Judges 19 Commentary



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Judges 19:1 Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah.

when there (KJV): Jdg 17:6 18:1 21:25

mount (KJV): Jdg 17:1,8 Jos 24:30,33

a concubine (KJV): Heb. a woman

a concubine (KJV): or, a wife

a concubine (KJV): Ge 22:24 25:6 2Sa 3:7 5:13 16:22 19:5 20:3 1Ki 11:3 2Ch 11:21 Es 2:14 Song 6:8,9 Da 5:3 Mal 2:15,

Beth-lehem-judah, Jdg 17:8 Ge 35:19 Mt 2:6

A C Gaebelein's Summary

Israel 's Moral Condition and the War on Benjamin CHAPTER 19

The Levite and His Concubine

1. The Levite and the unfaithful woman (Jdg 19:1-21)

2. The fate of the concubine (Jdg 19:22-30)

The results of departure from God are now revealed in the awful corruption and violence so faithfully recorded in this chapter. The moral condition of Israel has gone down to the same level of the Canaanites; they sank even lower than the nations whom God had doomed to destruction. We do not repeat the horrible details of this deed of lust and violence. Apostasy from God, rejection of the truth is followed by moral corruption. Ro1:26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 shows the vileness of the Gentiles, who turned their backs to the light and did not glorify God. 2Ti 3:1, 2, 2Ti 3:3, 4, 5 contains the description of the moral corruption of the last days of the present age, the conditions of those who claim to be "religious" and yet are apostates. The days of Lot , with their vileness, are to precede the coming of the Son of Man (Lk 17:28, 29, 30). Evidences that such moral corruption and violence exist today throughout professing Christendom are only too numerous.

NOW IT CAME ABOUT IN THOSE DAYS WHEN THERE WAS NO KING IN ISRAEL: This section relates one of the most shocking episodes of Israel's history. One commentator labels this chapter "The Death of Morality". This event appears to have occurred early in the period of the judges, because Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, was still ministering as high priest (Jdg 20:28; cf. Nu25:7, 11), and because the tribes were still able to function as a unit (cf. Jos 22:9-34). There is also no mention of the Philistines, who would have suppressed such action during the latter part of the judges’ period. There is also a need for a long time span between the disgraceful behavior of the tribe of Benjamin and the choice of a Benjamite as king in the 11th century. Saul was in fact from the same town of Gibeah (cf. 1Sa10:26)!

Cundall (p193) probably correctly observes that the reference from Dan even to Beer-sheba (Jdg 20:1) was probably added later by an editor to explain the entirety of the land.

When evil isn't dealt with properly, it has a tendency to grow. Paul rhetorically asked

"Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?" (1Co5:6).

Sin in the city of Gibeah eventually infected the tribe of Benjamin and led to war in the land of Israel. It would be wrong to think that morality is a stabilizing factor only for the believer. Righteousness is something that “works” for the believer and unbeliever alike.

The Book of Proverbs has a few sage words reminding us that…

'“Righteousness exalts a nation; but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Pr14:34).

There are many such observations in Proverbs.

“The unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Pr11:3).

“The wicked shall fall by his own wickedness” (Pr11:5).

“The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right” (Pr21:7).

"Where there is no vision (word from God), the people are unrestrained (run wild as we see in Judges 19), but happy is he who keeps the law." (Pr 29:18)

In a moral universe, there are certain fixed moral laws which when violated bring destruction as a natural consequence. Tragically, history is full of illustrations of this fact.

THAT THERE WAS A CERTAIN LEVITE STAYING IN THE REMOTE PART OF THE HILL COUNTRY OF EPHRAIM: If you thought that the Jonathan in Judges 17-18 was a reprobate, then you'll probably conclude that this unnamed Levite was an scoundrel of the basest sort. He spent most of his time partying (Jdg 19:4, 6, 8, 22), walked in darkness and jeopardized his life and the lives of those with him (Jdg 19:9-14), treated his concubine in the most shocking manner, while she was alive and after she was dead and what he did to her precipitated a civil war in Israel.

As in the story of chap17-18, the major characters come from the hill country of Ephraim and from Bethlehem Judah (v1). This time it was the Levite who lived in Ephraim and had a concubine from Bethlehem. Evidently she was unhappy with her status as a secondary wife; for she committed adultery and then returned to the refuge of her father's home in Bethlehem rather than face an angry husband (v2).

WHO TOOK A CONCUBINE FOR HIMSELF FROM BETHLEHEM IN JUDAH: A concubine was a lawful wife who was guaranteed only food, clothing, and marital privileges (Ex 21:7-11; Dt 21:10-14). Any children she bore would be considered legitimate; but because of her second-class status, they wouldn't necessarily share in the family inheritance (Ge25:1-6). If a man's wife was barren, he sometimes took a concubine so he could establish a family. Though the law controlled concubinage the Lord did not approve or encourage it. Several of the patriarchs had children with concubines including Abraham with Hagar (Ge16); Jacob with Bilhah and Zilpah (Ge 30:4-13) Several other OT men had concubines, including Gideon, Saul, David, and Solomon. It should be noted however that although a concubine was, in a sense, a legal mistress, we never see such a family life blessed by God!

Evangelical Commentary:

"Chp17-18 relate the breakdown of religious life; chapters 19-21 show that the breakdown of religious life may bring further disastrous consequences, that the resulting immorality can threaten the very existence of a political unit. Society is a unity; its depravity cannot be contained within narrow, watertight compartments. Depravity and breakdown in one area of society, if uncorrected, will lead to deterioration and breakdown in other areas and, finally, even to the destruction of society itself The writer of Judges maintains that these events occurred because there were no qualified leaders to effect God’s purposes. Though the judges could engineer brief periods of peace, there was no established godly leadership capable of permanently halting the evils described in these chapters. “Israel had no king” expresses both the writer’s diagnosis of the disease in Israel and his indication of the cure."

F B Meyer
Our Daily Homily

Judges 19:1

And it came to pass in those days when there was no king in Israel.

It will be sufficient to ponder these words, which occur four times in this book, without reading further in this terrible chapter, which shows the depths of depravity to which man may sink apart from the grace of God. Where Christ is not enthroned as King, drunkenness, impurity, cruelty, selfishness, are supreme, and pursue their ravages unchecked. How different where He reigns in righteousness, and where his will is done as it is done in heaven!

The Book of Judges depicts the state of the heart which has not admitted the Kingship of our Savior. Where there is no recognition of this, and a man does as he likes, then the heart breeds all manner of uncleanness; and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.

In connection with the present marvellous movement afoot in our colleges, five hundred, Japanese students met recently under the motto, “Make Jesus King.” Oh that this might be our life-motto! We must crown Him lord of all.

Let young men and women, who may read these words, specially ponder this suggestion. Perpetual failure in life indicates failure in consecration. If you are continually broken in upon by raids of evil, it is certain that you have never enthroned the Son of God. He is never Savior in the fulness of his power till He is acknowledged King. Directly the coronation has taken place, He assumes the responsibility of putting down all rule, authority, and power; overcoming the evils that had held sway; and bringing every thought into captivity. Such are the warnings and appeals of this chapter and the next. “Make Jesus King.”

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19–20. This account belongs to the times immediately following the death of Joshua, as we may see form the fact that Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the contemporary of Joshua, was high priest at that time (Judg. 20:28). In Judg. 19 we have an account of the infamous crime committed by the inhabitants of Gibeah, which occasioned the war; in Judg. 20 the war itself; and in Judg. 21 an account of what was afterwards done by the congregation to preserve the tribe of Benjamin, which was almost annihilated by the war.

