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Deeper Commentary

Jdg 19:1 In those days, when there was no king in Israel-
This seems to repeat Jud. 17:6 "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes".
This implies that the book of Judges as we have it was edited, under Divine inspiration, some time after Israel began to have kings. Perhaps during the exile, when again they had no king; and therefore the book becomes a warning to the exiles about likely apostacy. The lament may be that there was no authority, no teacher, no modelling of Godly living; because every man did what was right in his own eyes, rather than doing what was right in the eyes of Yahweh. For so often we read of Israel being condemned for doing what was wrong in His eyes. This is clear enough evidence that 'just follow your heart' is poor advice. For what is right in our own eyes results in the Godless confusion of what we find now at the time of the Judges. However it could be argued that having no human king was a good thing; for God didn't want them to have one. And therefore a situation where everyone judges things by their own judgment is in fact good; the problem was that the people didn't base their view upon God's word, His "eyes" or perspective, but solely upon their own unenlightened opinions. 

There was a Levite living on the farther side of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine out of Bethlehem Judah-
Not having their own land, the Levites were homeless when the tithes weren't paid, or if their priestly allotment was taken from them by the tribe where the priestly city was. I noted on the distribution of the priestly cities in Joshua that many were in areas not subdued by Israel, or in remote, peripheral regions. So the Levites became landless labourers, often homeless. This Levite appears to have been somewhat better off, and had a relationship with a woman other than his wife from Judah, far from where he was living. He had presumably met her in his various travels as a landless man. But immediately we get the impression he is not going to be a spiritual man- for he had another woman apart from his wife.

Jdg 19:2 His concubine was unfaithful to him, and went away from him to her father’s house to Bethlehem Judah, and was there for four months-
Again the impression is reinforced that neither this Levite nor his woman on the side were very spiritual people. He was effectively unfaithful to his wife, and she was unfaithful to him. The fact she left him and returned to her family may have been because she feared he would physically abuse her- which he eventually does by cutting up her body into parts, showing himself no better than the men who raped her to death. And suggesting she indeed had reason to fear his abuse. Her unfaithfulness to him could have been punished by death. And yet the huge fuss made about her death therefore seems inappropriate to the fact that in God's book, she deserved death anyway.

Jdg 19:3 Her husband went after her to persuade her to return. He had his servant with him and a couple of donkeys, and she brought him into her father’s house. When her father saw him, he was pleased to meet him-
I noted on :2 that the Levite hardly loved his concubine. And yet it seems that on another level he did. This is typical of the theme of mixed motives in Judges. We note too that girl's father seemed to like her married lover. We get the impression that this was a case of male drinking partners getting on well with each other, and not interested in the fact she had been unfaithful; they just wanted to get the family relationship back together. She may well have been pregnant by the Levite- hence his interest in having her back. For he couldn't have really loved her to cut up her body as he later does. The "couple" of donkeys were literally two donkeys (:2). As he was wealthy enough to have a concubine, a servant and donkeys, we wonder why he didn't bring a third donkey- for the concubine to ride on. The conclusion is surely that he didn't care for her; and his desire to get her back may well have been because she was pregnant with his child.

Jdg 19:4 His father-in-law, the girl’s father, persuaded him to stay, and he stayed with him three days, eating and drinking and sleeping there-
Eating and drinking are associated with illicit sexual behaviour, so we wonder whether the "sleeping" was also in this area. Hence in :6 "enjoy yourself" comes after eating and drinking. We can assume that the drinking involved drinking alcohol to excess, and we note that the Levite mentions that he is carrying plenty of wine with him in :19. It all builds up the impression that this Levite is not a very spiritual person; and neither is his concubine nor her family.

Jdg 19:5 On the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he got ready to depart-
LXX "he stood up to depart" could imply he had been drunk before that.

And the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, Strengthen yourself with something to eat and then go on your way-
The man clearly likes the Levite and wants him to stay with him at all costs, recalling the apostate Micah of Jud. 17 by all means wanting the unspiritual Levite to stay with him.

