The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 87
Hospitality of the Ephraimite [Judges 19.16-19.21]


Scripture (KJV) Judges 19.16-21

An old man entertains him at Gibeah
16 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.
17 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?
18 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.
19 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.
20 And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.
21 So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.


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Introduction

Though there was not one person of Gibeah, yet this incident proved there was at least one person in Gibeah that showed some civility and perhaps even pitied this distraught Levite, who was glad that any one took notice of him. It was strange that some of those wicked people, who, when it was dark, agreed together to treat this Levite and his concubine so cruelly, yet, they did not, under the pretence of kindness, invite them into one of their homes, in order that they might have a surefire opportunity of carrying out their evil behavior; but either they did not have enough intellect to conceive such an idea, or they were not wicked enough to be so deceiving. Or, perhaps, none of them separately thought of such a wicked plan, until in the black and dark of night they got together to contrive what wickedness they could do. When bad people agree to work together to accomplish something evil, they can do much worse than any of them would be able to do by themselves. When the Levite, and his wife, and servant, were beginning to fear that they will have to lie in the street all night (and they might as well have lain in a den of lions) they were at last invited into a house, and we are told here, who that kind man was that invited them.

 

Commentary

16 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.—Judges 19.16 (KJV) 
16 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.
—Judges 19.16 (NLT)

And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even
Men and women couldn’t work in the fields when it was dark. Today, it is possible to work at night with modern tractors, combines, etc, equipped with lights. But, back then, laborers would come home in the evening to rest (The evening calls home laborers, Ps. 104:23). This man, though he is said to be old, is a man with some wealth (see verse 21), as appears by what follows, yet he had been working in the fields, which was very commendable of him—no man, no matter how rich, should succumb to idleness.

He was an old man, but he retained some of the fading virtue of an Israelite. The new generation was entirely corrupted; if there was any good remaining among them, it was only with those that were old and reserved. We learn more about this man from the rest of the sentence: He was from the mountains of Ephraim, and only sojourned in Gibeah, whose inhabitants were Benjamites. The old man may be the only one that returned to Gibeah when his work was done, since no one else is mentioned. They might have, as did those in Sodom, given themselves up to sloth and luxury, which can only lead to an abundance of uncleanness, when there was among them, as in Sodom, an abundance of idleness, (see Eze. 16:49). But he that was honestly diligent in his business all day was inclined to be generously hospitable to poor strangers at night. Let men labour, that they may have to give, (see Eph. 4:28).

Psalms 104:23 (KJV) Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.

Ezek 16:49 (KJV) Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

Eph 4:28 (NLT) If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need

which was also of Mount Ephraim;
The old man may have discovered from their conversation that this man was a Levite from the Mount Ephraim area, and this, no doubt, made him more willing to welcome him into his house, since he was a fellow country-man and a man of God.

and he sojourned in Gibeah;
The Old man was a temporary resident of the place, and he was more considerate of strangers than the Benjamites who lived there, for he knew the heart of a stranger, (see Ex. 23:9 and Deut. 10:19); but, he doesn’t appear to be a Levite, although Gibeah was a Levitical city.

The Levitical cities belonged to the priests; they were given to the priests, and therefore they were the owners, but they were not inhabited by the priests or Levites only, especially at this time when Levites were few in number, but the residents were many other persons of different professions. Our record here doesn’t tell us on what account the old man sojourned here, so we can’t say with certainty. But I have observed that good people, that look upon themselves as strangers and sojourners in this world, should for this reason be kind to one another, because they all belong to the same better country and are not at home here.

Ex 23:9 (KJV) Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deut 10:19 (KJV) Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

but the men of the place were Benjamites:
At this time, the number of Levites was not large, and others dwelt in their cities besides them, even Levites who were not priests. It seems that the people that lived in Gibeah were almost entirely Benjamites.

