Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

* The following is the first of two daily devotions for today.

“It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (Judges 19:1). Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective on the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15) and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (Judges 3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, reflect a society’s lawlessness and moral degeneracy when men reject the Law of the LORD and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (Judges 19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man from the priestly tribe of Levi passed through Mount Ephraim (near the Tabernacle’s location). He took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (Judges 19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. In that culture, she would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

The Concubine’s Adulterous Flight and the Levite’s Reconciliation (Judges 19:2-3)

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, left the Levite, and returned to her father’s house (Judges 19:2). Four months passed when the Levite and his servant determined to travel to Bethlehem. With kind words, he endeavored to “bring her again” to his home (Judges 19:3).

The Concubine’s Father’s Accommodation (Judges 19:4-9)

The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (Judges 19:3) and pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home. The Levite then “abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (Judges 19:4). The Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law for four days.

The Levite’s Journey to Home (Judges 19:10-14)

On the fifth day, however, though the father of the concubine protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, Judges 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, Judges 19:10-11). However, the Levite refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for Jebusites occupied it and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city inhabited by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (Judges 19:14).

The Compassion of An Old Man of Gibeah (Judges 19:15-20)

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite and his concubine provision or lodging for the night. Thus, he determined to spend the night in the street (Judges 19:15). However, an old man, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah and saw the Levite and his company. He kindly offered them lodging for the night and pressed upon the Levite, saying, “Lodge not in the street” (Judges 19:16-20).

Sodomites and the Tragedy of Moral Decadence in Gibeah (Judges 19:21-28)

As the old man entertained his guests, “the men of the city, [described as] certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], 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” (Judges 19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (Judges 19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness and folly (Judges 19:23), their immoral desire and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (Judges 19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (Judges 19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. We read that the men of Gibeah raped and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (Judges 19:25) and retreated to their households (Judges 19:26).

What a hideous thought that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused while he sheltered in the security of a house! Nevertheless, we read the Levite “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” (Judges 19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (Judges 19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture and what she would have suffered and no doubt believed she was dead. Instead, she had reached the house’s threshold, battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned. She died when she found the door closed to her cries (Judges 19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (Judges 19:28). The abused woman did not stir or answer. Her life was gone; her soul departed. She had died from the mob’s violence that had made her the object of their wicked lusts. The Levite removed his concubine’s lifeless body from the threshold, placed her upon his donkey, and traveled to his home (Judges 19:28).

The Levite’s Shocking Message to Gibeah and Israel (Judges 19:29-30)

Remember, because Israel had no king, judge, or ruler, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice. Tragically, the city of Gibeah and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered and tolerated great wickedness in their land (i.e., the sin of sodomy, defined today as “Gay” or Homosexuality). The Levite, unable to appeal to Israel for justice, was determined to make a statement in action that might awaken the hardened conscience of the nation.

He then “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (Judges 19:29). The Levite’s deed shocked Israel. Then the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation and what must be done (Judges 19:30, Judges 20:1).

Author’s note: The following devotional in Judges 20 will consider the events that followed and their application to today’s society and world.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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