Judg. 19. Infamous Crime of the Inhabitants of Gibeah.—Jdg 19:1-14. At the time when there was no king in Israel, a Levite, who sojourned (i.e., lived outside a Levitical town) in the more remote parts of the mountains of Ephraim, took to himself a concubine out of Bethlehem in Judah, who proved unfaithful to him, and then returned to her father’s house. יַרְכְּתֵי הַר־אֶפְרַיִם, the hinder or outermost parts of the mountains of Ephraim, are the northern extremity of these mountains; according to v. 18, probably the neighbourhood of Shiloh. תִּזְנֶה עָלָיו, “she played the harlot out beyond him,” i.e., was unfaithful to her husband, and then went away from him,” back to her father’s house. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:2 But his concubine played the harlot against him, and she went away from him to her father's house in Bethlehem in Judah, and was there for a period of four months.

played (KJV): Lev 21:9 Dt 22:21 Eze 16:28

four whole months (KJV): or, a year and four months, Heb. days, four months

BUT HIS CONCUBINE PLAYED THE HARLOT AGAINST HIM: She should have been killed as the law required and could have been if there was a devotion to holiness and obedience to Scripture. Leviticus records that…

'If there is a man who commits adultery with another man's wife, one who commits adultery with his friend's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Lev 20:10).

A priest was not allowed to marry a harlot…

"A widow, or a divorced woman, or one who is profaned by harlotry, these he (the priest) may not take; but rather he is to marry a virgin of his own people (Lev 21:14)

Clearly this Levite's ministry was greatly compromised from the beginning. Not surprisingly (especially as you read the following lines) that he made little of her sin and separation and sought her back sympathetically as explained in the next verse.

Preacher's Commentary writes that…

The Levite and his girlfriend had already dismissed God’s commandment against adultery, which reflects God’s commitment in loving faithfulness to His people. That is not an arbitrary restriction, but an expression of the nature of true love, which is grounded in God’s own character. Because human beings are made in God’s image, we can only function properly and find true fulfillment and security when we obey His ground rules. Once these are set aside we become depersonalized and less than truly human. All our sin is a self-inflicted attack on our true humanness. It is, therefore, no surprise to find that in a society where God’s moral law of love is rejected, the gift of sex—designed by Him to enrich and deepen the exclusive relationship of one man and one woman as an expression of their total self-giving to one another—is reduced to becoming an end in itself. Love then becomes equated with sex. The physical dominates everything, and human beings are reduced to pleasure machines. No wonder it is easy to walk away from one “machine” when its attractions begin to pall, and go on to the next. But human beings are not infinitely plastic. God has not made us that way. No one can walk away from the deepest act of physical union between two people totally unchanged by it. That is why we see so many people, who drift in and out of relationships, who are ultimately unable to give themselves to any lasting relationship of trust and commitment at all. There is a price to pay for jettisoning God’s laws—emotionally, psychologically, and physically. (Jackman, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. Vol. 7: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Judges, Ruth. Page 276. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc)

AND SHE WENT AWAY FROM HIM TO HER FATHER'S HOUSE IN BETHLEHEM IN JUDAH, AND WAS THERE FOR A PERIOD OF FOUR MONTHS: This particular concubine was unfaithful to her husband and fled to her father's house in Bethlehem. The longer she was gone, the more the Levite apparently missed her; so he traveled to Bethlehem. He and his father-in-law spent five days eating, drinking, and making merry.

Judges 19:3 Then her husband arose and went after her to speak tenderly to her in order to bring her back, taking with him his servant and a pair of donkeys. So she brought him into her father's house, and when the girl's father saw him, he was glad to meet him.

went (KJV): Jdg 15:1

speak (KJV): Ge 50:21 Lev 19:17 20:10 Ho 2:14 Mt 1:19 Jn 8:4,5,11 Ga 6:1

friendly unto her (KJV): Heb. to her heart, Ge 34:3

to bring (KJV): Jer 3:1

his servant (KJV): Nu 22:22

THEN HER HUSBAND AROSE AND WENT AFTER HER TO SPEAK TENDERLY TO HER: LIke Shechem seeking to comfort Dinah whom he wished to marry (after he had raped her)…

"And he was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her." (Genesis 34:3)

Joseph (Ge50:21) and Boaz (Ru2:13) also spoke words of encouragement.


This Levite illustrates the careless attitude of many believers today. They are children of the day, but they act like children of the night (1Th 5:1-8). Judgment is around the corner, but these people think of nothing but enjoying life. When his nation was so far from God, how could this Levite waste his time eating, drinking, and making merry?

"Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness" (Ja4:9).Yes, there's "a time to laugh" (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

God wants us to enjoy His gifts, Paul exhorting Timothy to…

"Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy." (1 Timothy 6:17)

Sadly for many Christians, the time to enjoy is gifts is all the time! In too many churches, the laughter of "religious entertainment" has replaced the holy hush of worship. The sanctuary has become a veritable theater. When the saints get together, the most important thing is to "have fun." In order to salve our consciences, we have a "short devotional" before the fun time ends; and we piously thank God that we've had such a good time.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:3, 4. Some time afterwards, namely at the end of four months (אַרְבָּעָה הֳדָשִׁים is in apposition to יָמִים, and defines more precisely the יָמִים, or days), her husband went after her, “to speak to her to the heart,” i.e., to talk to her in a friendly manner (see Gen. 34:3), and to reconcile her to himself again, so that she might return; taking with him his attendant and a couple of asses, for himself and his wife to ride upon. The suffix attached to לַהֲשִׁיבֹו refers to לִבָּה, “to bring back her heart,” to turn her to himself again. The Keri הֲשִׁיבָהּ is a needless conjecture. “And she brought him into her father’s house, and her father received his son-in-law with joy, and constrained him (יַחֲזֶק־בֹּו, lit. held him fast) to remain there three days.” It is evident from this that the Levite had succeeded in reconciling his wife. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:4 And his father-in-law, the girl's father, detained him; and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and lodged there.

AND HIS FATHER-IN-LAW, THE GIRL'S FATHER, DETAINED HIM: Anxious to please his son-in-law, the father insisted that the Levite stay in Bethlehem a few days (v4). In the East such an offer of hospitality was a common occurrence (cf. Ge24:55). As a matter of fact, the laws of hospitality play an extremely important role as the story unfolds (cf. 4:17-23)

Judges 19:5 Now it came about on the fourth day that they got up early in the morning, and he prepared to go; and the girl's father said to his son-in-law, "Sustain yourself with a piece of bread, and afterward you may go."

Comfort (KJV): Heb. Srengthen, Jdg 19:8 Ge 18:5 1Sa 14:27-29 30:12 1Ki 13:7 Ps 104:15 Jn 4:34 Ac 9:19

with a morsel (KJV): Jdg 19:22

SUSTAIN YOURSELF: literally "sustain your heart."