Of all the tribes of Israel, the Benjamites had the most motivation to be kind to poor travelers, because their ancestor, Benjamin, was born while his mother was upon a journey, and very near to this place (see Gen. 35:16, 17). But instead, they were hard-hearted to a traveler in distress, while an honest Ephraimite had compassion on him.

Gen 35:16-17 (KJV) And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.  And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.

 

17 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?—Judges 19.17 (KJV)
17 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 wherecomest thou?—Judges 19.17 (NLT)

And when he had lifted up his eyes
It may be, as he came out of the field, he was deep in thought and meditating with his eyes downwards, but upon entering the city, he looked up.

he saw a wayfaring man (wanderer, traveler) in the street of the city;
The Levite, with his wife and servant were setting on the ground just inside the city gate in a broad open plaza area. The old man probably identified the trio immediately as travelers by the way they were dressed, and because he had not seen them before, and he knew pretty well all the inhabitants of the place.

and the old man said, whither goest thou? and whence comest thou?
The questions is; what place are you travelling to, and where do you come from.

 


18 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.—Judges 19.18 (KJV)
18 “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah,” the man replied. “We are on our way to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim, which is my home. I traveled to Bethlehem, and now I’m returning home. But no one has taken us in for the night,—Judges 19.18 (NLT)

And he said unto him, we are passing from Bethlehemjudah,
He answers his last question first: “and whence comest thou?”  He replied, “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah.”

When he saw the traveler in the market-place of the town, he asked him where he was going and where he came from; and when he had heard the particulars concerning his lineage and his journey, he received him into his house (see verse 21).

towards the side of Mount Ephraim:
Now he answers the old man’s first question: whither goest thou? He replied, “We are going towards the side of Mount Ephraim:” and then ads, which is more than what was requested,

from thence am I;
that is, he was an inhabitant of a city on one side of Mount Ephraim, but he doesn’t say what the name of that city was; and it is not revealed in any other place in the Bible.

and I went to Bethlehemjudah;
The Levite informs the old man that his journey took him to Bethlehemjudah, but he doesn’t say why he went there. However, we are told in the preceding narrative, especially chapter 85, the reason why he went there.

but I am now going to the house of the Lord;
that is, the tabernacle at Shiloh. He planned to go there first to offer a sacrifice for the success of his journey, and for the reconciliation with his wife, and to pray to God for happiness in his family, which would come in the future. After sacrificing at Shiloh the trio would have gone on to his home.

It is interesting that at this point in the narration there are several translations and opinions for us to consider.
First, some offer these translations for this part of the sentence: I frequent the house of the Lord, I am conversant with the house of the Lord, I walk in the house of the lord. The first one, “I frequent the house of the Lord,” seems the best rendering on the whole.
Second, the LXX. Read it thus: "I am going to my own house;" which is probably the true reading, as we find from verse 29 that he really went home; yet he might have gone previously to Shiloh, or to "the house of the Lord," because that was also on mount Ephraim. To lend more credence to the idea that the Levite was going home we read previously that he told the old man from Bethlehem that he was going towards the side of Mount Ephraim, where he lived.
Third, Keil explained that "The proper translation of the words, `I go to the house of Jehovah,' is actually, `I walk at the house of Jehovah,' meaning simply that `he worked there.' Hervey agrees with Keil: "The words, `I go to the house of Jehovah' may also be translated, `I frequent the house of Jehovah.'"
Forth, Before leaving this part, we should also note that, It is clear from this that a number of the men of Gibeah had actually talked with the Levite and had refused to offer him hospitality because of his faith in God and his connection with the house of Jehovah at Shiloh. This affords additional information on the depravity of the Benjamites of Gibeah.

