Judges 19
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Appendix II. Chs. 19–21 The war against Benjamin

The First Appendix deals with the early fortunes of Dan, the Second with an episode in the history of Benjamin. In consequence of an abominable outrage committed by the Benjamites of Gibeah, all Israel determines to take vengeance on the offending tribe. A vast army assembles at Mizpah; in the battles which follow the Israelites at first suffer heavily, but in the end the Benjamites are defeated and nearly exterminated. Such a disaster, however, as the total loss of one of the twelve tribes was not to be thought of; in a revulsion of feeling the Israelites recommend a plan for saving Benjamin from its fate.

In parts these chapters bear obvious marks of antiquity: (a) the account of the outrage ch. 19, and (b) the account of the rape Jdg 21:15-23 remind us of chs. 17 and 18, both by the vivid style of the narrative and by the state of manners and religion which comes to light. On the other hand, (c) the account of the vengeance 20, Jdg 21:2-14, though parts of ch. 20 are ancient, contradicts what we know from elsewhere about the history of this period. Instead of the tribes acting independently, and local chiefs rousing their own clans and allies, here we have all Israel acting together, without any head or leader, as one man (Jdg 20:1; Jdg 20:8), under a common impulse. Israel in fact has become a religious community (note the congregation Jdg 20:1, Jdg 21:13, the elders Jdg 21:16 a), filled with holy zeal against sin, dutifully dependent upon Jehovah, and jealous for the sacred unity of the Twelve Tribes. The whole conception is foreign to the life of old Israel as described in the historical books from Judges to Kings; it represents the ideal of a much later time, after the Priestly Code had come into operation. Then again, the numbers are clearly exaggerated; the mere sending round of the gruesome summons is enough to bring 400,000 men from Dan to Beer-sheba and from the land of Gilead; 26,700 Benjamites gather to meet them; on the first day 22,000 Israelites are killed, 18,000 on the second; on the third, the Benjamites themselves lose 25,100 (Jdg 20:35), leaving 600 survivors (ib. 47). This fondness for large numbers is characteristic of the Chronicler; moreover, certain features of style and language connect this part of the narrative with the Priestly Code, Chronicles, and the later literature (see notes on Jdg 20:1; Jdg 20:6; Jdg 20:13; Jdg 20:15; Jdg 20:33, Jdg 21:11-12; Jdg 21:23). The war of vengeance against the Midianites in Numbers 31 (from a late stratum of P) may be regarded as a narrative of the same character as this. We may conclude, therefore, that an ancient story has been enlarged and recast at a period long after the age of the events. Generations of story-tellers may have heightened the original facts; more probably, perhaps, a writer belonging to the school of the Chronicler created out of them a midrash or instructive tale. There is no reason, however, to doubt that a basis of fact underlies the story. The expression ‘in those days there was no king in Israel,’ which forms a link between the two Appendices (Jdg 17:6, Jdg 18:1, Jdg 19:1, Jdg 21:25), must come from a writer who lived before the exile; and it is noteworthy that the expression occurs in connexion with those parts of the story, chs. 19 and Jdg 21:15-23, which on other grounds appear to be ancient. When these events took place we are not told: Jdg 20:27 b, 28a is a manifest gloss; probably the episode belonged to the early stage of Israel’s occupation of Canaan, and this is the period in which Josephus places it (Ant. Jdg 19:2; Jdg 19:8-12). The older element in the story seems to consist of ch. 19, (with additions here and there); Jdg 20:1 a, d, Jdg 20:3-8; Jdg 20:14; Jdg 20:19; Jdg 20:29; Jdg 20:36 b, Jdg 20:37 a, Jdg 20:38-41; Jdg 20:44 a, Jdg 20:47; Jdg 21:1; Jdg 21:15-23 (in the main). The early narrative itself is thought to betray signs of composite structure, especially in Jdg 19:6-15; but the analysis is difficult and uncertain.