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:5ff. Also on the fourth day, when he was about to depart in the morning, the Levite yielded to the persuasion of his father-in-law, that he would first of all strengthen his heart again with a bit of bread (סָעַד לֵב as in Gen. 18:5; the imperative form with ŏ is unusual); and then afterwards, whilst they were eating and drinking, he consented to stay another night.(Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:6 So both of them sat down and ate and drank together; and the girl's father said to the man, "Please be willing to spend the night, and let your heart be merry."

let thine heart (KJV): Jdg 19:9,21 9:27 16:25 Ru 3:7 1Sa 25:36 Es 1:10 Ps 104:15 Lk 12:19 1Th 5:3 Rev 11:10,13, until afternoon, Heb. till the day declined, Merely that they might avoid the heat of the day, which would have been very inconvenient in travelling.

SO BOTH OF THEM SAT DOWN AND ATE AND DRANK TOGETHER: The concubine was apparently not present during the meals, for "the two of them" (vv. 6, 8) refers to the Levite and the father. She is ignored through most of the narrative, and there is no indication that she even wanted to rejoin her husband.

Judges 19:7 Then the man arose to go, but his father-in-law urged him so that he spent the night there again.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:7. When he rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him; then he turned back (וַיָּשָׁב is quite in place, and is not to be altered into וַיֵּשֶׁב, according to the LXX and one Heb. Cod.), and remained there for the night. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:8 And on the fifth day he arose to go early in the morning, and the girl's father said, "Please sustain yourself, and wait until afternoon"; so both of them ate.

AND ON THE FIFTH DAY HE AROSE TO GO EARLY IN THE MORNING: The delay on the fifth day proved to be as dangerous as Lot's hesitation in [Ge19:16].

AND THE GIRL'S FATHER SAID, "PLEASE SUSTAIN YOURSELF AND WAIT UNTIL AFTERNOON: The father's speech is full of Bedouin terminology. "Afternoon" is literally "the pitching [natah] of the day," as one would pitch a tent for the night. In v9 he spoke of the "camping" (chanah) of the day and described the Levite's home as a 'ohel = "tent".

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:8. And even in the morning of the fifth day he suffered himself to be induced to remain till the afternoon. הִתְמַהְמְהוּ is an imperative, “Tarry till the day turns,” i.e., till mid-day is past. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:9 When the man arose to go along with his concubine and servant, his father-in-law, the girl's father, said to him, "Behold now, the day has drawn to a close; please spend the night. Lo, the day is coming to an end; spend the night here that your heart may be merry. Then tomorrow you may arise early for your journey so that you may go home."

the day (KJV): Lk 24:29

draweth (KJV): etc. Heb. is weak

the day groweth to an end (KJV): Heb. it is the pitching time of the day, Jer 6:4. That is, it was near the time in which travellers ordinarily pitched their tents, to take up their lodging for the night. In the latter part of the afternoon, eastern travellers begin to look out for a place for this purpose. So Dr. Shaw observes, "Our constant practice was to rise at break of day, set forward with the sun, and travel to the middle of the afternoon; at which time we began to look out for encampments of Arabs; who, to prevent such parties as ours from living at free charges upon them, take care to pitch in woods, valleys, or places the least conspicuous."

to morrow (KJV): Pr 27:1 Jas 4:13,14

home (KJV): Heb. to thy tent

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:9, 10. When at length he rose up, with his concubine and his attendant, to go away, the father entreated his daughter once more: “Behold the day has slackened to become evening, spend the night here! Behold the declining of the day, spend the night here,” etc. חֲנֹות inf. of חָנָה, to bend, incline. The interchange of the plural and singular may be explained from the simple fact that the Levite was about to depart with his wife and attendant, but that their remaining or departing depended upon the decision of the man alone. But the Levite did not consent to remain any longer, but set out upon the road, and came with his companions to before Jebus, i.e., Jerusalem, which is only two hours from Bethlehem (compare Rob. Pal. ii. 375 and 379). עַד־נֹכַח, to before Jebus, for the road from Bethlehem to Shiloh went past Jerusalem. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:10 But the man was not willing to spend the night, so he arose and departed and came to a place opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). And there were with him a pair of saddled donkeys; his concubine also was with him.

over against (KJV): Heb. to over against

Jebus (KJV): Jdg 1:8 Jos 15:8,63 18:28 2Sa 5:6

BUT THE MAN WAS NOT WILLING TO SPEND THE NIGHT, SO HE AROSE AND DEPARTED AND CAME TO A PLACE OPPOSITE JEBUS (THAT IS, JERUSALEM) (Jos15:63): See 1:21; Ge 10:16. Jebus = early title for Jerusalem because of Jebusite control (Jdg1:21) until David wrested it away to become his capital (2Sa5:6-9). Another early name for the city was Salem (Ge14:18; cf. Ps76:2).

Judges 19:11 When they were near Jebus, the day was almost gone; and the servant said to his master, "Please come, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it."

the Jebusites (KJV): Jdg 19:10 1:21 Ge 10:16 Jos 15:63 2Sa 5:6

WHEN THEY WERE NEAR JEBUS, THE DAY WAS ALMOST GONE; AND THE SERVANT SAID TO HIS MASTER, "PLEASE COME, AND LET US TURN ASIDE INTO THIS CITY OF THE JEBUSITES AND SPEND THE NIGHT IN IT: During the period of the Judges, it was dangerous to travel in the daytime (5:6) and even more so at night. The Levite didn't want to stay in Jerusalem because it was in the hands of the pagan Jebusites. Thus he pressed on four miles to Gibeah so he could be with his own people. But the men of Gibeah turned out to be as wicked as the heathen around them!

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:11ff. But as the day had gone far down when they were by Jebus (רַד, third pers. perf., either of יָרַד with י dropped like תַּתָּה in 2 Sam. 22:41 for נָתַתָּה, or from רָדַד in the sense of יָרַד), the attendant said to his master, “Come, let us turn aside into this Jebusite city, and pass the night in it.” But his master was unwilling to enter a city of the foreigners (נָכְרִי is a genitive), where there were none of the sons of Israel, and would pass over to Gibeah. “Come (לְךְ = לְכָה, Num. 23:13), we will draw near to one of the places (which he immediately names), and pass the night in Gibeah or Ramah.” These two towns, the present Jeba and er Râm, were not a full hour’s journey apart, and stood opposite to one another, only about two and a half or three hours from Jerusalem (see at Josh. 18:25, 28). (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:12 However, his master said to him, "We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners who are not of the sons of Israel; but we will go on as far as Gibeah."

Gibeah (KJV): Gibeah, a city of Benjamin, and the birth-place of Saul, was situated near Rama and Gibeon, according to Josephus, thirty furlongs north from Jerusalem; or, according to Jerome, about two leagues. Jdg 19:12


Bethlehem their site of origin was about six miles south of ancient Jerusalem; and Gibeah, their destination, about five miles north so they had made only about a 10 mile journey that afternoon, indicating that their departure could not have been much earlier than 3:00 P.M. Ramah, mentioned as an alternate stop, was yet two miles further north. However, the little group found no place to lodge in Gibeah, the city that would become the birthplace and subsequent capital of Saul (1Sa10:26).

Judges 19:13 And he said to his servant, "Come and let us approach one of these places; and we will spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah."

Gibeah (KJV): Jos 18:25,26,28 1Sa 10:26 Isa 10:29 Ho 5:8

AND HE SAID TO HIS SERVANT, "COME AND LET US APPROACH ONE OF THESE PLACES; AND WE WILL SPEND THE NIGHT IN GIBEAH OR RAMAH: The Levite didn't want to stay in Jerusalem because it was in the hands of the pagan Jebusites. Thus he pressed on four miles to Gibeah so he could be with his own people. But the men of Gibeah turned out to be as wicked as the heathen around them! Up to that time apparently the Benjamites' immorality was not well known, or else the news simply had not reached the Levite's "remote" home area (cf. v1).

