dissimilarities, it is true, are equally conspicuous. The guests of Lot were angels, who frustrated all sinful designs: here, the entertainer receives but an imperfect Levite. Although the aged host cannot be compared with the hospitable nephew of Abraham, it must be admitted that he acts like a good Israelite. The men of Gibeah were personally sinners even beyond those of Sodom, for they had a God who does not tolerate such abominations. But their sin was the outbreaking of individual depravity; in Sodom it was the fruit of the national life. Hence, both were punished according to their guilt. Benjamin perished almost; Sodom was wholly destroyed. In Sodom all sinned, from the youth to the gray head ( Genesis 19:4): in Gibeah, the criminals were “sons of wickedness,” who, however, by being called אַנְשֵׁי הָעיר, “men of the city,” are shown to belong to the higher classes, which circumstance also accounts for their unchecked attainment of such great proficiency in evil. This nightly vagabondizing of wanton youth was but too well known to antiquity, even in Roman times, when Roman emperors took part in it. Here, however, unholy, idolatrous usages seem also to have come into play, according to which strangers were abused for purposes of sensuality, as, contrariwise, in the service of the Syrian Goddess natives were given up to the stranger. It was a night-riot, which began with sundown and ceased with the morning. Hence, the Levite probably remained unmolested until night had fully set in, and could depart unhindered when the day broke.

It was at all events a fearful crime in Israel. The Mosaic law punished it with death ( Leviticus 20:13; cf. Judges 18:22, etc.). Even the infringement of the rights of hospitality was in Hesiod’s opinion, which was followed by the later Greeks, a crime of equal magnitude with adultery or the defilement of a father’s bed (Nägelsbach, Nachhom. Theol252 f.). The aged host was, therefore, right in speaking of the matter as a נְבָלָה, an abominable crime. But the savage Benjamites are no more willing to hear reason than the men of Sodom were. Their violent thundering at the door (מִתְדַּפְּקִים), and their language (cf. Genesis 19:9), afforded sufficient occasion to the host to fear that they would soon break into the house itself. He is most especially concerned to shield the Levite, for in this direction lay the chief crime. Hence, no requisition is made upon the servant to give himself up for his master—for that would not have changed the nature of the crime,—but the host, like Lot, offers them women,[FN15] his own daughter being one. But he is not called upon to make this sacrifice: the Benjamites will not have his daughter; for she is no stranger, and belongs to their neighbor. It is especially to this offer of his daughter that the opening words of Judges 19:25 apply: “they would not hearken.” Hereupon the Levite takes his resolution, and leads forth his concubine. Her beauty pacifies the violent wantons; but she herself falls a victim to their horrible lusts. The beastly treatment she receives deprives her of life. What an awful lesson! The same woman, whose sensuality was heretofore unsatisfied, is now killed by excess of illicit intercourse. The Levite who, notwithstanding her wanton disposition, runs after her, is now obliged to give her up to others.[FN16] She who would not live for him, must now die for him.—In Christendom, also, similar horrors have occurred. Who could bear to write the history of licentiousness! At the close of the fourteenth century a Thuringian knight abducted a maiden. Placing her on his horse behind himself, he intended to reach Erfurt the same evening before the closing of the city-gates. He failed, and was compelled to seek shelter with the maiden in the hospital situated outside of the city. The inmates, when they saw the beautiful woman, murdered the knight, and abused her until she died. The crime being discovered, the house was burned down, together with the criminals (Falkenstein, Hist. von Erfurt, p277).

