Jud 19:1-15. A Levite Going
to Bethlehem to Fetch His Wife.
1. it came to pass in those days—The
painfully interesting episode that follows, together with the intestine
commotion the report of it produced throughout the country, belongs to
the same early period of anarchy and prevailing disorder.
a certain Levite … took to him a
concubine—The priests under the Mosaic law enjoyed the
privilege of marrying as well as other classes of the people. It was no
disreputable connection this Levite had formed; for a nuptial
engagement with a concubine wife (though, as wanting in some outward
ceremonies, it was reckoned a secondary or inferior relationship)
possessed the true essence of marriage; it was not only lawful, but
sanctioned by the example of many good men.
2. his concubine … went away from him unto
her father's house—The cause of the separation assigned in
our version rendered it unlawful for her husband to take her back
24:4); and according to the
uniform style of sentiment and practice in the East, she would have
been put to death, had she gone to her father's family. Other versions
concur with Josephus, in representing
the reason for the flight from her husband's house to be, that she was
disgusted with him, through frequent brawls.
3, 4. And her husband arose, and went after her,
to speak friendly unto her—Hebrew, "speak to her
heart," in a kindly and affectionate manner, so as to rekindle her
affection. Accompanied by a servant, he arrived at the house of his
father-in-law, who rejoiced to meet him, in the hope that a complete
reconciliation would be brought about between his daughter and her
husband. The Levite, yielding to the hospitable importunities of his
father-in-law, prolonged his stay for days.
8. tarried—with reluctance.
until afternoon—literally, "the
decline of the day." People in the East, who take little or nothing to
eat in the morning, do not breakfast till from ten to twelve A.M., and this meal the hospitable relative
had purposely protracted to so late a period as to afford an argument
for urging a further stay.
9. the day draweth toward
evening—Hebrew, "the pitching time of day." Travellers
who set out at daybreak usually halt about the middle of the afternoon
the first day, to enjoy rest and refreshment. It was, then, too late a
time to commence a journey. But duty, perhaps, obliged the Levite to
indulge no further delay.
10-12. the man … departed, and came over
against Jebus—The note, "which is Jerusalem," must have been
inserted by Ezra or some later hand. Jebus being still, though not
entirely (Jud 1:8) in
the possession of the old inhabitants, the Levite resisted the advice
of his attendant to enter it and determined rather to press forward to
pass the night in Gibeah, which he knew was occupied by Israelites. The
distance from Beth-lehem to Jerusalem is about six miles. The event
showed that it would have been better to have followed the advice of
his attendant—to have trusted themselves among aliens than among
their own countrymen.
13. in Gibeah, or in Ramah—The first of
these places was five miles northeast, the other from four to five
north of Jerusalem.
15. when he went in, he sat him down in a street
of the city—The towns of Palestine at this remote period
could not, it seems, furnish any establishment in the shape of an inn
or public lodging-house. Hence we conclude that the custom, which is
still frequently witnessed in the cities of the East, was then not
uncommon, for travellers who were late in arriving and who had no
introduction to a private family, to spread their bedding in the
streets, or wrapping themselves up in their cloaks, pass the night in
the open air. In the Arab towns and villages, however, the sheik, or
some other person, usually comes out and urgently invites the strangers
to his house. This was done also in ancient Palestine (Ge 18:4; 19:2). That the same hospitality was
not shown in Gibeah seems to have been owing to the bad character of
Jud 19:16-21. An Old Man
Entertains Him at Gibeah.
16. there came an old man from his work out of the
field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim—Perhaps his
hospitality was quickened by learning the stranger's occupation, and
that he was on his return to his duties at Shiloh.
19, 20. there is no want of any thing—In
answering the kindly inquiries of the old man, the Levite deemed it
right to state that he was under no necessity of being burdensome on
anyone, for he possessed all that was required to relieve his wants.
Oriental travellers always carry a stock of provisions with them; and
knowing that even the khans or lodging-houses they may find on their
way afford nothing beyond rest and shelter, they are careful to lay in
a supply of food both for themselves and their beasts. Instead of hay,
which is seldom met with, they used chopped straw, which, with a
mixture of barley, beans, or the like, forms the provender for cattle.
The old man, however, in the warmth of a generous heart, refused to
listen to any explanation, and bidding the Levite keep his stocks for
any emergency that might occur in the remainder of his journey, invited
them to accept of the hospitalities of his house for the night.
20. only lodge not in the street—As this
is no rare or singular circumstance in the East, the probability is
that the old man's earnest dissuasive from such a procedure arose from
his acquaintance with the infamous practices of the place.
Jud 19:22-28. The Gibeahites
Abuse His Concubine to Death.
22-24. certain sons of Belial beset the
house—The narrative of the horrid outrage that was committed;
of the proposal of the old man; the unfeeling, careless, and in many
respects, inexplicable conduct of the Levite towards his wife, disclose
a state of morality that would have appeared incredible, did it not
rest on the testimony of the sacred historian. Both men ought to have
protected the women in the house, even though at the expense of their
lives, or thrown themselves on God's providence. It should be noted,
however, that the guilt of such a foul outrage is not fastened on the
general population of Gibeah.
29. divided her … into twelve
pieces—The want of a regular government warranted an
extraordinary step; and certainly no method could have been imagined
more certain of rousing universal horror and indignation than this
terrible summons of the Levite.