Judges 19:14 So they passed along and went their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin.
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:14. Then they went forward, and the sun went down upon them as they were near (at) Gibeah of Benjamin. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:15 And they turned aside there in order to enter and lodge in Gibeah. When they entered, they sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.

no man (KJV): There was probably no inn, or house of public entertainment in this place; and therefore they could not have a lodging unless furnished by mere hospitality. But these Benjamites seem to have added to their other vices, avarice and inhospitality, like the inhabitants of Akoura in mount Lebanon, mentioned by Burckhardt. Jdg 19:18 Ge 18:2-8 19:2,3 Mt 25:35,43 Heb 13:2

THEY SAT DOWN IN THE OPEN SQUARE OF THE CITY: The city square was an open area just inside the city gate, and it was the logical place for visitors to wait. Since there were no "Holiday Inns" in the Middle East, travelers would come into the square and could generally expect an invitation to stay the night. But then these were the days of the Judges (lovers of self seems to describe these days 2Ti3:1,2). They would have had to spend the night there if no invitation was forthcoming. After the hospitality of Bethlehem, it must have seemed strange that no one offered them lodging. But it was too late to venture out onto the dark roads.

God commanded hospitality among the people of God writing…

'When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 'The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Lv19:33-34)

This should have been a warning that something was wrong since hospitality was lacking.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:15–30. And they turned aside thither to pass the night in Gibeah; and he (the Levite) remained in the market-place of the town, as no one received them into his house to pass the night.(Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:16 Then behold, an old man was coming out of the field from his work at evening. Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was staying in Gibeah, but the men of the place were Benjamites.

his work (KJV): Ge 3:19 Ps 104:23 128:2 Pr 13:11 14:23 24:27 Ec 1:13 5:12 Eph 4:28 1Th 4:11,12 2Th 3:10


In a culture where inns or hostels were nonexistent, it was incredible that anyone would refuse hospitality to a stranger. Yet the Levite and his party were ignored till an old man from the same tribal area as the Levite came on the scene. Instead of being received by the Benjamites of the city, the group was offered lodging by another Ephraimite, also a stranger in the city. This Ephraimite was residing in Gibeah on a temporary basis, somewhat as Lot had been living in Sodom. Like Lot, the old man did not share the morals of the townspeople.

Hospitality is one of the sacred laws of the East, and no stranger was to be neglected; but only one man in the city showed any concern, and he was an Ephraimite. He not only took them into his home but also used his own provisions to feed them and their animals.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:16ff. Behold, there came an old man from the field, who was of the mountains of Ephraim, and dwelt as a stranger in Gibeah, the inhabitants of which were Benjaminites (as is observed here, as a preliminary introduction to the account which follows). When he saw the traveller in the market-place of the town, he asked him whither he was going and whence he came; and when he had heard the particulars concerning his descent and his journey, he received him into his house. וְאֶת־בֵּית י׳ אֲנִי הֹלֵךְ (v. 18), “and I walk at the house of Jehovah, and no one receives me into his house” (Seb. Schm., etc.); not “I am going to the house of Jehovah” (Ros., Berth., etc.), for הָלַךְ אֵת does not signify to go to a place, for which the simple accusative is used either with or without ה local. It either means “to go through a place” (Deut. 1:19, etc.), or “to go with a person,” or, when applied to things, “to go about with anything” (see Job 31:5, and Ges. Thes. p. 378). Moreover, in this instance the Levite was not going to the house of Jehovah (i.e., the tabernacle), but, as he expressly told the old man, from Bethlehem to the outermost sides of the mountains of Ephraim. The words in question explain the reason why he was staying in the market-place. Because he served at the house of Jehovah, no one in Gibeah would receive him into his house, although, as he adds in v. 19, he had everything with him that was requisite for his wants. “We have both straw and fodder for our asses, and bread and wine for me and thy maid, and for the young man with thy servants. No want of anything at all,” so as to cause him to be burdensome to his host. By the words “thy maid” and “thy servants” he means himself and his concubine, describing himself and his wife, according to the obsequious style of the East in olden times, as servants of the man from whom he was expecting a welcome. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:17 And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city; and the old man said, "Where are you going, and where do you come from?"

whither (KJV): Ge 16:8 32:17


Judges 19:18 And he said to him, "We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, for I am from there, and I went to Bethlehem in Judah. But I am now going to my house, and no man will take me into his house.

I am now (KJV): The LXX. read, [eis ton oikon mou ego poreuomai:] "I am going to my own house;" which is probably the true reading, as we find (ver. 29) that he really went home; yet he might have gone previously to Shiloh, or to "the house of the Lord," because that was also in mount Ephraim.

the house (KJV): Jdg 18:31 20:18 Jos 18:1 1Sa 1:3,7

receiveth (KJV): Heb. gathereth, Jdg 19:5 Ps 26:9 Jn 15:6

I AM NOW GOING TO MY HOUSE (KJV = "to the house of the LORD"): Several translations (including NIV & NKJV) have as in the Hebrew text "house of the Lord" but meaning is unclear. One possibility is that the Levite was going to visit the Tabernacle at Shiloh but we cannot be definitive.

Judges 19:19 "Yet there is both straw and fodder for our donkeys, and also bread and wine for me, your maidservant, and the young man who is with your servants; there is no lack of anything."

straw and provender (KJV): In those countries principally devoted to pasturage, they made little or no hay: but as they raised corn, they took great care of their straw for cattle, which by their mode of threshing was chopped very small. See note on Ge 24:32.

Judges 19:20 And the old man said, "Peace to you. Only let me take care of all your needs; however, do not spend the night in the open square."

Peace be (KJV): Jdg 6:23 Ge 43:23,24 1Sa 25:6 1Ch 12:18 Lk 10:5,6 Jn 14:27 1Co 1:3

let all thy wants (KJV): Here was genuine hospitality: "Keep your bread and wine for yourselves, and your straw and provender for your asses; you may need them before you finish your journey: I will supply all your wants for this night; only do not lodge in the street." Ro 12:13 Ga 6:6 Heb 13:2 Jas 2:15,16 1Pe 4:9 1Jn 3:18

lodge not (KJV): Ge 19:2,3 24:31-33

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:20. The old man replied, “Peace to thee,” assuring him of a welcome by this style of greeting; “only all thy wants upon me,” i.e., let me provide for them. Thus the friendly host declined the offer made by his guest to provide for himself. “Only do not pass the night in the market-place.” (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:21 So he took him into his house and gave the donkeys fodder, and they washed their feet and ate and drank.

So he brought (KJV): Ge 24:32 43:24

they washed (KJV): Ge 18:4 1Sa 25:41 2Sa 11:8 Lk 7:44 Jn 13:4,5,14,15 1Ti 5:10

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:21. He then took him into his house, mixed fodder for his asses (יָבֹול from בָּלַל, a denom. verb from בָּלִיל, to make a mixture, to give fodder to the beasts), and waited upon his guest with washing of feet, food, and drink (see Gen. 18:4ff., 19:2). (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:22 While they were making merry, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, "Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him."

they were (KJV): Jdg 19:6,7 16:25

the men (KJV): Jdg 20:5 Ge 19:4 Ho 9:9 10:9

sons of Belial (KJV): Dt 13:13 1Sa 1:16 2:12 10:27 25:25 2Sa 23:6,7 2Co 6:15

Bring forth (KJV): Ge 19:5 Ro 1:26,27 1Co 6:9 Jude 1:7

CERTAIN WORTHLESS FELLOWS: The "wicked men" are literally "sons of Belial" worthless scoundrels bent on evil. They were active homosexuals engaging in practices plainly condemned in Scripture (Lv18:22; 20:13). Ps18:4,v5 clearly implies a relationship between Belial and Sheol; thus, the term was idiomatic for “sons of hell.”

