Friday, October 14, 2016

Difficult Old Testament Passages : Judges 19:1-21:25 The Levite and His Concubine

The moral condition of Israel has gone down to the same level of the moral depravity  the Canaanites. Compare Joshua  24:30 with Judges  2:10. Apostasy from God and  rejection of the truth is  always followed by moral corruption.[1]  The time is similar to that  of  the  days of  Noah and Lot. In fact, Jesus  makes reference  to this in Lk. 17:28-30  and draws a parallel  between these days  and  the times  which are to precede the coming of the Son of Man.  Evidences  of  such moral corruption and violence exist today in abundance.

19:1  In those days when there was no king in Israel…  This section relates one of the most shocking episodes of Israel's history. It  is truly tragic.  It all begins  with a wrong relationship  between a Levite  and his  concubine. [2]

19:2 The concubine leaves  her husband.  Their  relationship enters into its inevitable difficulties. No woman  plays the second fiddle well, and so she  becomes unfaithful and leaves him and moves back to her father's house in Bethlehem.

19:3 After four months, the Levite decides that he wants her back. They  appeared to reconcile  and her father was happy to  receive  him. But, it’s time to  get back.  

19:4-10 The girl's father really wanted him to stay  and tried to delay their departure.  This happened again and again until  the Levite  finally said, "I'm leaving." They leave and  end up at  Jebus  (Jerusalem), which,  at this time was not yet in Israelite hand.

19:11-14  Unwilling to stay among the foreigners, the Levite felt it would be safer  to be among the people of Israel. He was very  wrong. He landed up in  Gibeah (the birthplace of Saul)  belonging to the tribe of Benjamin.

19:15  The people of Gibeah showed no  customary hospitality - this is the first indication that this city  is  evil.

19:16-21 An old man takes them in. This old man was not a Benjamite, but  he was living in Gibeah.   He inquired about their situation. The Levite explained that even though they had enough provisions, no one had offered them a place to stay. Knowing that this was not a safe city, the old man said, "Don't spend the night in the town square, come to my house."

19:22-25 The sin of the  men of Gibeah:  The  men of Gibeah  are a morally perverse bunch.  They demanded that the old man give them the Levite for their sexual satisfaction.   With a similar response  to  Lot  in Genesis 19, the old man offers them the women from the household, rather than the men.  Gibeah has become the new Sodom.     All this is written as a matter of fact and without any  attempt to  make it sound less harsh. Everything written here  is meant  to shock us.

19:26-30 The result of this was one of the worst and shocking  things recorded in all of Scripture - the gang rape of a woman, resulting in her death. The Levite calls for justice from the tribes of Israel by cutting  her up into 12 parts, sending a shockwave throughout Israel : “Such a thing has never happened…”.

20:1-7 400,000 Israelites  gather at Mizpah,  in outrage  to punish  the people of Gibeah  for this  deed  (20:8-11)

20:12-14 Investigating the crime :  Instead of agreeing that the crime was awful and that the men should be killed, the Benjamites defended the men, and armed themselves to fight against the rest of Israel. They  would rather  defend Gibeah than practise justice.  Perversity is pervasive[3].  

20:15-17 Benjamin  was a powerful opponent. 26 000 Benjamites came to the aid of the 700 Benjamite warriors  in Gibeah.   You would think that this is going to be a short battle. But  not so. Benjamin was  a  very powerful  and skilled warrior tribe.

20:18-28 :  Why did  God not give the Benjamites  immediately into the hands of Israel?  The most likely answer is that the rest  of  Israel itself was not guiltless. They needed learn  humility.

20:29-48: Victory over Benjamin.   Almost every one of Benjamin's warriors was wiped out. Only 600  men survived.

21:1 ..."No one of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin in marriage."  Now that most of Benjamin’s tribe  was  dead,  it looked like the entire tribe might become extinct.

21:4- 24   Mercy prevails:  Wives  are found for the remnant of  Benjamin.  400  virgins were found from Jabesh Gilead , and more  were found  by  kidnapping  from  among the daughters of Shiloh.

21:25  “In those days  there was no king in Israel. Everyone  did  what was right  in his own eyes”.   This is a good summary of the entire book. When God is only given lip service, when religious service  replaces  a vital relationship with God, and when wickedness is allowed to prevail, this is the situation we find ourselves in.  

Does this not have a contemporary ring about it ?


  • The Bible does not  attempt to  avoid  sin  or gloss over the great shortcomings of God’s people in history. This  report is meant to shock us.
  • The overall intention is to depict the depravity of  God’s people at this time,  and this is an extreme example. This is the point of 19:29,30.  The  depth of this depravity is also mentioned by Hosea  in 9:9, 10:9. The peak  of  this sexual perversity  is manifested  supremely in the sin  of homosexuality.
  •  Everyone and everything in these chapters  displays  this sinful twistedness, whether it is the concubine  who was unfaithful (19:2)  or the Levite who practises self preservation (19:25),  the  slaughter of  the entire  tribe of Benjamin  (20:1-48) ; the slaughter  of the town  of Jabesh Gilead  who did not come up to the LORD at Mizpah (21:8-12)  and the kidnapping  of the girls at  Shiloh (21:19-24).
  •  The writer  of the Judges   brief and matter of fact summary is contained in  19:1 and 21: 25. The root of  it all is each man  doing whatever  was right in his own eyes.  Each man here   refers to those that were part of the OT covenant church. This is not the world out there. It is the church of the OT  which displays such unspeakable wickedness.  Much of the  modern church  has become the greatest exporter and promoter of sin. 
  •  Grand lesson: Woe to those that  trivialize God and do not take Him seriously. They shall be handed over. Romans 1:18 – 32  shows us  what happens  when God hands  a people over. The visible result of  that is sexual promiscuity, of which homosexuality  is  the peak!

[1] Rom. 1:26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32
[2] A concubine was a lawful wife who was guaranteed only food, clothing, and marital privileges (Ex. 21:7-11; Dt. 21:10-14). Any children she bore would be considered legitimate; but because of her second-class status, they wouldn't necessarily share in the family inheritance (Gen.25:1-6). If a man's wife was barren, he sometimes took a concubine so he could establish a family. Though the law controlled  such a relationship,   it was never  a part of God’s original design.  Several of the patriarchs had children with concubines including Abraham with Hagar (Gen. 16); Jacob with Bilhah and Zilpah (Gen. 30:4-13) Several other OT men had concubines, including Gideon, Saul, David, and Solomon. It should be noted however that although a concubine was, in a sense, a legal mistress, we never see such a family life blessed by God!
[3] D.R. Davies :  Christian  Focus Publications ; Judges , p.215

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