Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
War of the Congregation with the Tribe of Benjamin on Account of the Crime at Gibeah - Judges 19-20
This account belongs to the times immediately following the death of Joshua, as we may see form the fact that Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the contemporary of Joshua, was high priest at that time (Judges 20:28). In Judges 19 we have an account of the infamous crime committed by the inhabitants of Gibeah, which occasioned the war; in Judges 20 the war itself; and in Judges 21 an account of what was afterwards done by the congregation to preserve the tribe of Benjamin, which was almost annihilated by the war.
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.Infamous Crime of the Inhabitants of Gibeah. - Judges 19:1-14. At the time when there was no king in Israel, a Levite, who sojourned (i.e., lived outside a Levitical town) in the more remote parts of the mountains of Ephraim, took to himself a concubine out of Bethlehem in Judah, who proved unfaithful to him, and then returned to her father's house. הר־אפרים ירכּתי, the hinder or outermost parts of the mountains of Ephraim, are the northern extremity of these mountains; according to Judges 19:18, probably the neighbourhood of Shiloh. עליו תּזנה, "she played the harlot out beyond him," i.e., was unfaithful to her husband, and then went away from him," back to her father's house.
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.
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.Some time afterwards, namely at the end of four months (הדשׁים ארבּעה is in apposition to ימים, and defines more precisely the ימים, or days), her husband went after her, "to speak to her to the heart," i.e., to talk to her in a friendly manner (see Genesis 34:3), and to reconcile her to himself again, so that she might return; taking with him his attendant and a couple of asses, for himself and his wife to ride upon. The suffix attached to להשׁיבו refers to לבּה, "to bring back her heart," to turn her to himself again. The Keri השׁיבהּ is a needless conjecture. "And she brought him into her father's house, and her father received his son-in-law with joy, and constrained him (יהזק־בּו, lit. held him fast) to remain there three days." It is evident from this that the Levite had succeeded in reconciling his wife.
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.Also on the fourth day, when he was about to depart in the morning, the Levite yielded to the persuasion of his father-in-law, that he would first of all strengthen his heart again with a bit of bread (לב סעד as in Genesis 18:5; the imperative form with ŏ is unusual); and then afterwards, whilst they were eating and drinking, he consented to stay another night.
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.When he rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him; then he turned back (ויּשׁב is quite in place, and is not to be altered into ויּשׁב, according to the lxx and one Heb. Cod.), and remained there for the night.
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 even in the morning of the fifth day he suffered himself to be induced to remain till the afternoon. התמהמהוּ is an imperative, "Tarry till the day turns," i.e., till mid-day is past.
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.When at length he rose up, with his concubine and his attendant, to go away, the father entreated his daughter once more: "Behold the day has slackened to become evening, spend the night here! Behold the declining of the day, spend the night here," etc. חנות inf. of חנה, to bend, incline. The interchange of the plural and singular may be explained from the simple fact that the Levite was about to depart with his wife and attendant, but that their remaining or departing depended upon the decision of the man alone. But the Levite did not consent to remain any longer, but set out upon the road, and came with his companions to before Jebus, i.e., Jerusalem, which is only two hours from Bethlehem (compare Rob. Pal. ii. 375 and 379). עד־נכח, to before Jebus, for the road from Bethlehem to Shiloh went past Jerusalem.
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.But as the day had gone far down when they were by Jebus (רד, third pers. perf., either of ירד with י dropped like תּתּה in 2 Samuel 22:41 for נתתּה, or from רדד in the sense of ירד), the attendant said to his master, "Come, let us turn aside into this Jebusite city, and pass the night in it." But his master was unwilling to enter a city of the foreigners (נכרי( sre is a genitive), where there were none of the sons of Israel, and would pass over to Gibeah. "Come (לך equals לכה, Numbers 23:13), we will draw near to one of the places (which he immediately names), and pass the night in Gibeah or Ramah." These two towns, the present Jeba and er Rm, were not a full hour's journey apart, and stood opposite to one another, only about two and a half or three hours from Jerusalem (see at Joshua 18:25, Joshua 18:28).
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.
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.Then they went forward, and the sun went down upon them as they were near (at) Gibeah of 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.And they turned aside thither to pass the night in Gibeah; and he (the Levite) remained in the market-place of the town, as no one received them into his house to pass the night.
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.Behold, there came an old man from the field, who was of the mountains of Ephraim, and dwelt as a stranger in Gibeah, the inhabitants of which were Benjaminites (as is observed here, as a preliminary introduction to the account which follows). When he saw the traveller in the market-place of the town, he asked him whither he was going and whence he came; and when he had heard the particulars concerning his descent and his journey, he received him into his house. ואת־בּית י הלך אני (Judges 19:18), "and I walk at the house of Jehovah, and no one receives me into his house" (Seb. Schm., etc.); not "I am going to the house of Jehovah" (Ros., Berth., etc.), for את הלך does not signify to go to a place, for which the simple accusative is used either with or without ה local. It either means "to go through a place" (Deuteronomy 1:19, etc.), or "to go with a person," or, when applied to things, "to go about with anything" (see Job 31:5, and Ges. Thes. p. 378). Moreover, in this instance the Levite was not going to the house of Jehovah (i.e., the tabernacle), but, as he expressly told the old man, from Bethlehem to the outermost sides of the mountains of Ephraim. The words in question explain the reason why he was staying in the market-place. Because he served at the house of Jehovah, no one in Gibeah would receive him into his house,
(Note: As Seb. Schmidt correctly observes, "the argument is taken from the indignity shown him: the Lord thinks me worthy to minister to Him, as a Levite, in His house, and there is not one of the people of the Lord who thinks me worthy to receive his hospitality.")