"Belial" ="wicked" & may mean "without profit." Later, this word (Belial in Hebrew) was used as a name for Satan (2Co6:15), who is the personification of wickedness and lawlessness. Elsewhere the expression is associated with idolatry (Dt13:13), drunkenness (1Sa1:16) and rebellion (1Sa 2:12). Here the reference is to homosexuality.

POUNDING THE DOOR: verb form of "pounding" on the door indicates that there was an increasingly loud pounding on the door; this was in no way a polite or casual request.

"BRING OUT THE MAN WHO CAME INTO YOUR HOUSE: A similar request was made by the men of Sodom wo …

"called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them." (Ge19:5)

The desire of these worthless fellows is clear. Homosexuality was common among the Canaanites but then these are not Canaanites but Benjaminites! Israel God's peculiar, chosen people had become as wicked and abominable as Sodom and Gomorrah!

If this story is indeed early in the period of Judges (as allusion to Phinehas in Jdg20:28 suggests), it emphasizes how incredibly quickly men who do not know God or the mighty deeds of God (Jdg 2:10) and who fail to drive out the Canaanite enemies (Jdg1:21) of their flesh can plunge to such moral depravity. This section of Scripture should cause us all to be so wary of the power of the flesh when it is given full reign.

THAT WE MAY (yada in Hebrew = "may know him") HAVE RELATIONS WITH HIM: same expression is found in [Ge19:5].

Gibeah had become like Sodom, a city so wicked that God wiped it off the face of the earth (Ge19). The men of the city were indulging in immoral practices that were contrary to nature and the laws of God. The word "know" (Yada) means "to have sexual experience with." These sinners were excited because a new man was in town, and they wanted to enjoy him!

It is difficult to believe that the depravity of Gibeah is a complete secret. Certainly the Ephraimite host knows that something is wrong. Likely there have been hints all along; but the easy toleration of evil generally seen in these chapters causes any such hints to be disregarded. An entire community has chosen a congenial toleration of evil rather than confronting and judging it.

Arthur Cundall comments on their conduct as follows:

In his concern for the accepted conventions of hospitality the old man was willing to shatter a code which, to the modern reader, appears of infinitely more importance, namely, the care and protection of the weak and helpless. Womanhood was but lightly esteemed in the ancient world; indeed it is largely due to the precepts of the Jewish faith, and particularly the enlightenment which has come through the Christian faith, that women enjoy their present position. The old man was willing to sacrifice his own virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine to the distorted lusts of the besiegers, rather than allow any harm to befall his principal guest.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:22. Whilst they were enjoying themselves, some worthless men of the city surrounded the house, knocking continuously at the door (הִתְדַּפֵּק, a form indicative of gradual increase), and demanding of the master of the house that he would bring out the man who had entered his house, that they might know him,—the very same demand that the Sodomites had made of Lot (Gen. 19:6ff.). The construct state אַנְשֵׁי בְנֵי־בְלִיַּעַל is used instead of אֲנָשִׁים בְּנֵי־בל׳ (Deut. 13:14, etc.), because בני בליעל is regarded as one idea: people of worthless fellows. Other cases of the same kind are given by Ewald, Lehrb. § 289, c. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:23 Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly.

the man (KJV): Ge 19:6,7

do not this folly (KJV): Jdg 20:6 Ge 34:7 Jos 7:15 2Sa 13:12

DO NOT COMMIT THIS ACT OF FOLLY: An expression of outrage at the willful perversion of what is right and natural The host courageously and correctly described their desires as wickedness and folly (v. 23) and a vile thing (v. 24), and he tried to prevent them from raping his guest.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:23ff. The old man sought, as Lot had done, to defend his guests from such a shameful crime by appealing to the sacred rights of hospitality, and by giving up his own virgin daughter and the concubine of his guest (see the remarks on Gen. 19:7, 8). נְבָלָה, folly, used to denote shameful licentiousness and whoredom, as in Gen. 34:7 and Deut. 22:21. עַנּוּ אֹותָם, “humble them.” The masculine is used in אֹותָם and לָהֶם as the more general gender, instead of the more definite feminine, as in Gen. 39:9, Ex. 1:21, etc. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:24 "Here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. Please let me bring them out that you may ravish them and do to them whatever you wish. But do not commit such an act of folly against this man."

Behold (KJV): The rites of hospitality are regarded as sacred and inviolable in the East: and a man who has admitted a stranger under his roof, is bound to protect him even at the expense of his life. On these high notions only, the influence of which an Asiatic mind alone can appreciate, can the present transaction be either excused or palliated.

them (KJV): Ge 19:8 Ro 3:8

humble ye (KJV): Ge 34:2 *marg: Dt 21:14

so vile a thing (KJV): Heb. the matter of this folly

HERE IS MY VIRGIN DAUGHTER AND HIS CONCUBINE: Lot had been willing to commit his daughters to a similar fate (Ge19:8), but the angels had rescued them. In those days the place of a woman was often very lowly, and the "disgraceful thing" was to molest the man. Nevertheless, the Israelites normally considered the rape of a woman disgraceful (Ge34:7), and women who were promiscuous were also condemned to death for their behavior (Dt22:21). In each of these passages the same word (nebalah = vile deed emanating from moral perversity) is used.

Nevertheless, the fact that the Levite and his host would offer the women to the men in lieu of a homosexual relationship was far from a godly choice. Either sexual sin is equally wrong; however, the reaction of these spiritually impoverished people shows that even in a time when sexual immorality was prevalent, homosexuality was still regarded as the worst possible form of sexual abuse!

How a father could offer his own daughter as a sacrifice to the lusts of a mob is difficult to understand. Yet many parents today allow their sons' and daughters' minds and hearts to be violated by what they see and hear in movies, on television, and at rock concerts. Chastity of mind and heart is essential for chastity of the body.

AND DO TO THEM WHATEVER YOU WISH: The tragedy of this story lies not only in the decadence of Gibeah, but also in the callous selfishness of men who would betray defenseless women to be brutally violated for a whole night. When there is no king (in Israel) LIFE BECOMES CHEAP!

