Reaction of the Levite [Judges 19.27-19.30]
Scripture (KJV) Judges 19.27-30
27 And her lord 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.
28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.
29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.
30 And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
27 And her lord 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 19.27 (KJV)
27 When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold.—Judges 19.27 (NLT)
And her lord rose up in the morning
She returned, undoubtedly with a great deal of difficulty, and fell down at the door of the old man’s house. What a pathetic little coward this Levite was to stay within the walls of his host’s house, rather than to follow her kidnappers, and hope for a chance to rescue her. This statement, And her lord rose up in the morning is equally as shocking as the abuse that had taken place; because it implies that he had slept that night while she was undergoing such a terrible fate. It is unreasonable to think he could sleep after such a riot, and then forcing his concubine or wife to leave with these brutish creatures. The wickedness of the men of the city was matched by the inconsideration of her husband, who gave her away and then slept calmly all night, expecting her to be ready to depart with him the next morning.
and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way;
Either he expected to search for her or to continue on his journey; to risk his life or preserve it by sneaking out of town and continuing on his journey, having given her up for lost.
and, behold the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold;
There was the woman, his concubine, lying at the door of the house with her hands on the sill. There is not a more pathetic line in the Old Testament than the one we just read
This innocent, harmless young woman was callously surrendered by her husband to the lustful abuse of an entire company of homosexual brutes, who had carried her away to one of their homes, where their sadistic pleasure tortured her until daylight. She was finally allowed to leave, and she painfully and broken-heartedly made her way, using the last ounce of her ebbing strength to gain what she hoped would be a place of safety, but she fell dead upon the doorstep in the chill of the early morning. It was a mercy of God that she did not survive to hear the unfeeling voice of her lord, ordering her, "Up, let us be going."
28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.—Judges 19.28 (KJV)
28 He said, “Get up! Let’s go!” But there was no answer. So he put her body on his donkey and took her home.—Judges 19.28 (NLT)
And he said unto her, up, and let us be going.
He spoke to her as if he thought she was asleep or overcome with shame and confusion for what had happened, and he intended to wake her up, so they could prepare to continue on their journey with all the haste they could muster, and avoid making contact with the same violent men.
But none answered.
She was dead; and her death was caused, as Josephus says, partly by grief over what she had suffered, and partly by the shame she expected to see in her husband’s eyes; but above all by the injuries done to her by the persons that had lain with her. We may suppose, that her body had all over it marks from the hands, the blows, and other abuses, she had received. To these Abarbinel adds, the cold of the night, being without her clothes, or anything to cover her. It was like that when the Thessalonians took the city of Phocis; many women were killed after being raped.
Then the man took her up upon an ass,
Only then was the Levite outraged, and he loaded her dead body onto one of the animals and carried it off, without making any complaints to the inhabitants, from whom he could not expect to receive any justice.
and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.
On this sad occasion, he went as quick as he could to his own city on one side of Mount Ephraim, instead of going to the house of God at Shiloh, which he had planned to do; for now his circumstances had change; therefore, instead of sacrificing and giving praise to God in his house, his business was to seek justice for his wife and him from the tribes of Israel.
29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.—Judges 19.29 (KJV)
29 When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine’s body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel.—Judges 19.29 (NLT)
And when he was come into his house
He took the dead body of his wife off the ass, and brought it inside his house, and laid it in a proper place.
he took a knife;
A knife—Rather, "the" "knife." It was not like the knives we use with our meals; it was the single household implement used for slaughtering and cutting up the animals into joints for eating; the Targum is, a sword (see Genesis 22:6, Genesis 22:10).
Gen 22:6 (KJV) And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
Gen 22:10 (KJV) And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces;
This Levite may have had this conversation with himself. “Is this an injury that I can let pass?” He cannot call for fire from heaven to consume the men of Gibeah, as those angels did who were, in the same manner, insulted by the Sodomites. There was no king in Israel, and it doesn’t appear there was a Sanhedrim, or great council, to appeal to, and demand justice. Phinehas is the high priest, but he only focuses on the business of the sanctuary, and will not agree to judge the matter. He has therefore no other way left to him, except to appeal to the people: let the nation be the judge. Though they had no general acknowledged assembly of all the tribes, yet it is probable that each tribe had a meeting when necessary. The lack of a regular government warranted an extraordinary step; and certainly no method could have been imagined more certain of rousing universal horror and indignation than this terrible summons by the Levite.
The dismemberment of the concubine’s body was an outrageous act. Its significance has received varied interpretations. Some scholars interpret this action as a ritual sacrifice, which served as a call to rectify this grievance or be struck with the sword themselves. Other scholars view it as a way to incite horror and indignation (see 1 Sam. 11:1–8 where Saul performed a similar action with oxen).
Together with her bones ...Rather, "into her bones", or "bone by bone, into twelve pieces". The "pieces" are synonymous with the "bones" (compare Ezekiel 24:4-5). There is something truly terrible in the stern ferocity of grief and indignation which dictated this desperate effort to arouse his countrymen to avenge his wrong (Compare 1 Samuel 11:7).
As far as the actual process of dismembering the body, the times would require some crude methods by today’s standards. If all that was available for this purpose was a knife the divisions would have been made at the joints of her bones; twelve pieces, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel:
Ezek 24:4-5 (KJV) Gather the pieces thereof into it, even every good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder; fill it with the choice bones. Take the choice of the flock, and burn also the bones under it, and make it boil well, and let them seethe the bones of it therein.
