Judges 19


‘In those days Israel had no king. Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there. On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together. Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” Judges 19:1-9

A Levite And His Concubine

As in the previous chapter, the author of Judges begins with the words, ‘in those day Israel had no king’, which implies there’s no leadership and what we’re about to read isn’t going to be God led. This chapter is believed by some people to be the most disgusting chapter in the whole Bible.

We read about a concubine from Bethlehem who leaves her Levite husband. Many people in the Old Testament had concubines, Abraham, Genesis 25:6, Jacob, Genesis 35:22, Caleb, 1 Chronicles 2:46, Saul, 2 Samuel 3:7, David, 2 Samuel 5:13, Solomon, 1 Kings 11:3, and Rehoboam, 2 Chronicles 11:21. As we know none of these relationships ended well.

A concubine was one who was legally bound to a man, but not as his wife, Exodus 21:7-11 / Deuteronomy 21:10-14. Some scholars think that she had committed adultery against him and others think she left him because he was a bad husband.

It really makes no difference either way, but she goes to her father’s house, and her husband follows her to try and win her back. Perhaps the father was glad to see the Levite and his daughter back together or perhaps the father was simply glad to have his daughter out of his house again. The father of the concubine extends the visit with a traditionally generous show of hospitality.

‘But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine. When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.” His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night. That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. When he looked and saw the traveller in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?” He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the LORD. No one has taken me in for the night. We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.” “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.’ Judges 19:10-21

Jebus, or Jerusalem, was occupied by the Jebusites until the reign of David. He convinces her to come back with him and on their way home, they come to a Benjamite city called Gibeah. Instead of staying in this foreign city, the Levite went on to Gibeah where he and his concubine had to sleep in the street.

The Levite and his concubine found no hospitality in Gibeah. Remember God commanded hospitality among His people, Leviticus 19:33-34 / Leviticus 25:35 / Matthew 25:35 / Hebrews 13:2.

It’s getting late, but they can’t find a place to spend the night, so they just sit down on the side of the street. An old man sees them and graciously invites them to stay the night in his house. The only person to extend hospitality to the Levite and his concubine was a man from their own region.

Notice he was going to the house of the Lord, which was in Shiloh, Judges 18:31. And so, being found in the street by an Ephraimite coming in from the fields, they were invited to stay in his house.

‘While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.” The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.” But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home. When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!” Judges 19:22-30

After he fed them and their donkeys, they’re having a great time together until they hear a pounding at the door and it’s a group of Benjamite locals. What do they want?

They want to have sex with the man who was the Ephraimite’s guest, Hosea 9:9 / Hosea 10:9. This isn’t the first time this kind of behaviour is found in the Bible. The events which happened at Sodom in Genesis 19 with Lot, are very similar.

The old man basically says, ‘no way! What’s the matter with you guys? This guy’s my guest, for crying out loud’. ‘Tell you what, here’s his concubine. Do whatever you want to her. Here, I’ll even throw in my daughter.’

I don’t know about you but I don’t think this guy will be getting any ‘father of year’ awards any time soon. The men want this man but the Levite brings out his concubine and the men of the city take her away and rape her all night.

They finally let her go in the morning and when she makes it back to the old man’s house where her husband spent the night, she collapses at front of the door.

Her husband finds her and when he opens the door, what does he say to her? What’s the first thing that comes out of his mouth? ‘Get up, let’s go’. There are no words of comfort, no words of love or compassion. He more or less says to her, ‘good morning, sunshine! Ready to go home?’

I mean what planet was this guy living on? No wonder she doesn’t answer him. And so he loads her onto his donkey, returns home and when he arrives, what does he do?

Does he tuck her up in bed and make her a nice cup of coffee? No. ‘He took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.’

As we can imagine, word of this barbarism spreads across Israel, and the people are outraged. The horror of the dismemberment shocked all of Israel.

It shocked the Israelites into realizing that at least portions of Israel, specifically the Benjamites, had digressed into total moral degradation. If what was reported was true, then the Benjamites must be punished severely for the crime, which we read about in the next chapter.

The Levite acted as a self-appointed, self-righteous judge but notice what he failed to mention. He conveniently fails to mention that he was the one who set this poor woman up for rape and murder in order to save himself.

No wonder this chapter is described as the most disgusting chapter in the whole Bible. But why? Why did the Benjamites want to have sex with that man? Why did they rape the man’s wife? Why did he take her home and cut her into pieces?

‘In those days Israel had no king’. In other words, when there are no absolute laws, then anything goes.

Go To Judges 20


"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."