After putting all this together, I believe this about the Levite. He was intent on bringing his wife home (which was not in Shiloh), but first he planned to stop at the tabernacle to sacrifice to the Lord, which he judged was his duty. The Levite was probably one of those who ministered at the tabernacle. His two donkeys, his servant, and his own home indicate that he was well compensated for his work in the Tabernacle. And, if the men of Gibeah had any inkling of him going to the Tabernacle, they would not even consider giving him and his companions lodging. Likewise, the Samaritans would not receive Christ because his face was towards Jerusalem (see Lu. 9:53). However, it was because he was a Levite and was now going to the house of the Lord, that this good old man was very kind to him. Thus he received a disciple in the name of a disciple, a servant of God for his Master’s sake.

The story is similar to that of Lot and his two angelic visitors at Sodom. The man met them in the street and urged them not to lodge. Instead, he brought them into his house where they were attacked by the men of the city, who desired a homosexual relationship with them.

Judges 19:29 (KJV) And when he was comeand divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.

Luke 9:53 (KJV) And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. His face was—They saw he was going up to Jerusalem to keep the feast; (it was the feast of tabernacles, John 7:2); and knowing him thereby to be a Jew, they would afford nothing for his entertainment; for, in religious matters, the Samaritans and Jews had no dealings. into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine.

and there is no man that receiveth (Heb. Gathereth) me to house:
No one who lived in the city of Gibeah had invited the Levite to lodge in their house for one night. It didn’t matter to them that it was common practice to provide lodging for travelers; which was done for Abraham, Lot, Job, and others. In actual fact, the failure to offer hospitality was a breach of etiquette rarely found in the ancient East, where it was considered a sacred duty. It was a law with the Lucani (a people in Italy), that if a stranger came at sunset, and wanted to spend the night under the roof of one of the residents, but that resident refused him lodging, he would be fined, and suffer the punishment of inhospitality.

Instead of being received by the Benjamites of the city, the group was offered lodging by another Ephraimite, also a stranger in the city (see verse 16).

 

19 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.—Judges 19.19 (KJV) 
19 even though we have everything we need. We have straw and feed for our donkeys and plenty of bread and wine for ourselves.”—Judges 19.19 (NLT)

Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses
The Levite brought straw and provender with him; straw to serve as litter for his donkeys, and provender (fodder or feed) to feed them with (see Genesis 24.32).

In the countries principally devoted to pasturage, as was Israel, there was no hay; but they raised some corn, and they made straw from the corn stocks by chopping it into very small pieces. The straw was mixed with barley, beans, or the pounded kernels of dates, made it into balls, and fed to their cattle and donkeys.
The Levite didn’t need anything for his donkeys; he could take care of them from the supplies of straw and provender he brought with him. All he wanted for his self, his wife and his servant was some place to spend the night, and yet no man would take him in.

Gen 24:32 (KJV) And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels,…

and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants:
meaning himself and his concubine; there was enough for both of them; packed up, and carried by the asses
By the words "thy handmaid" and "thy servants" he means his concubine and himself; describing himself and his wife, according to the ingratiating style of the East in olden times, as servants of the man from whom he was expecting a welcome and hopefully a place to spend the night.
and for the young man which is with thy servants;

The “young man” refers to the Levites servant, who was not yet in the company of the servants of the old man; but the sense is, that there was not only provisions with him for himself, and his wife, and also for his servant, but even enough for the servants of the old man, whether maid or man servants: there is no want of anything; and therefore no one needed to be deterred from taking them in, since they would not be burdensome to anyone, on any account; all they wanted was lodging.

there is no want of any thing.
In answering the kindly inquiries of the old man, the Levite reckoned it would be alright to state that he would not be burdensome to anyone, since he possessed all that was required to fulfill his needs as well as the needs of his wife, servant and animals. Oriental travelers always carry a stock of provisions with them; and knowing that even the khans or lodging-houses they may find on their way afford nothing beyond rest and shelter, they are careful to lay in a supply of food both for themselves and their animals. Instead of hay, which is seldom available, they used chopped straw, which, with a mixture of barley, beans, or the like, forms the feed for their animals. The old man, however, in the warmth of a generous heart, refused to listen to any explanation, and bidding the Levite keep his provisions for any emergency that might occur in the remainder of his journey, invited them to accept the hospitalities of his house for the night.
Note: As 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."

