WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? An unnamed Levite, who has likely been abusing his concubine, purses her as she runs away to her father’s home. The degree of the abuse, which is minimized in the English translations of the Bible, was likely very severe in nature. Upon finding her at her father’s home, the Levite is strangely compelled by the father to stay for several days and drink with him. After eventually departing for home, the Levite elects to stay in a Benjaminite town, Gibeah—the hometown of the future King Saul (cf. 1 Samuel 10:26). In strikingly similar fashion, the men of Gibeah act like the men of Sodom (cf. Genesis 19) and demand that the Levite be turned over to them (apparently) for sexual intercourse. The host, acting like Lot in Genesis 19, offers his daughter instead. The Levite, however, throws his concubine to the men who rape her throughout the night. Tragically, she is found either dead or near death at the doorstep the next morning. She is then transported back the Levite’s home where he dismembers her body, cutting it into twelve parts, which are sent to the tribes of Israel as a summons to war against the Benjaminites.
SO WHAT? It is hard to imagine that the situation could have been any worse in Israel. In every way, they had become just like the unbelieving nations. They neglected their obligation to care for and protect fellow Israelites. Sexual sins were so widespread that a young woman is ravaged and raped, which in turn leads to her death. The priesthood (Levites) are disrespected and despised. The man who is supposed to proclaim the truth—the Levite—is both a coward and a cold-hearted man. The evil attitudes and depraved actions of the people toward one another represent the depths of their wickedness and the length of their separation from the LORD.
We are reminded just how far we, too, could go as individuals and as a society if it were not for the saving and sustaining grace of God. When we encounter rebellion to this degree we must bear witness to the truth that, apart from the mercy and grace of God, we, too, would succumb to the wicked intentions of our hearts. We need a righteous king who will send His Spirit to save us from such corruption.
Furthermore, we cannot stand by why the most vulnerable in our society are ravaged by the inhumane acts of others. It is an absolute travesty that no one stood up for this marginalized and abused woman. Believers should strive in every way possible to prevent abuse and support those who have suffered from the evil acts of others.
1. A reprehensible man.
2. A marginalized woman.
3. A wicked city.
4. A house full of cowards.
5. A victimized woman.
6. A disgusting act.
7. A universal need.
NOW WHAT? The nameless characters of this account are representatives of the transgressions of all of Israel. The Levite represents the failed priesthood. Gibeah represents the reprobate cities and tribes that now look more like the unbelieving nations than a chosen people. The young woman represents all who were victimized and suffering throughout Israel. The tribes of Israel had become a godless people who were fully Canaanized. We must never forget that without the saving grace of God and the restraining work of His Spirit, we, too, would pursue the desires of the flesh, to which there would be no end.
This text is also a call to action:
First, we’ve been called to repent of our sins and seek God’s grace and favor.
Second, we’ve been commissioned to go to those who are hurting and abused with the gospel.
Third, we must take gospel-centered action to prevent abuse and provide care for those who have suffered from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. 3Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him (Judges 19:1-3).
Study Questions (Judges 19:1-30)
1. Why does the concubine leave her husband (19:2)?
2. What, if anything, is peculiar about the relationship between the Levite and his concubine (19:1-3)?
3. What are some possible reasons that the girl’s father attempts to delay their departure (19:4-9)?
4. What is the significance of the Levites refusal to stay with foreigners (19:12)?
5. What does it say about men who would rather throw their daughters and wives to a sex-crazed mob than die protecting them (19:22-26)?
6. What does the Levite’s treatment of the young concubine reveal about his moral and spiritual condition?
7. How does the total disregard for human dignity, marriage, honor, and truth fit into the story of the Bible? In other words, why is this account of such horrific actions in the Bible?