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.
Ch. 19. The outrage at Gibeah

1. when there was no king] See on Jdg 17:6.

on the farther side] or recesses, probably meaning the northern parts of E.; cf. the recesses of Lebanon 2 Kings 19:23, also Isaiah 14:13, Jeremiah 6:22 etc. Like his fellow in App. i, this Levite is a sojourner, and he has a connexion with Beth-lehem of Judah. See on Jdg 17:7. No doubt he was serving a local sanctuary in some remote quarter of Ephraim.

a concubine] The relationship was sanctioned by custom, cf. Jdg 8:31, Genesis 22:24; Genesis 25:6 etc.; it was regarded as a real marriage, as the sequel shews. The Hebr. word (= Gk. παλλακίς, Lat. pellex) appears to be foreign and not of Semitic origin; we may infer that originally it was applied to female slaves captured from foreigners, or not of native race.

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.
2. played the harlot against him] The text is open to suspicion. LXX. cod. A reads was angry with him; this suits the context, which implies a quarrel, but not unfaithfulness, on the woman’s part; she left him in anger and returned to her father’s house, whither the Levite followed to pacify her (Jdg 19:3 f.). How are we to account for the reading of the text? Moore ingeniously suggests that by the transposition of two letters she was angry (te’ĕnaph) might have become ‘she committed adultery’ (tin’aph), which was altered by the Jews to ‘played the harlot,’ on the ground that only a wedded wife could be said to commit adultery. It is simpler to suppose that the original she was angry was deliberately altered under a misconception of the relationship.

the space of four months] lit. days, four months; days sometimes has the specific sense of a year, e.g. 1 Samuel 27:7 ‘a full year and four months’; cf. ch. Jdg 17:10 ‘by the year,’ lit. ‘by the days.’ But days can also have an indefinite sense, some time, as probably here.

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.
3. to speak kindly unto her] See marg., and cf. Genesis 34:3; Genesis 50:21, Isaiah 40:2.

to bring her again] More natural than the alternative reading given in the marg.

a couple of asses] for the necessaries of the journey; by Eastern custom the woman would be expected to walk, Jdg 19:10.

and she brought him] implies that the reconciliation has taken place; but as nothing is said about this, many prefer to read with LXX. cod. A and he went.

he rejoiced] Evidently the Levite was considered to be a desirable son in law, and he had come back to claim his property.

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.
4. retained him] or laid hold on him to prevent him from going away, cf. Jdg 7:8. The pressing and rather boisterous hospitality of the girl’s father has a tragic significance in view of what follows, hence it is emphasized from the beginning. There is no need to add and brought him in with some mss. of LXX, for the Levite has already entered the house, Jdg 19:3.

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.
5. The doublets and repetitions in this and the following verses may at first sight appear to be due to the carelessness of a narrator who did not pay much attention to literary correctness; more probably, however, they are to be accounted for, as in similar cases elsewhere, by the combination of two sources. Although other parts of this chapter seem to be fairly homogeneous, yet at this point indications of fusion become apparent. Thus the same request is repeated four times Jdg 19:5-6; Jdg 19:8-9; father of the damsel (Jdg 19:3; Jdg 19:6; Jdg 19:8) seems to be a duplicate of his father in law (Jdg 19:7), both being combined in Jdg 19:4; a similar doubling of phraseology appears in comfort thine heart (Jdg 19:5; Jdg 19:8) and let thine heart be merry (Jdg 19:6; Jdg 19:9); in they did eat and drink (Jdg 19:4) and they did eat, both of them (Jdg 19:8), combined in Jdg 19:6; in Behold, now the day draweth toward evening and behold, the day groweth to an end in Jdg 19:9. This last verse, the text of which is open to question here and there, shews a curious alternation of singular and plural, not always apparent in English; tarry all night is plural, lodge here, the same word in Hebrew, is singular; get you early on your way and that thou mayest go to thy tents; the one account seems to have used singular verbs and pronouns, the other plural; similarly here, Jdg 19:5, they arose early and he rose up. Again, it would appear that according to one version the Levite was persuaded to stay for three days (Jdg 19:4) and then for a fourth (Jdg 19:5), while the other version seems to imply that he intended to leave on the day of his arrival, but remained for one night as his father in law urged him (Jdg 19:6 b, 7); on the fifth day (Jdg 19:8) may then be due to the editor who united the documents (Moore). Fortunately these redundancies do not obscure the purpose of this part of the story, which is to explain how it happened that the Levite and his belongings arrived at Gibeah so late in the day.

Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread] The same expressions as in Genesis 18:5 J; comfort in the old English sense of strengthen, as the verb is rendered in Psalm 104:15.

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.
7. urged him] In spite of the entreaty (Jdg 19:6), the Levite determines to go; he only yields to strong pressure; cf. Genesis 19:3.

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.
8. on the fifth day] See note on Jdg 19:5.

and tarry ye] or wait, to avoid confusion with the different word rendered tarry all night in Jdg 19:6; Jdg 19:9. Some mss. of the LXX read and he enticed him; hence Moore suggests that the text originally ran and he enticed him and he (or they) waited. By the time that the Levite managed to escape it was late in the afternoon.

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.
9. Behold, now the day draweth toward evening … behold, the day groweth to an end] lit. the day sinks to become evening … the camping-time (?) of the day. The doubling of phrases points to a conflation of sources, while the phrases themselves are too high-flown for a prose narrative. Some mss. of the LXX read Behold, the day is declined (Jdg 19:8) toward evening, lodge thou here to-day also. Probably this is nearer to the original.

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.
10. Jebus] Only here and in 1 Chronicles 11:4-5 as the old name of Jerusalem. Long before the Israelite occupation, however, the Amarna tablets c. 1400 b.c. refer to the city as Urusalim (Nos. 180, 181, 183, 185 Winckler); and the O.T. itself gives early evidence for the antiquity of the name, Jdg 1:7-8; Jdg 1:21, Joshua 15:63 JE, 2 Samuel 5:6. We are told that the Jebusites lived there, Jdg 1:21, Josh. l.c., 2 Sam. l.c., and it may have been possible to speak of the Jebusite, meaning Jerusalem (in P, Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:28; Joshua 18:16); but Jebus is merely an inference from the name of the inhabitants, not a survival from prehistoric times. Lagrange indeed thinks that the way in which the servant alludes to this city of the Jebusites implies that the text originally read Jerusalem in Jdg 19:10-11, and that Jebus is due to a copyist who wished to correct the reading in accordance with his theory. See G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, i. pp. 266 f.

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.
12. The text is to be preferred to the marg.; but that is not should be construed with a stranger rather than with the city.

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.
13. Gibeah] Here, as in Isaiah 10:29 b, clearly south of Ramah, now er-Râm; it may well have occupied the ruined site called Tell el-Fûl, 2¾ miles N. of Jerusalem. This is the Gibeah of Saul mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:26; 1 Samuel 11:4; 1 Samuel 15:34, Is. l.c. (see Jos., Wars Jdg 19:2; Jdg 19:1), and known also as G. of Benjamin, 1 Samuel 13:2; 1 Samuel 13:15; 1 Samuel 14:16. It is to be distinguished from Geba, 1 Samuel 14:5, Isaiah 10:29 a etc., now Jeba‘, E. of er-Râm. The name = hill was a common one (e.g. Joshua 15:57 in Judah, ib. Joshua 24:33 RVm. in Ephraim), and easily leads to confusion.

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.
15. and he went in, and sat him down] The verbs should probably be read as plurals.

the street] Rather broad place (Jdg 19:17; Jdg 19:20), Genesis 19:2 b, usually near the gate, 2 Chronicles 32:6, Nehemiah 8:1; Nehemiah 8:3; Nehemiah 8:16 etc. At this point we begin to notice parallels with Genesis 19.