 

20 And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.—Judges 19.20 (KJV)
20 “You are welcome to stay with me,” the old man said. “I will give you anything you might need. But whatever you do, don’t spend the night in the square.”—Judges 19.20 (NLT)

And the old man said, peace be with thee;
The old man’s greeting conveys his good-will to the travelers by wishing them peace; happiness, tranquility—that nothing would disturb or distress them. He did not stand around and wait for them to plead with him for a night’s lodging; instead, when he saw them he asked about their situation and anticipated their needs. Thus our good God answers before we call. Note, A charitable nature expects only opportunity, not solicitations or demands to do good, and will help upon sight, even where it is unsought. Hence we read about a bountiful eye (see Prov. 22:9).  If Gibeah was like Sodom, this old man was like Lot in Sodom, who sat in the gate to welcome strangers (see Gen. 19:1). Thus Job opened his doors to the traveller, and would not suffer him to lodge in the street (see Job. 31:32). Observe, How readily he accepted the Levite’s account of his situation, and he saw no reason to question his truthfulness. Charity is not apt to distrust, but hopeth all things (see 1 Co. 13:7 ).

Prov 22:9 (KJV) He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

Gen 19:1 (KJV) And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.

Job 31:32 (KJV) The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller.

1 Cor 13:7 (KJV) {love}Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

howsoever, let 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." In other words, he told the Levite that he would provide everything he, his wife and his servant and their two asses needed; let all thy wants lie upon me. Perhaps his hospitality became more generous when he learned that the stranger was a Levite, and that he was returning to his duties at Shiloh.

only lodge not in the street.
Perhaps the old man’s mind brought up something like this—I cannot bear to think of it, and it cannot be said that a stranger, an Israelite, one of my own country, a good man, a Levite going to the house of God, had to take up lodging in the streets. Anyone sleeping in the streets would have been a rare circumstance in the East; probably the old man’s insistence that they not sleep in the streets was due to his acquaintance with the infamous practices of the place.

Like our own streets in the cities of Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Detroit, Michigan and many others, the ancient streets of Gibeah were not safe. Leaving the Levite and his little company in the street would have sentenced all three of them to death. "The ominous words of the host, `Only do not spend the night in the square,' indicate the inherent danger of the situation."

 

21 So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.—Judges 19.21 (KJV)
21 So he took them home with him and fed the donkeys. After they washed their feet, they ate and drank together.—Judges 19.21 (NLT)

So he brought him into his house
The old man brought them into his house, and introduced them to his family in a kind and friendly manner; he showed them around his house, and bid them welcome. Our loving God will, in some way or other, bring friends to his people and ministers, even when they seem desperate.

and gave provender unto the asses;
This is mentioned first, since back then as well as now, the first thing that a wise man is concerned for, is to see that his animals are taken care of, and then he will take care of his own needs; and this is the method this ancient good man used with his guests. It seems that the old man personally fed the two donkeys.

and they washed their feet;
It was a very refreshing custom which was commonly done for strangers, who walked dusty roads in sandals, in those hot countries. Household slaves were usually given this task (see Genesis 18:4; Luke 7.44; John 13.4-5).

Gen 18:4 (KJV) Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

Luke 7:44 (KJV) And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

John 13:4-5 (KJV) He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

and did eat and drink;
They sat down at a table with the old man and did eat and drink with him.

I believe you will agree with me when I say that the old man certainly went beyond what was expected of a host to make the Levite and his wife feel welcome; he presented a glaring contrast to the coldness of the Benjaminites.

 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb 13:2 (KJV) entertained angels—Abraham and Lot are the persons particularly referred to. Their history, the angels whom they entertained, not knowing them to be such, and the good they derived from exercising their hospitality on these occasions, are well known.

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