Judges 19


A Levite and his concubine disagree; and she leaves him and

goes to her father's house, 1, 2.

He follows to bring her back, and is kindly entertained by her

father five days, 3-8.

He returns; and lodges the first night at Gibeah, in the tribe

of Benjamin, 9-21.

The men of Gibeah attack the house, and insist on abusing the

body of the Levite; who, to save himself, delivers to them his

concubine, whose life falls a victim to their brutality, 22-27.

The Levite divides her dead body into twelve pieces, and sends

one to each of the twelve tribes; they are struck with horror,

and call a council on the subject, 28-30.


Verse 1. There was no king in Israel] All sorts of disorders are

attributed to the want of civil government; justice, right, truth,

and humanity, had fallen in the streets.

Took to him a concubine] We have already seen that the concubine

was a sort of secondary wife; and that such connections were not

disreputable, being according to the general custom of those

times. The word pilegesh, concubine, is supposed by Mr.

Parkhurst to be compounded of palag, "to divide, or share;"

and nagash, "to approach;" because the husband shared or

divided his attention and affections between her and the real

wife; from whom she differed in nothing material, except in her

posterity not inheriting.

Verse 2. Played the whore] Neither the Vulgate, Septuagint,

Targum, nor Josephus, understand this word as implying any act of

conjugal infidelity on the woman's part. They merely state that

the parties disagreed, and the woman returned to her father's

house. Indeed all the circumstances of the case vindicate this

view of the subject. If she had been a whore, or adulteress, it is

not very likely that her husband would have gone after her to

speak friendly, literally, to speak to her heart, and entreat

her to return. The Vulgate simply states, quae reliquit eum, that

she left him; the Septuagint, ωργισθηαυτω, that she was angry

with him; the Targum ubserath alohi, that she

despised him; Josephus, αλλοτοιωςειχε, that she was alienated,

or separated herself, from him. Houbigant translates the clause:

quae cum ab eo alienata esset, vel irata in eum esset, eum

reliquit; "who when she was alienated from him, or angry with him,

left him;" and he defends this version in his note. I think the

true meaning to be among the above interpretations. They had

contentions; she ceased to love him, her affections were

alienated from him; and she left his house, and went home to

her father.

Verse 3. He rejoiced to meet him.] He hoped to be able

completely to reconcile his daughter and her husband.

Verse 8. And they tarried until afternoon] Merely that they

might avoid the heat of the day, which would have been very

inconvenient in travelling.

Verse 9. The day groweth to an end] chanoth haiyom,

"the day is about to pitch its tent;" that is, it was near the

time in which travellers ordinarily pitched their tents, to take

up their lodging for the night.

Verse 11. When they were by Jebus] This was Jerusalem, in

which, though after the death of Joshua it appears to have been

partly conquered by the tribe of Judah, yet the Jebusites kept the

strong hold of Zion till the days of David, by whom they were

finally expelled. See Clarke on Jud 1:8.

Verse 15. No man-took them into his house to lodging.] There was

probably no inn or house of public entertainment in this place,

and therefore they could not have a lodging unless furnished by

mere hospitality. To say that there were no inns in those

primitive times, is not true; there were such places, though not

very frequent. Joseph's brethren found their money in their sacks

when they loosed them at an inn, Ge 42:27. The house of Rahab was

an inn, Jos 2:1. And the woman whose house Samson frequented at

Gaza was a hostess, or one who kept a place of public


Verse 19. There is both straw and provender for our asses.] In

the countries principally devoted to pasturage, there was no hay;

but as they raised some corn, they took great care of their straw,

chopped it very small, and having mixed it with barley, beans, or

the pounded kernels of dates, made it into balls, and fed their

cattle with it. Straw, cut into what is called chaff, is not

unfrequently used in England for the same purpose.

Verse 20. All thy wants lie upon me] Here was genuine

hospitality: "Keep your bread and wine for yourselves, and your

straw and provender for your asses; you may need them before you

finish your journey; I will supply all your wants for this night,

therefore do not lodge in the street."

Verse 22. Sons of Belial] Profligate fellows.

See Clarke on De 13:13.

That we may know him.] See Ge 19:5. These were genuine

sodomites as to their practice; sons of Belial, rascals and

miscreants of the deepest dye; worse than brutes, being a compound

of beast and devil inseparably blended.

Verse 24. Here is my daughter, a maiden] Such a proposal was

made by Lot to the men of Sodom, Ge 19:8, but nothing can excuse

either. That the rights of hospitality were sacred in the East,

and most highly regarded we know; and that a man would defend, at

the expense of his life, the stranger whom he had admitted under

his roof, is true; but how a father could make such a proposal

relative to his virgin daughter, must remain among those things

which are incomprehensible.

Verse 25. So the man took his concubine] The word yachazek,

which we here translate simply took, signifies rather to take or

seize by violence. The woman would not go out to them; but her

graceless husband forced her to go, in order that he might save

his own body. He could have but little love for her, and this was

the cause of their separation before.

The men of Gibeah who wished to abuse the body of the Levite;

the Levite who wished to save his body at the expense of the

modesty, reputation, and life of his wife; and the old man who

wished to save his guest at the expense of the violation of his

daughter; are all characters that humanity and modesty wish to be

buried in everlasting oblivion.

When the day began to spring] Their turpitude could not bear the

full light of the day; and they dismissed the poor woman when the

day began to break.

Verse 26. Fell down at the door] She had strength to reach the

door, but not to knock for admittance: when she reached the door

she fell down dead! The reason of this abominable and horrid

catastrophe is strongly signified by the original words,

Jud 19:25:

vaiyedu othah, vaiyithallelu bah col hallailah, which we modestly

translate, and they knew her, and they abused her all the night.

More literally, but still not fully: Illi cum ea rem habuerunt, et

alternatim in eam tota nocte ascenderunt. The hithpahel used here

in the verb greatly increases the sense: Conjugatio hithpahel

frequentiam actus et immanem libidinem designat. The Arabic is

not too strong; the following is its meaning: Exercuerunt in ea

cupiditates suas, et maechati, sunt in ea ad matutinum usque.

Verse 29. Divided her-into twelve pieces] There is no doubt that

with the pieces he sent to each tribe a circumstantial account of

the barbarity of the men of Gibeah; and it is very likely that

they considered each of the pieces as expressing an execration,

"If ye will not come and avenge my wrongs, may ye be hewn in

pieces like this abused and murdered woman!"

It was a custom among the ancient Highlanders in Scotland, when

one clan wished to call all the rest to avenge its wrongs, to take

a wooden cross, dip it in blood, and send it by a special

messenger through all the clans. This was called the fire cross,

because at sight of it each clan lighted a fire or beacon, which

gave notice to all the adjoining clans that a general rising was

immediately to take place.

Verse 30. There was no such deed done nor seen] They were all

struck with the enormity of the crime; and considered it a

sovereign disgrace to all the tribes of Israel.

Consider of it] Literally, Put it to yourselves; take counsel

upon it; and speak. This was the prelude to the council held, and

the subsequent operations, which are mentioned in the following


I HAVE passed over the abominable transactions of this chapter

as lightly as I could, and shall make no apology to the learned or

unlearned reader for leaving some things untranslated.

What a blessing are wholesome laws, and a vigorous and attentive

magistracy! These wretched people had no form of government, and

every one did what was right in his own eyes: their own eye

(corrupt inclination) was the measure and rule of their conduct;

and how bad a rule, the abuse and murder of the Levite's wife

testify. Reader, bless God for a civil government.

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