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.
16. and he sojourned] Cf. Jdg 17:7 n. The only person that paid any attention to the travellers was not a native of the place: it was the same at Sodom, Genesis 19:1 f. The last words of the verse are a topographical gloss, cf. Jdg 21:19.

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.
18. the farther side] See on Jdg 19:1.

the house of the Lord] The marg. is to be preferred; the last letter of bêthî = my house was taken as the initial of the divine name Yahweh. A converse mistake occurs in Jeremiah 6:11, where fury of Yahweh has become my fury in the LXX There is nothing in the context to suggest that the Levite was going to Shiloh.

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.
19. straw and provender] Similarly Genesis 24:25. After straw, provender probably denotes grain.

there is no want of any thing] Cf. Jdg 18:10.

And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.
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.
22. sons of Belial] Marg. sons of worthlessness, as in Jdg 20:13, Deuteronomy 13:13, 1 Samuel 25:17; 1 Samuel 25:25 etc., taking Belial (belîy-ya‘al) as compounded of belî = not and ya‘al =? profit, though a noun ya‘al does not occur; worthlessness is not strong enough: the expression denotes low-minded, unprincipled characters, vile scoundrels (Moore), and this is how the LXX understands it. But a different interpretation is given in some ancient versions; Theodotion here and the LXX. cod. A in Jdg 20:13 take the second word as a proper name, sons of Beliam; so occasionally the Vulgate, filii Belial, followed by the AV., RV. In the N.T. Belial has become a synonym for Satan, 2 Corinthians 6:15, and in this sense the word is used in apocalyptic literature, e.g. Jubilees, Test. xii. Patriarchs, Sibylline Oracles. Although Belial is not interpreted as a proper name till a late period, yet originally perhaps it had this significance. Cheyne (Encycl. Bibl. col. 526 f.) seeks the origin of the name in popular mythology, and adopts the derivation belî-ya‘aleh = ‘(that from which) one comes not up again,’ i.e Sheol, or the demon of the abyss; cf. the Babylonian name for the underworld irṣît la tari = ‘land without return.’ This explanation is certainly appropriate in Psalm 18:4 = 2 Samuel 22:5 floods of Belial, and, with an extension of meaning, in Psalm 41:8; Psalm 101:3 lit. a thing of B., Nahum 1:11 RVm.; we have then to suppose that the abyss, or the demon of the abyss, came to represent a power or quality of gross wickedness. Cheyne’s view is ingenious and we must allow that the usual explanation rests upon a doubtful etymology.

beset the house … know him] The same words in Genesis 19:4-5. It looks as if the present narrative had been deliberately conformed here and there to the description of the immorality of the Sodomites. This is certainly the case in Jdg 19:24, where the phrases are identical with those in Genesis 19:8. Some scholars think that the present verse originally read Bring forth the woman … that we may know her, chiefly on the ground that in Jdg 20:5 the Levite does not allude to the particular crime mentioned in the text as it stands, but declares that the men of Gibeah wanted to slay him. The inconsistency may be more apparent than real. After what happened to the woman, the Levite might well assert that the intention was to kill him, while he would hardly repeat the expression used here.

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.
23. Nay, my brethren … wickedly] Similarly Genesis 19:7.

do not … folly] This translation is only a makeshift. The Hebr. nebâlâh means much more than folly; it implies moral insensibility, repudiation of the claims of morality and religion, particularly, in this phrase, an outrage against the laws of nature, Jdg 20:6; Jdg 20:10, Genesis 34:7, Deuteronomy 22:21, 2 Samuel 13:12. In Joshua 7:15 the phrase is used of Achan’s iniquity.