Jdg 19:6 So they sat down, ate and drank together, and then the girl’s father said to the man, Please stay another night and enjoy yourself-
"Enjoy yourself" clearly suggests these men were drinking to excess and possibly misbehaving sexually; see on :4. AV "let thine heart be merry", the phrase used of the apostate Levite in Jud. 18:20.  

Jdg 19:7 When the man got up to go, his father-in-law urged him to stay, so he stayed there again-
We get the impression that the Levite just couldn't resist the temptation to drink.

Jdg 19:8 On the fifth day he got up early to leave, and the girl’s father said, Please refresh yourself and stay until the afternoon; and they ate together-
They ate but didn't drink together as planned. The girl's father managed to delay him until afternoon, when the logical time to start the journey was in the morning (:9). But the Levite can't make an early start because he is always so drunk the night before, and can't get up early. That is the clear implication. We get the impression of weak will and carnality in this man. The record focuses upon the two men; the girl, who may well have been pregnant which was why he wanted her back so as to claim the child, didn't feature in their behaviour. The Levite is presented as not caring for her- building up to the impression that what he will do with her body and the fuss he will make is all hypocritical.

Jdg 19:9 When the man, his concubine and his servant got up to leave, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, Look now, it’s nearly evening; please stay all night. Stay here and enjoy yourself, and tomorrow set off early and go home-
Afternoon was an unwise time to start the journey, as they would need to find somewhere to stay at night; and travel was dangerous and lonely after dark. The truth is, this Levite is so alcoholic that he was always drunk at night, and so early morning starts weren't what he was capable of.

Jdg 19:10 But the man wouldn’t stay that night; he got up and departed, and went towards Jebus (that is Jerusalem) with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine-
We are left to wonder as discussed on :3 why a man wealthy enough to have a servant, a concubine and donkeys didn't bring a third donkey for the (pregnant?) concubine to ride. We get the impression from "his two donkeys and his concubine" that the concubine had to walk whilst he and his male servant rode the donkeys. Continually the impression is built up that he didn't really care for the girl at all, and the outcry he was to make was hypocritical.

Jdg 19:11 When they were near Jebus, the light was almost gone, and the servant said to his master, Please come and let us go into this city of the Jebusites, and stay the night there-
The servant was clearly fearful of travelling at night, knowing the dangers from wild animals and robbers. He had no particular fear of the Jebusites, showing that Israel was reconciled with the local inhabitants- because they worshipped the same gods.

Jdg 19:12 His master said to him, We won’t go into the city of a foreigner whose people are not Israelites; we will go on to Gibeah-
Again we see the theme of mixed hearts in Judges. The Levite is presented as very unspiritual; but he refuses association with non Israelites. He will not even sleep a night in a Gentile inn- although there was no Mosaic prohibition of coming into the home of a Gentile. We recall at the time of Peter that New Testament Judaism had made entering the home of a Gentile an unlawful thing. And it was the same hypocrisy behind this Levite here. The unspiritual Levite with his donkey is the image used by the Lord in His parable of the good Samaritan, and it also features an inn which the Levite refused to use to assist the injured man. The Lord therefore presents this Levite in a bad light.

Jdg 19:13 He said to his servant, Come and let us get to one of these places; we will spend the night in Gibeah or in Ramah-
These were about two or three hours journey further on from Jerusalem where they were.

Jdg 19:14 So they went on and towards evening they were near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin-
This was to be the "Gibeah of Saul". We note Saul was from such an unspiritual place with such an awful spiritual history. But for all that bad background, the Spirit of God would have turned him right around- had he wished it. For bad background is no obstacle to the transforming work of the Spirit.

Jdg 19:15 They stopped there to spend the night in Gibeah. They went in and sat down in the street, because no-one took them into his house for the night-
Again (see on :12), the Lord may have this incident in mind when He says that He will condemn those at the judgement who in this life did not take in strangers (Mt. 25:43). We are intended to reflect that he would have been better treated had he arrived in Jebus that night than he was amongst the Israelites in Gibeah. The fact nobody showed hospitality was a reflection of the unspirituality of Gibeah. "The street" is better 'the square'. 