The Preacher's Commentary writes that…

A society that reduces love to lust will not long have any residual respect for human life. Other people become mere objects. Human life is expendable and cheap, so a baby in the womb becomes “the fetus”; “it,” not he or she. And a woman has a right to choose to do away with it if it is inconvenient. If old people increase in number and become a drain on the state, then let the state’s medically approved agents “put them out of their misery.” Abortions and euthanasia “on demand” are symptoms of the same disease that surfaces in rape, crimes of violence, and the mental cruelty, petty tyrannies, and personal violence that characterize so many homes. We must not be surprised to find child abuse, incest, robbery with violence, and murders increasing. “If God is dead,” said Nietzsche, “then everything is permitted.” It’s all perfectly logical. So the Christian response which simply wrings its hands in despair, or washes them in resignation, is unworthy of followers of Christ. We have grown far too sentimental about evil in our cozy Christian ghettoes. Cushioned from its effects through the Christian heritage and capital on which the church in the West has lived for decades, we have somehow imagined ourselves and our churches to be immune from sin’s ravages. We have believed the liberal humanists, who tell us that man is getting better and kinder, without reminding us that all such advances have had Christian foundations and impetus. We often seem surprised, if not overwhelmed, when we encounter evil head-on, because we do not really believe the Bible’s teaching about human depravity and about our own hearts. (Jackman, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. Vol. 7: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Judges, Ruth. Formerly The Communicator's Commentary. Page 277. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc)

Judges 19:25 But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them. And they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn.

knew her (KJV): Ge 4:1

and abused (KJV): Jer 5:7,8 Ho 7:4-7 9:9 10:9 Eph 4:19

BUT THE MEN WOULD NOT LISTEN TO HIM, SO THE MAN SEIZED ("became powerful" pix of taking by force) HIS CONCUBINE AND BROUGHT HER OUT TO THEM: This is unthinkable weakness and cowardice for any man, especially one who is to be wholly given (Nu 8:16) to God. The Levite himself brought her forth unto them and surrendered the concubine to their immoral sexual desires in an attempt to protect himself! This is the very one he had "spoken tenderly to"! Words are cheap when there is no king in authority. One can easily see why the concubine had left her husband in the first place! She ended up being essentially sacrificed to save his skin as the men sexually "abused" her all night.

When bringing out the fullness of the original Hebrew, Adam Clarke, due to modesty, will not even translate into English - he leaves it in Latin so only the learned will be able to understand the full implications of their crime

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:25ff. But as the people would not listen to this proposal, the man (no doubt the master of the house, according to v. 24) took his (the guest’s) concubine (of course with the consent of his guest) and led her out to them, and they abused her the whole night. It is not stated how it was that they were satisfied with this; probably because they felt too weak to enforce their demand. הִתְעַלֵּל בְּ, to exercise his power or wantonness upon a person (see Ex. 10:2). (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:26 As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man's house where her master was, until full daylight.

her lord was (KJV): Jdg 19:3,27 Ge 18:12 1Pe 3:6

The Levite had not anticipated the mass assault his concubine had succumbed to, but his words in v28 seem callous nonetheless. Should he not have shown concern for her long before daybreak? And did he really expect her to be in any condition to travel? It is little wonder that he is called impersonally her "master" rather than "husband" in v26, 27 (cf. v11).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:26. When the morning drew on (i.e., at the first dawn of day), the woman fell down before the door of the house in which אֲדֹונֶיהָ, “her lord,” i.e., her husband, was, and lay there till it was light, i.e., till sunrise. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:27 When her master arose in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, then behold, his concubine was lying at the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold.

WHEN HER MASTER AROSE IN THE MORNING: implying that he had slept that evening while she was undergoing such a terrible fate. His attitude (he seems to have gotten a "good night's sleep") and his actions (seemingly oblivious to the night of horror & ready to go on his journey) speak of his selfishness, his callousness ("Get up & let's go" v28!) and his disrespect for human life. To this Levite the concubine seems to have been little more than chattel, to be treated as one would a piece of property when in fact she was a being created in the image of God. These were indeed dark days for God's chosen people. How far might any of us slide down into the stench of the corruption that is catalyzed by the lusts of our wicked flesh, if we did not have the King reigning in our life!!?

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:27. There her husband found her, when he opened the house-door to go his way (having given up all thought of receiving her back again from the barbarous crowd), “lying before the house-door, and her hands upon the threshold” (i.e., with outstretched arms), and giving no answer to his word, having died, that is to say, in consequence of the ill-treatment of the night. He then took the corpse upon his ass to carry it to his place, i.e., to his home.(Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:28 And he said to her, "Get up and let us go," but there was no answer. Then he placed her on the donkey; and the man arose and went to his home.

But none (KJV): Jdg 20:5 1Ki 18:29

The night of horror made a powerful impact on the nation, and centuries later the prophet Hosea recalled the depth of Gibeah's corruption centuries later writing…

They have gone deep in depravity As in the days of Gibeah; He will remember their iniquity, He will punish their sins… 9 From the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel; There they stand! Will not the battle against the sons of iniquity overtake them in Gibeah? (Hosea 9:9; 10:9).

Judges 19:29 When he entered his house, he took a knife and laid hold of his concubine and cut her in twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout the territory of Israel.

divided her (KJV): It is probable, that with the pieces he sent to each tribe a circumstantial account of the barbarity of the men of Gibeah; and that they considered each of the pieces as expressing an execration. That a similar custom prevailed in ancient times is evident from 1 SA 11:7. It had an inhuman appearance, thus to mangle the corpse of this unhappy woman; but it was intended to excite a keener resentment against so horrible a crime, which called for a punishment proportionally severe. Jdg 20:6,7 Ro 10:2

with her bones (KJV): Dt 21:22,23

AND CUT HER IN TWELVE PIECES, LIMB BY LIMB: His concubine had been sacrificed to the lust of the men of Gibeah. He cut up her body as one divides the carcass of a sacrificial animal and then sent a part of her body to each of the Twelve Tribes, including the leaders of the offending tribe, Benjamin. It is ironic that the one who issued such a call was himself so selfish and insensitive.

Apparently the recipients of this gruesome parcel were expected to respond to the appeal or else risk being struck with the sword themselves. The same technique was used at Gibeah by King Saul, who cut up oxen and circulated them throughout Israel to raise an army (1Sa11:7).

Had the Levite gone to Shiloh where the tabernacle stood (18:31), and had he consulted with the high priest, he could have dealt with the matter according to the Law of God and avoided causing a great deal of trouble. Once tempers were heated in Israel, however, it was difficult to stop the fire from spreading.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary

Judg. 19:29. As soon as he arrived there, he cut up the body, according to its bones (as they cut slaughtered animals in pieces: see at Lev. 1:6), into twelve pieces, and sent them (the corpse in its pieces) into the whole of the territory of Israel, i.e., to all the twelve tribes, in the hope that every one who saw it would say: No such thing has happened or been seen since the coming up of Israel out of Egypt until this day. Give ye heed to it (שִׁימוּ for שִׂימוּ לֵב); make up your minds and say on, i.e., decide how this unparalleled wickedness is to be punished. Sending the dissected pieces of the corpse to the tribes was a symbolical act, by which the crime committed upon the murdered woman was placed before the eyes of the whole nation, to summon it to punish the crime, and was naturally associated with a verbal explanation of the matter by the bearer of the pieces. See the analogous proceeding on the part of Saul (1 Sam. 11:7), and the Scythian custom related by Lucian in Toxaris, c. 48, that whoever was unable to procure satisfaction for an injury that he had received, cut an ox in pieces and sent it round, whereupon all who were willing to help him to obtain redress took a piece, and swore that they would stand by him to the utmost of their strength. The perfects וְהָיָה—וְאָמַר (v. 30) are not used for the imperfects c. vav consec. וַיְהִי—וַיֹּאמֶר, as Hitzig supposes, but as simple perfects (perfecta conseq.), expressing the result which the Levite expected from his conduct; and we have simply to supply לֵאמֹר before וְהָיָה, which is often omitted in lively narrative or animated conversation (compare, for example, Ex. 8:5 with Judg. 7:2). The perfects are used by the historian instead of imperfects with a simple vav, which are commonly employed in clauses indicating intention, “because what he foresaw would certainly take place, floated before his mind as a thing already done” (Rosenmüller). The moral indignation, which the Levite expected on the part of all the tribes at such a crime as this, and their resolution to avenge it, are thereby exhibited not merely as an uncertain conjecture, but a fact that was sure to occur, and concerning which, as Judg. 20 clearly shows, he had not deceived himself. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 19 - p442)

Judges 19:30 And it came about that all who saw it said, "Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!"

consider (KJV): Jdg 20:7 Pr 11:14 13:10 15:22 20:18 24:6

AND IT CAME ABOUT THAT ALL WHO SAW IT SAID: tribe of Benjamin was included in the summons, but refused, thus identifying themselves with the action of the men of Gibeah.