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.
24. The verse is clearly dependent on Genesis 19:8, and, as Bertheau and Moore think, may be an addition to heighten the resemblance between the two situations. It does not really fit into the context; and his concubine is out of place in view of Jdg 19:25; while the Hebrew exhibits grammatical irregularities which raise a doubt as to the originality of the text. Reading Jdg 19:25 as the sequel of Jdg 19:23 the narrative becomes much more intelligible.

As it stands, the verse illustrates the extravagant lengths to which the duties of hospitality could be carried. To save his guest the master of the house is prepared to sacrifice his daughter. Pushed to this extreme, the code of honour becomes a sanction of dishonour. The writer, however, does not question the morality of the proceeding.

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.
25. If the offer of the host strikes us as immoral, the conduct of the Levite makes an even worse impression: he sacrifices his concubine-wife to save himself. The same despicable behaviour appears in the stories of Abraham and Isaac, Genesis 12:10 ff. J, Genesis 12:20 E, Genesis 26:6-11 J; no blame or condemnation is attached to any one; we must not expect to find even the elements of chivalry in the ancient Hebrew estimate of womanhood. Our standards of morality are inapplicable.

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.
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.
27. With instinctive art the Hebrew story-teller leaves much to the imagination (cf. Jdg 11:39); but at the end of the verse he adds a detail which betrays the pathos of the tragedy.

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.
28. The sheer brutality of the Levite’s words prepares us for his savage appeal for vengeance.

but none answered] The LXX spoils the effect by adding for she was dead. Josephus tries to palliate it: ‘her husband thought that she was overcome by deep sleep,’ Ant. Jdg 19:2; Jdg 19:8.

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.
29. and divided her … and sent her throughout all the borders of Israel] The same words in 1 Samuel 11:7, possibly implying that the present description has been copied from the other. But the two accounts differ in meaning: Saul’s summons was intended to convey a threat, the Levite’s to call forth horror. Divided is the regular term for cutting up a sacrificial victim, Exodus 29:17, Leviticus 1:6; Leviticus 1:12, 1 Kings 18:23; 1 Kings 18:33.

twelve pieces] Not necessarily referring to the number of the tribes (LXX. cod A); the twelve-fold division of Israel belongs to the later historical theory which finds expression in chs. 20, 21.

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.
30. After unto this day the LXX. cod. A etc. contains an addition which no doubt formed part of the original text. Restoring this addition to its proper place at the beginning of the verse we may read: And he commanded the men whom he sent, saying, Thus shall ye say to all the men of Israel, Did ever such a thing as this happen, from the day that the children of Israel came up out of Egypt unto this day? Consider of it, take counsel, and speak, 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. Note that both clauses end with unto this day: the first fell out through homoioteleuton. Consider of it … speak is much more suitable as the Levite’s message than as the exclamation of those who discussed the summons.

came up out of the land of Egypt] The Exodus is frequently referred to as the birth-day of Israel’s national life, cf. Jdg 6:13, 1 Samuel 8:8, 2 Samuel 7:6, Amos 2:10; Amos 9:7, Micah 6:4 etc.

The outrage at Gibeah is referred to in Hosea 9:9; Hosea 10:9-10. The text of the latter passage is uncertain and difficult; ‘their two transgressions’ is generally taken as an allusion to the want of hospitality and the immoral conduct of the men of Gibeah. The Targum on Hosea 10:9, however, intiverance. The connexion between (3) and (4) is illustrerprets ‘the days of Gibeah’ as referring to the setting up of the kingdom in Gibeah in the time of Saul; and some modern scholars accept this view. It is true that Israel, which avenged the crime with such righteous zeal, could not fairly be blamed for it; on the other hand, the Benjamites of Gibeah formed a part of Israel, and the entire nation would, in accordance with ancient ideas, be considered as involved in the guilt (cf. Jdg 20:10 b). It is not necessary to suppose that Hosea based his allusion on the present narrative; the tradition which he knew may have differed in some respects.

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