Judges 19:29 f.. And he came into his house. It must have been a fearful night for the Levite, knowing that his concubine was in the power of the wanton mob, and it was a terrible morning when he found her dead on the threshold of the house. He had risen early, and made better haste to get away from the house of his host than he had done to leave that of his father-in-law, in order to avoid a meeting with the inhabitants.[FN17] His journey was a sad one; for his second ass carried the lifeless body of the dishonored woman. Filled with these horrors, perpetrated against him in Israel, he appeals to all the people of Israel. He cuts the corpse into twelve pieces, and sends them out in every direction. Expositors have one after another spoken here of Lucian’s narrative (in Toxaris) of the Scythian custom of sitting on the hide: “if any man is injured by another, and is unable to revenge himself, he sacrifices an ox, cuts up the flesh, and dresses it; then spreading the skin on the ground, he sits down on it, etc. Whoever pleases then comes, takes a part of the flesh, and placing his right foot on the hide, makes a solemn promise to assist him to the utmost of his abilities.” It must be said that there is no analogy whatever between this usage and the act of the Levite. The Scythian usage is the symbolical formula of an oath, by which all who take part in it promise to unite themselves into one body with the supplicant. But such is not the idea in our passage, nor yet in 1 Samuel 11:7. Saul sends out the pieces of the divided oxen with the threatening message, that thus it shall be done to the oxen of every one who does not take the field after him. The Levite has no right to do anything of this kind. He issues no threat which he himself can execute. Nor does he place Israel under oath[FN18] to avenge his wrong. But he shows the nation what is possible within its borders, and what may happen to any one in Israel as well as it has happened to himself. Hence, he sends not a divided ox, but the divided woman. Saul threatens that the oxen of those who do not follow him, shall be cut to pieces. The Levite intimates that unless such practices are abolished in Israel, the same fate may befall any woman. He points to the anarchy which breaks out in Israel, when the rights of hospitality are no longer respected, and the rights of the householder no longer secure, and when heathen abominations like those of Sodom are practiced in the land.[FN19] The woman cut in pieces speaks more loudly than any other language could do. Of course, a message accompanied the pieces of the body, the contents of which are given in verse30. Every one who saw must say that anything like this had not occurred in Israel since the nation dwelt in Canaan. It closed with the words: “Take the matter to heart, advise, and speak.”

Doubtless, the divided body spake loudly to all the tribes of Israel. But it spoke not of repentance, but only of the necessity of taking prudent measures against the recurrence of similar outrages, of which any one might himself become the victim. And yet the thing needed was not merely the removal of the abomination which was manifest, but the conversion of the heart, whose hidden wickedness had produced the abomination. The Levite points to the sins that had been committed; but does he also confess the share he himself had in them, and in the guilt that attached to them? The same self-righteousness is revealed by the whole people, as is shown by Judges 20.

Footnotes:

FN#14 - Judges 19:30.—“The perfects וְהָיָה,וְאָמַר, Judges 19:30, do not stand for the imperfects with vav consecutive, וַיְהִי,וַיּאֹמֶר, as Hitzig, Bertheau, and others suppose, but are perfecta consequentiœ, expressive of the result which the Levite expects from his action. It is only necessary to supply a לֵאמֹר before וְהָיָה, which in lively narration or agitated discourse is frequently omitted (cf. e.g. Exodus 8:5 with Judges 7:2). The narrator uses the perfects, instead of the imperfects with simple ו, usual in clauses expressive of design, quia quod futurum esse prœvidebat tanquam factum animo suo obversabatur (Rosenmüller). The Levite’s expectation that the moral indignation of all the tribes will be roused against such wickedness, and will lead them to resolve on punishment, is thus represented not as a doubtful conjecture, but as the confident anticipation of a certainly ensuing fact” (Keil). It is impossible to imitate this exactly in English, but the better rendering of the passage would be: “sent her into all the territory of Israel, saying [or, as we would say, thinking] it shall be that all who see shall say. There was no such deed done or seen,” etc. Chapter20 shows, as Keil remarks, that the Levite was right in his anticipations. Dr. Cassel translates as the E. V.—Tr.]

FN#15 - He imitates the example of Lot. Therein lies his excuse. He seeks to prevent one sin, and commits another without knowing whether he can prevent the first.

FN#16 - This act of his also testifies to the degeneracy of the Levitical body. He has not moral strength enough to die in order to preserve himself from defilement, and hence thinks himself obliged to surrender his concubine. His own head, therefore, shares in the guilt of the crime done on the woman.

FN#17 - He probably gave up all idea of recovering his concubine, as being hopeless. So Bertheau and Keil. He may have entertained plans for rescuing her in some more effective way. There is at all events nothing in the text that justifies us to suppose that he went on his way, “as if he did not once think what had become of his unhappy companion,” and was “reminded of her only by stumbling upon her lifeless corpse,” as Bush rather wildly comments—Tr.]

FN#18 - It might be thought that an analogy is afforded by the singular oath on the sacrificial pieces of a boar, a ram, and a bull, which Demosthenes mentions as taken by the accuser in cases of murder (adv. Aristocratem, p642); but here also none exists.

FN#19 - This sense is also contained in the words of the Levite in Judges 20:6.

 


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Judges 19:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/judges-19.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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