Valley Bible Church on Judges 19

This could be the most gruesome story ever related in Scripture. Why is it here? The answer is here for us in Jdg 19:30: "And it came about that all who saw it said, 'Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up." This episode illustrates how low the children of Israel could go, even in the treatment of their own people and was a call to clean up their act.

NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED OR BEEN SEEN FROM THE DAY WHEN THE SONS OF ISRAEL CAME UP FROM THE LAND OF EGYPT TO THIS DAY: The shock of seeing the girl’s dismembered body and undoubtedly hearing the story of this undeniable outrage against the law of God caused Israel to consider this the greatest atrocity of the nation’s early history. It brought a tremendous reprisal.

CONSIDER IT, TAKE COUNSEL AND SPEAK UP: The verbs which close the chapter are perfects of consequence, expressing the results which the Levite expected from this action (see Keil and Delitzsch).

The response to this crime is typical. Men tend to disregard and tolerate evil until it becomes so blatant that it can be tolerated no further. Then they go to the opposite extreme and feel great surprise, horror, and shock at the logical consequences of the very evils they have been complacently tolerating.

G Campbell Morgan
Judges 19.30

Consider of it; take counsel, and speak. Judges 19.30

This, and the next two chapters, tell the story of a Levite, and in them again a clear mirror is held up to the times, revealing the most startling moral conditions, and showing how good and evil conflicted during the period. These particular words reveal the effect produced upon the people by the terrible message conveyed by the portions of this dead woman. In the story there are several things we do well to note. First, we must recognize the imperfection of the times as revealed in the practice of polygamy and concubinage among the chosen people. And yet, even in these matters, we see how far they were in advance of the peoples of the land. There is evidenced a moral sense, and an ideal of virtue which stands in striking contrast to the practices of the other nations. The fact that a Levite took to himself a concubine shows a low level of morality, but this must be considered in the light of the times. When this is done, we notice the sacredness which characterized his .thought of his relation to her. This was entirely distinct from the loose conceptions of the Canaan­itish people. Then again, the terrible de­generacy of a section of the chosen people is seen in the action of the men of Gibeah, which was nothing less than that of the men of Sodom of long before. And once more, on the other hand, the method of the Levite, drastic and terrible, by which he drew the attention of Israel to the sin of these men, is a revelation of the conscience of the better part of the people concerning purity. All this portrays the results of the loss of the keen sense of the Kingship of God. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).

The Levite of Ephraim
Judges 19
Henri Rossi

Judges 17 and Judges 18 have shown us the religious condition of Israel and the influence exercised over them by the pseudo‑sacerdotal class. This self‑styled priesthood, religiously corrupted, kept up religious corruption among the people. If the scenes with which chapter 17 commenced, belonged as we have seen to the times preceding the Judges, their transmission was necessary in order to set before us a picture of the solemn gradation of evil in Israel. It is somewhat the line which the Spirit of God follows in Luke's gospel, where the facts are grouped out of their chronological order, for the purpose of giving effect as a whole to certain moral truths.

Samson, the last of the Judges, still invoked Jehovah on certain memorable occasions of his life. The Levite of Judah only invoked Him over the head of his images and seraphim. The Levite of Ephraim, whose history we are about to consider, did not, alas! invoke Him at all. As far as he was concerned it seemed as if Jehovah no longer existed, and yet this man belonged to a class set apart to the service of Jehovah, for that of the priesthood, and of the house of God.

In Judges 19, we have the Levite of Ephraim in his connection not with the religious, but with the moral, state of the people. The latter was even worse than the former. The woman that the Levite had taken, left him, after being unfaithful to him. He went after her, following the bent of his own heart, and united himself to this degraded women, doing just what pleased himself. This satisfied the woman's father, who saw therein the reinstatement of his daughter. Alas! this act was also, without his being aware of it, the justification of the evil and a sanction to the defilement - all the more serious, carrying with it, as it did, the weight of the sacred position of this man. The father detained his son‑in‑law, for the longer he remained, the more public and conspicuous did the reinstatement of his daughter become. The kindness of the world is manifested toward us in proportion as we serve its interests; it does not object to alliance with the family of God. The Levite allowed himself to be belated on his way. Having only his conscience, instead of God, as his guide, he yielded to the influence of others, missed his opportunity, and fell into evil.

This man, who had allied himself to a prostitute, would not turn in to the Jebusites. It is sometimes thus with Christians. They shrink from open association with the world, whilst at the same time the hidden springs of their own lives are impure. It is possible to be very strict as to one's public walk and yet very lax as to personal holiness.

"We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel" (Jdg 19:12). The Levite was more attached to his people than to Jehovah, or rather, he did not take the latter into consideration at all. Avoiding the Jebusites from national pride rather than from piety, he seemed to imply that whatever came from Israel must necessarily be all right, when Israel had already outrageously abandoned Jehovah. These principles remain unchanged, and the ruin of our day is as much characterized by them as that of God's ancient people. Every sect in Christendom is boasted about in contrast with the heathen nations; when, as to matter of fact, Christendom itself has become the haunt of every sort of corruption, moral and religious.

The Levite soon perceived that he was not received in the midst of a people whom God had expressly commanded not to forsake the Levite (Dt. 12:19). Corrupted profession did not offer a shelter to the servant of Jehovah. (I do not speak here of the moral character of this man). We see in Jdg 19:18 the feelings which such treatment produced in his heart: "I am now going to the house of Jehovah; and there is no man that receiveth me to house." An isolated stranger who sojourned amid the corruption of Gibeah, and like Lot in Sodom, aware of it, for he said: "Only lodge not in the street" (Jdg 19:20), received the traveller into his house. A frightful thing ensued. The impure passions of men who bore the name of Jehovah equalled in horror those of the accursed city. Such things, taking place in Israel, were worse than the history of Lot, for, as dead flies cause the ointment to stink, so the corruption of the people of God is the worst of all. Moreover, we do not see any intervention of angels to deliver the just. Like Lot, the host of the Levite speaks at the door, accepting one evil to avoid a worse, and this is necessarily the principle of action of believers who go on with the world. God preserved this man from seeing his house defiled by these infamous wretches, but for him there was no other way visible. The Levite gave up his wife to dishonour. This issue might have been avoided by an appeal to God, remembering His protection in former days. Could He not, as formerly, have smitten the people with blindness? But no cry of anguish went up to Him; from the heart of the Levite to Jehovah the passage was barred.

The wretched woman, recovered from her earlier course of prostitution, without repentance or exercise of conscience, died from the dreadful consequences of what she formerly hankered after. God allowed the evil to run its full course, but, as the succeeding chapters will inform us, out of this frightful evil He brought glory to Himself.