although, as he adds in Judges 19:19, he had everything with him that was requisite for his wants. "We have both straw and fodder for our asses, and bread and wine for me and thy maid, and for the young man with thy servants. No want of anything at all," so as to cause him to be burdensome to his host. By the words "thy maid" and "thy servants" he means himself and his concubine, describing himself and his wife, according to the obsequious style of the East in olden times, as servants of the man from whom he was expecting a welcome.
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.
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.
And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.The old man replied, "Peace to thee," assuring him of a welcome by this style of greeting; "only all thy wants upon me," i.e., let me provide for them. Thus the friendly host declined the offer made by his guest to provide for himself. "Only do not pass the night in the market-place."
So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.He then took him into his house, mixed fodder for his asses (יבול from בּלל, a denom. verb from בּליל, to make a mixture, to give fodder to the beasts), and waited upon his guest with washing of feet, food, and drink (see Genesis 18:4., Judges 19:2).
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.Whilst they were enjoying themselves, some worthless men of the city surrounded the house, knocking continuously at the door (התדּפּק, a form indicative of gradual increase), and demanding of the master of the house that he would bring out the man who had entered his house, that they might know him,-the very same demand that the Sodomites had made of Lot (Genesis 19:6.). The construct state בני־בליּעל אנשׁי is used instead of בּני־בל אנשׁים (Deuteronomy 13:14, etc.), because בליעל בני is regarded as one idea: people of worthless fellows. Other cases of the same kind are given by Ewald, Lehrb. 289, c.
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.The old man sought, as Lot had done, to defend his guests from such a shameful crime by appealing to the sacred rights of hospitality, and by giving up his own virgin daughter and the concubine of his guest (see the remarks on Genesis 19:7-8). נבלה, folly, used to denote shameful licentiousness and whoredom, as in Genesis 34:7 and Deuteronomy 22:21. אותם ענּוּ, "humble them." The masculine is used in אותם and להם as the more general gender, instead of the more definite feminine, as in Genesis 39:9; Exodus 1:21, etc.
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.
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.But as the people would not listen to this proposal, the man (no doubt the master of the house, according to Judges 19:24) took his (the guest's) concubine (of course with the consent of his guest) and led her out to them, and they abused her the whole night. It is not stated how it was that they were satisfied with this; probably because they felt too weak to enforce their demand. בּ התעלּל, to exercise his power or wantonness upon a person (see Exodus 10:2).
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.When the morning drew on (i.e., at the first dawn of day), the woman fell down before the door of the house in which אדוניה, "her lord," i.e., her husband, was, and lay there till it was light, i.e., till sunrise.
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.There her husband found her, when he opened the house-door to go his way (having given up all thought of receiving her back again from the barbarous crowd), "lying before the house-door, and her hands upon the threshold" (i.e., with outstretched arms), and giving no answer to his word, having died, that is to say, in consequence of the ill-treatment of the night. He then took the corpse upon his ass to carry it to his place, i.e., to his home.
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.As soon as he arrived there, he cut up the body, according to its bones (as they cut slaughtered animals in pieces: see at Leviticus 1:6), into twelve pieces, and sent them (the corpse in its pieces) into the whole of the territory of Israel, i.e., to all the twelve tribes, in the hope that every one who saw it would say: No such thing has happened or been seen since the coming up of Israel out of Egypt until this day. Give ye heed to it (שׁימוּ for לב שׂימוּ); make up your minds and say on, i.e., decide how this unparalleled wickedness is to be punished. Sending the dissected pieces of the corpse to the tribes was a symbolical act, by which the crime committed upon the murdered woman was placed before the eyes of the whole nation, to summon it to punish the crime, and was naturally associated with a verbal explanation of the matter by the bearer of the pieces. See the analogous proceeding on the part of Saul (1 Samuel 11:7), and the Scythian custom related by Lucian in Toxaris, c. 48, that whoever was unable to procure satisfaction for an injury that he had received, cut an ox in pieces and sent it round, whereupon all who were willing to help him to obtain redress took a piece, and swore that they would stand by him to the utmost of their strength. The perfects ואמר - והיה (Judges 19:30) are not used for the imperfects c. vav consec. ויּאמר - ויהי, as Hitzig supposes, but as simple perfects (perfecta conseq.), expressing the result which the Levite expected from his conduct; and we have simply to supply לאמר before והיה, which is often omitted in lively narrative or animated conversation (compare, for example, Exodus 8:5 with Judges 7:2). The perfects are used by the historian instead of imperfects with a simple vav, which are commonly employed in clauses indicating intention, "because what he foresaw would certainly take place, floated before his mind as a thing already done" (Rosenmller). The moral indignation, which the Levite expected on the part of all the tribes at such a crime as this, and their resolution to avenge it, are thereby exhibited not merely as an uncertain conjecture, but a fact that was sure to occur, and concerning which, as Judges 20 clearly shows, he had not deceived himself.
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.