Jdg 19:16 In the evening there came an old man from his work in the field. He was from the hill country of Ephraim and he lived in Gibeah, but the men of the place were Benjamites-
He was therefore from the same area where the Levite was living (:1). This was surely Divine providence. Perhaps the men of Gibeah were so xenophobic that they also hated even this old man who was from another tribe.

Jdg 19:17 When he saw the traveller in the street the old man said, Where are you going? Where have you come from?-
These words are a direct quote of the Angel's words to Hagar, when she is fleeing from Sarah and has nowhere to go, and faces death and danger alone in the desert (Gen. 16:8). Clearly the old man was faithful to Yahweh and immediately thought in terms of Biblical and spiritual precedent, and wished to act as the Angel had acted to Hagar when He 'found' her. We should be the same, always thinking in terms of Biblical precedent.

Jdg 19:18 He said to him, We are on our way from Bethlehem Judah to the far side of the hill country of Ephraim. I am from there and I have been in Bethlehem Judah. I am going to the house of Yahweh, and no-one has taken me into his house-
This was a lie; the man was returning home, and not going to Bethel or to the sanctuary of Yahweh. We note the term "house of Yahweh" again indicates the records here were edited [under Divine inspiration] during the exile, or at least after the temple had been built. The Levite may mean that he was a Levite who served in God's house, and therefore Israel ought to have taken him into their houses; but they were so apostate and even against Yahweh's sanctuary and the Levites that they did not. He may also be implying that it was because he served in Yahweh's house that these apostates wouldn't have him in their houses. Which may have been true, but was very hypocritical for a man who has been drunk the last five days. Maybe indeed the Benjamites despised the sanctuary of Yahweh, and the Levites; and this was the real reason why Yahweh allowed their destruction at the hands of the brethren.

Jdg 19:19 Yet we have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine also for me and for the maidservant and for the young man who is with us. We don’t need anything-
The fact the Levite mentions he has plenty of wine with him suggests he may well have been an alcoholic; for we recall him drinking wine to excess with his woman's father for some days before this journey. It all builds up the impression that this Levite with his donkey is not a very spiritual person, and the Lord's parable of the good Samaritan may well have this Levite in view- presenting him as an unspiritual man.

Jdg 19:20 The old man said, Peace to you! But I will provide for you; don’t stay all night in the street-
The story is clearly a repeat of the actions of Lot toward the Angels he met on the streets of Sodom. Again we are asked to see that situations repeat within the lives of God's servants. And we are to perceive this, being always comforted that we are not alone; the biographies we have in the Bible are to comfort us that we are not travelling unchartered territory, no experience is not completely unique to us. 

Jdg 19:21 So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys fodder, and they washed their feet and ate and drank-
The old man comes over as spiritually minded (:17) and although an old man, like a true seed of Abraham, still entertaining strangers. 

Jdg 19:22 As they were enjoying themselves-
The same phrase is used about how the Levite got drunk repeatedly with his father in law. The Levite basically tells the old man that he has wine with him and they can have a nice time together with it, if he stays at his place (:19).

The wicked men of the city surrounded the house, beating on the door; they said to the owner of the house, the old man, Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may have sex with him!-
This is a repeat of the situation in Sodom, and "that righteous man" Lot is paralleled in the old man- weak, but spiritual and with God in his heart.

Jdg 19:23 The owner of the house went out to them and said to them, No my brothers, please don’t act so wickedly; since this man is my guest don’t do this disgraceful thing-
The culture of protecting guests was very strong, and the care of the man was partly from pride, and partly from genuine concern to protect a Levite. Again, as always in Judges 17-21, a case of mixed motives.

