And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah.Jdg 19:1. Who took him a concubine — Hebrew, a wife, a concubine, that is, such a concubine as was also his wife: called a concubine only because she was not endowed. Perhaps he had nothing to endow her with, being himself only a sojourner. “Women of this sort differed little from the wife, except in some outward ceremonies and stipulations, but agreed with her in all the true essentials of marriage, and gave themselves up to the husband, (for so he is called in the next chapter, Jdg 19:4,) with faith plighted, and with affection.” — Dr. Dodd, who refers to Sterne’s Sermons, vol. 3. Ser. 3., and Selden de Jure, Nat. lib. 5. c. 7.
And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months.Jdg 19:2-3. Played the whore against him — Against her faith given to him. Went away — Either for fear of punishment, or because her heart was alienated from him; wherein not only she sinned, but her father, by connivance at her sin, and neglect of just endeavours for her reconciliation to her husband. Her husband went to speak friendly unto her — To offer her pardon and reconciliation.
And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father's house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.
And his father in law, the damsel's father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.
And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart: and the damsel's father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way.
And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel's father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry.
And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again.
And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel's father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them.
And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel's father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home.
But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him.
And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it.
And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah.Jdg 19:12. The city of a stranger — That is, of a strange nation; a city which the Canaanites possess. For though Jerusalem had been taken by Caleb, (chap. 1.,) yet the strong fort of Zion was still in their hands, whence it is likely they did much molest, and afterward, by God’s permission, drive out the Israelites who dwelt there.
And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah.
And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin.
And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.Jdg 19:15. He sat down in the street of the city — There being no public inns in that country in those days, this was the general custom. Travellers sat down in the streets till some person invited them into his house. And this was generally readily done by one or other, except in places where there was a great degeneracy of manners. Here, although they were soft and effeminate in other respects, yet they were hard-hearted to strangers, for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging, till a poor labouring man performed that office of hospitality toward them.
And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites.Jdg 19:16. Also of mount Ephraim — Whence likewise the Levite was, which inclined him to show the more kindness to his countryman. But the men of the place were Benjamites — This was indeed one of the cities belonging to the priests; but the cities which were given to the priests, and whereof they were owners, were not inhabited by the priests or Levites only, especially at this time, when they were but few in number, but by many other persons of different professions.
And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou?
And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehemjudah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehemjudah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me to house.Jdg 19:18. House of the Lord — Which was in Shiloh. Thither he went, either because he lived there for that was in the tribe of Ephraim; or, rather, because he would there offer prayers and praises, and sacrifices to God, for his mercy in reconciling him and his wife.
Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing.Jdg 19:19. Yet there is both straw, &c. — The Levite here acquaints the man that he had with him all things necessary both for himself and his concubine, his servant and his asses; so that he should not burden any man who should receive him, as he only wanted some place to lodge in. For thy handmaid — Or, as we should speak now, for the woman that is with me. The young man that is with thy servants — Or along with us. It was a form of expression in those days to entitle themselves the servants of those they spoke to with any degree of respect.
And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.Jdg 19:20-21. Let all thy wants lie upon me — It matters not whether thou wantest nothing or every thing; I will take care to supply all thy wants. They washed their feet — As they used to do to travellers in those hot countries.
So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.
Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.Jdg 19:22-23. As they were making their hearts merry — That is, refreshing themselves with the provisions set before them. Behold, certain sons of Belial — Children of the devil, wicked and licentious men. Bring forth the man, &c. — They wanted the Levite brought forth, that they might satisfy their unnatural lusts. This man is come into my house — And therefore I am obliged to protect him by the laws of hospitality. As several circumstances of this horrid wickedness resemble those of the affair recorded Genesis 19., we refer the reader to the notes on that chapter.
And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.
Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.Jdg 19:24. Behold, here is my daughter, &c. — The master of the house came at last to a resolution that it was less wickedness to prostitute the women to their lusts than the Levite. The dilemma to which he was reduced was indeed dreadful, nevertheless he is not to be justified in the proposal which he makes, no more than Lot was to be justified in a similar case, in offering his two daughters to satisfy the lusts of the men of Sodom. Although of two evils we must choose the less, yet, as we have there observed, “of two sins we must choose neither, nor ever do evil that good may come.”
But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.
Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light.Jdg 19:26. Then came the woman, and fell down, &c. — Namely, dead; killed partly with grief of heart, and partly with excessive abuse. Thus the sin she formerly chose, (Jdg 19:2,) is now her destruction; and though her husband pardoned her, God would punish her, at least as to this life.
And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.Jdg 19:27-28. Went out to go his way — Concluding, without doubt, that the Gibeathites had conveyed away his concubine, and would keep her, and therefore he hasted home to take proper measures for the recovery of her; as we find he did afterward to revenge her death. He said unto her, Up, and let us be going — He thought she was only asleep, and the unexpected surprise of seeing her, and his haste to get out of this inhospitable place, might make him express himself in this manner.
And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.
And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.Jdg 19:29. He took a knife, &c. — As the Levite expected no justice from the elders of Gibeah, and there was no supreme head over all the tribes at that time, he had recourse to the elders of each respective tribe; and to move them the more, and stir them up to punish the offender, he sent a part of the body to each of them, preserved undoubtedly by some means from putrefaction. And, undoubtedly, he instructed those he sent with it to relate particularly the circumstances of the unparalleled and barbarous fact.
And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.Jdg 19:30. All said, There was no such deed done or seen, &c. — All who saw it, and heard the relation, were so moved with horror at it that they called upon each other to consult and give their opinion in what manner justice should be done upon the lewd and inhuman Gibeathites; as follows in the next chapter.