The word of God presents two great subjects to us. What God is on the one hand; what man is on the other. God never attempts to cover up man's actual state, for, if He did, He would not be the God who is light; and His word would be false in both its presentations. As to man, God depicts him as indifferent, amiable, or religious according to nature, violent or corrupt, always selfish, hypocritical, ungodly, apostate; without law, under law, under grace, and that in all circumstances and in every degree‑-while God also shows us the work of His grace in the heart of man under all its forms and in all its gradations. We obtain thus a divine picture of our state, and are forced to the conclusion that we have no resource in ourselves, and that our only resource is in the heart of God.

L M Grant...


The history of a different Levite was involved in the moral corruption that afflicted Israel in the time of the Judges. We are reminded in verse 1 that there was no king in Israel, but in spite of that a Levite should have been preserved from evil by the Word of God. More than once in the Book of Numbers God insisted "the Levites shall be mine" (Nu 3:12, 45). God claimed them in place of the firstborn in Israel (Nu 3:41). Therefore they ought to have been examples to the rest of the people. But instead we have seen a Levite involved in spiritual corruption in Chapters 17 and 18, and now in moral corruption.

This Levite took a concubine. "Marriage is honorable among all" (Heb 13:4-note), but co-habiting together apart from marriage is dishonorable. Often this is done because the man does not want the responsibilities of marriage. In the Old Testament various believers took concubines, but it was never with God's approval, though God bore with it at the time.

If marriage had taken place, the woman may not have been guilty of sexual relations with other men. She may have felt herself more or less free because she was not married. Yet this was sad confusion. However, it seems she did not give herself up to prostitution, but rather went back to her father's house, being there four months (Jdg 19:2).

The Levite at least had concern enough for her to go to speak kindly to her so that she would come back with him. If he had decided to forgive her, why did he not then offer to marry her? The woman's father was glad to meet the Levite, but even he did not suggest they should be married. How like the laxity of our times!

The young woman had agreed to return with the Levite to his home, but her father detained him for three days of social enjoyment (Jdg 19:4). When Abraham's servant went to find a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:55,56), he would not consent to being detained, but this Levite remained for the three days and planned to leave early the fourth day. But the woman's father urged him to stay another day (Jdg 19:7) and he gave in to this. Then on the fifth day, instead of leaving early, he succumbed to the urging of remaining till afternoon! Again the woman's father urged him to remain over night and go the next morning (Jdg 19:9). But he felt, evidently, that he had given in too much already, and they started their journey late in the day (Jdg 19:10). This wavering indecision is a sad comment on the character of the Levite, one who had the place of the Lord's servant!

(JUDGES 19:11-21)

They could not travel far, and when darkness was near they passed near to Jerusalem, named Jebus at the time, for it was still in the hands of the Jebusites. The man had a servant with him who suggested staying at Jebus (Jdg 19:11), but the Levite did not favor staying in a Gentile city, and decided they should go to Gibeah, a city of Benjamin (Jdg 19:12-13). By the time they arrived, darkness had fallen (Jdg 19:14).

They evidently asked in Gibeah if they could find lodging, but no one was willing to take them in, so they sat in the town square (Jdg 19:15). Such was the coldness of Israelites toward Israelites at the time. They might have fared better in the Jebusite city!

However, it happened that an old man came in just then from working in his field. He was not a Benjamite, but came also from the mountains of Ephraim (Jdg 19:16), and he was concerned to see people in the open without lodging. Asking the Levite where they had come from and where they were going, he found they belonged in Ephraim too, but that they could find no lodging in Gibeah (vv.18-19). The old man kindly invited them to his house, giving food for both themselves and their donkeys. He knew the danger of spending the night in the open (Jdg 19:21).

(JUDGES 19:22-30)

Sadly, here in Israel the wickedness of Sodom was repeated (Gen. 19:4, 5). Perverted men surrounded the house and beat on the door, demanding that the visiting man would be given to them so they could abuse him homosexually. Though the old man pled with them, they were adamant, but they were given, not the Levite, but his concubine, whom they abused sexually all night, then let her go (Jdg 19:24, 25). She was able only to get back to the door of the house before collapsing and dying (Jdg 19:26).

How could the Levite's conscience be clear before God in giving up the woman to this horrible violence? But we have seen there were previous steps of disobedience to God and spiritual degradation, and God allowed this to progress to this terrible point.

Surely the Levite ought to have been humbled to the dust before God, but when finding the poor woman on the ground at the door, he said to her, "Get up and let us be going" (v.28). He did not realize she was dead, but if she had not been dead, he was still being heartlessly inconsiderate.

He took her dead body back to his home, but instead of stopping to consider his own criminal responsibility in this whole matter, he decided to make a public outcry against Gibeah. The means he took was gruesome. He cut the woman's body into 12 pieces and sent them to the 12 tribes of Israel, evidently with a report of what had happened (Jdg 19:29). The Levite wanted revenge on a national scale, but we see no sign of self-judgment on his own part.

However, this method of raising righteous indignation in Israel was successful. All who received this kind of information accompanied by part of a dead body, were greatly incensed against the perpetrators of the crime (Jdg 19:30). Does this mean it was right to do it this way. No, indeed! The case ought to have been addressed more locally, and settled in the courts without becoming a national scandal. But where were the local authorities to be appealed to? Thus is illustrated the great weakness of Israel at the time

F B Meyer…


This and the following chapters hold up the mirror to human nature, and reveal what is in the heart of man apart from the grace of God. The Bible not only tells us of the remedy, but reveals to us the deadliness of the disease. We might wonder why so much is said about the blood of the Son of God, if we had not been told of the depravity and blackness of men's hearts. We must not suppose that these were sinners apart from others. We have all one human heart, and the same tendencies are in us each. Man is horrified when these reveal themselves in their naked hideousness in the lives of others, but is inclined to justify them in himself. But God justly brands with the same guilt the thought and intention of the heart, which is only restrained from breaking into open sin by the conventionalities of good society.

If you are standing near Christ, with your hand locked in His, it will not harm you to look over the jutting precipice into these seething depths. But if it be not so with you, pass over this record until your soul has become pure with a purity which turns from sin to Christ, with the shame that filled His holy soul in the days of His flesh, and made Him stoop to the ground (John 8:6).

Many interesting lessons are taught of the manners of the times. Unhappily, drunkenness was already invading the homes of the people (Judges 19:5, 6, 7, 8, 9). The surprise at the withholding of hospitality shows how general it was to entertain strangers in those simple, old-world days (Judges 19:11, 12, 13, 14, 15). The conversation with the old man reminds us how often the most generous feelings reveal themselves in the most unlikely quarters (Judges 19:16-21). In the subsequent assault upon his house, he was prepared to make any sacrifice in order to save him whom he was sheltering under his roof. So careful of the honor of the home, so careless of the honor of woman. One of the divinest traits in the religion of Jesus Christ, is the sanctity with which He has invested womanhood.

We are reminded of a similar scene at the gates of Sodom; but there were no angels here to stay the deeds of violence. Alas! that the redeemed people of the Lord had sunk to so low a depth (1Cor. 6:9, 10, 11).

This incident is spoken of afterwards as the beginning of Israel's corruption, and a pattern of much after sin (Hos. 9:9; 10:9).

Josephus places this narrative at the beginning of the Judges. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, was living while these events took place (Judges 20:28). (F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)