Jdg 19:24 Look, here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. I will bring them out now and you can use them and do with them what seems good unto you, but don’t do any such disgusting thing to this man-
The old man perceived, surely, the similarities with Lot in Sodom. For we saw on :17 how he knew the book of Genesis very well, and had already quoted from Genesis 17. And the events of Lot in Sodom were only a little later, in Gen. 19. So it may be that he made this desperate offer thinking that he was justified in it by Lot. He failed to perceive that the Biblical characters are not at all spotlessly righteous, and it is for us to perceive that and learn from their mistakes- rather than taking a simplistic approach which considers them all as pale faced, perfect saints. The wrath of Israel was upon Benjamin and Gibeah for what was done. But they were overlooking the fact that this man of Ephraim, with the full consent of the Levite, had in fact offered the Levite's concubine to these men. They had even invited them to do "whatever seems good unto you". And the men did so. And yet Benjamin's wrath ignores all this and focuses instead upon those they wish to focus their wrath upon. There is very much injustice and lack of consideration of all factors in their judgment of the situation. And one of the lessons from the errors all around in this narrative is that we are not to judge- simply because we cannot judge. We are incapable of factoring in everything. 

Jdg 19:25 But the men wouldn’t listen to him, so the man took his concubine and brought her out to them and they raped her and abused her all night until the morning, and when the day began to dawn they let her go-
This fact was not given its full weight. It was the Levite who had given his concubine to them. Instead of giving his life for his wife, he gave her to humiliation and death in order to save his own skin. Again we see that the Levite didn't love the woman. And if he had, he would not have cut her body up.

Jdg 19:26 Then the woman went back and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, and lay there until it was light-
"Her master" is a phrase suddenly used here and in :27. Perhaps the idea is that she belonged to the Levite. He was her master and should have been caring towards her as his property. He was not. And so the eager belief of the narrative that this poor man had cruelly lost his beloved wife... is suspect. It was created like that, and upon that was built in any case a huge over reaction. The implication is that she was alive when she got to the house; she was not murdered by the rapists. She died on the doorstep- because the Levite didn't open the door and pull her in.

Jdg 19:27 Her master got up in the morning and opened the door and went out to continue on his way, and there was his concubine fallen down at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold-
The idea may be that she had been trying to open the door, or at least knock upon it; hence GNB "with her hands reaching for the door". But the Levite, who surely didn't go to sleep that night, hadn't opened the door to pull her in and care for her. See on :26.

Jdg 19:28 He said to her, Get up, and let us be going! but there was no answer. Then he put her up on the donkey and set off for home-
This clearly reflects his despite of her. It was obvious that she was either dead, or severely wounded; likely she was covered with blood. But he gruffly tells her to get up and be going. There is no attempt to enquire of her welfare or to assist her. It is absolutely clear now that the Levite doesn't at all love or care for her; indeed it was him who had given her to the rapists. He was wrong, they were wrong- but Israel were to make the mistake of so much human 'judgment', and seek to find one party guilty and the other totally innocent.

Jdg 19:29 When he had come into his house, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, and divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent them throughout all the regions of Israel-
Again as noted on :28, we have the final evidence that he didn't love her. For a man would never do this to a woman he loved. He was clearly offended that nobody had taken him in, and that he had been threatened with male rape. And he was seeking to wreak a terrible vengeance against the city and tribe- because of his own hurt pride. The twelve pieces going to the twelve tribes would have included Benjamin.

Jdg 19:30 All who saw it said, Such a deed has never been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of Egypt until this day! Consider it! Decide what should be done-
The gruesome record of the Levite cutting up his wife’s body and sending parts of the body throughout all Israel has much to teach us of the power of the memorial service. It was done so that all who received the parts of that broken body would “take advice and speak [their] minds" (Jud. 19:30). It was designed to elicit the declaration of their hearts, and above all to provoke to concrete action. Splitting up a body and sharing it with all Israel was clearly a type of the breaking of bread, where in symbol, the same happens. Consider some background, all of which points forward to the Lord’s sufferings:
- The person whose body was divided up was from Bethlehem, and of the tribe of Judah (Jud. 19:1)
- They were ‘slain’ by permission of a priest
- They were dragged to death by a wicked Jewish mob
- They were “brought forth" to the people just as the Lord was to the crowd (Jud. 19:25)
- “Do what seemeth good unto you" (Jud. 19:24) is very much Pilate language
- A man sought to dissuade the crowd from their purpose- again, as Pilate.
There should be a like effect upon us as we receive the emblems of the Lord’s ‘broken body’- the inner thoughts of our hearts are elicited, and we are provoked to action.