1 Sam 11:7 (KJV) And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent. he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces -- This particular form of war summons was suited to the character and habits of an agricultural and pastoral people. Solemn in itself, the denunciation that accompanied it carried a terrible threat to those that neglected to obey it. Saul conjoins the name of Samuel with his own, to lend the greater influence to the measure, and to strike greater terror unto all who ignored the order. The small contingent furnished by Judah suggests that the disaffection to Saul was strongest in that tribe.
and sent her into all the coasts of Israel;
that is, to every tribe, as Josephus says. At this time in Israel’s history there was no supreme magistrate to appeal to for justice, no council of seventy elders, and therefore he took this strange and unheard of method to acquaint each of the tribes with the facts of his wife’s abuse and death. It wasn’t that he wanted vengeance for her death, because he had to assume a good deal of the responsibility for that. He was outraged at the entire community of Gibeah because from the moment he arrived there he was disrespected and abused, threatened by homosexual men who wanted to “know” him, and there his wife and concubine was murdered by these same men. Ben Gersom thinks he did not send a body part to the tribe of Benjamin, where the evil was done; but Abarbinel disagrees, and offers this scenario: Levi was not a tribe that lived together in one part of the country, but they were scattered throughout all the tribes; pieces might be sent to the two half tribes of Manasseh, since one lay on the East side of the Jordan River, and the other on the West side, and so there were twelve for the twelve pieces to be sent to.
There is no doubt that with each of the pieces he sent to each tribe (by special messengers) an account of the brutality of the men of Gibeah; and it is very likely that they considered each of the pieces as expressing an anathema, "IF YE WILL NOT COME AND AVENGE MY WRONGS, MAY YE BE HEWN IN PIECES LIKE THIS ABUSED AND MURDERED WOMAN!"
The Levite didn’t think this up, because it had been done before; several times:
1. Ptolemy king of Egypt killed his eldest son, and cut him into pieces, and put them in a box, and sent them to his mother on his birthday.
2. Chytraeus writes, that about A. C. 140, a citizen of Vicentia, requested that governor Carrarius return his daughter to him. He refused, but later he ravished her and cut her into pieces, before sending her back. Her father put the carcass in a vessel, sent it to the senate in Venice, and asked them to punish the governor, and destroy the city.
3. See the analogous proceeding on the part of Saul (1 Samuel 11:7; above).
4. There was the Scythian custom related by Lucian in Toxaris, c. 48, that whoever was unable to procure satisfaction for an injury that he had received, cut an ox into pieces and sent it around, whereupon all who were willing to help him to obtain compensation took a piece, and swore that they would stand by him to the utmost of their strength.
5. 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 uprising was immediately to take place.
This is a grotesque way to deliver a message, but the method worked. It is tragic that the Levite did not show this kind of concern for righteousness earlier.
This method for rallying a nation was normally done by dismembering animals (see I Samuel 11, where Saul divided a yoke of oxen in order to rally the twelve tribes of Israel). The Levite sent the twelve pieces of her body to the twelve tribes of Israel in an effort to rally the nation out of its lethargy and to a willingness to acknowledge its responsibility.
Davis (p. 149) states, “This act on the part of the Levite was designed to get action, and it worked.” It must be assumed that the tribe of Benjamin was included in the summons, but refused, thus identifying themselves with the action of the men of Gibeah. The shock of seeing the girl’s dismembered body and undoubtedly hearing the story of this undeniable outrage against the law of God caused Israel to consider this the greatest atrocity of the nation’s early history. It brought a tremendous reprisal.
30 And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.—Judges 19.30 (KJV)
30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?”—Judges 19.30 (NLT)
And it was so, that all that saw it
What they saw was the dismembered pieces of the dead body, and Josephus says, he gave the messengers a command to declare what was the cause of her death.
Some translate this verse quite differently. They understand the whole verse to be what the Levite said to the messengers when he sent the twelve pieces of the murdered woman to the twelve tribes. “He sent her into all the coasts of Israel (ver. 29), saying to the messengers, It shall come to pass that all who see it will say, There hath been nothing done and nothing seen like this from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
said, there was no such deed done nor seen, from the day that the children of Israel came up out of Egypt, unto this day;
The reference here is not so much to the cutting into pieces of the dead body, and sending it to the different tribes, although that was awful and shocking, as it is to the complicated wickedness committed at Gibeah, which was the cause of it. This and what follows are the words either of those the Levite sent, who were instructed to deliver them to those to whom the pieces were sent, or else of the persons present at the time of the delivery of the pieces to them, or those they got together to disclose the matter to: We can’t tell which is correct.
Centuries later, the prophet Hosea remembered this atrocity (see Hosea 9.9), and, my friends, we can be sure that Christ will remember when the Homosexuals of Gibeah must stand before His Great White Throne: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.
consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds;
We have here the three great rules by which those that sit in council, and those who serve as magistrates ought to reflect on in every arduous decision they have to make: (1.) Let every man withdraw into himself, and weigh the matter impartially and fully in his own thoughts, and seriously and calmly consider it, without prejudice on either side, before he speaks about it. (2.) Let them talk it over freely, and every man take advice from his friends, know his opinion and his reasons, and weigh them. (3.) Then let every man speak his mind, and give his vote according to his conscience. When all this is taken into consideration, a person can decide with confidence.
We shall see in the next chapter that an atrocious civil war resulted from this episode, but a very important aspect of this relates to the purpose of it. It was not for the purpose of avenging the death of the innocent and helpless concubine, but to avenge the infringement upon the husband's property rights, and to punish Gibeah for the violation of the laws of hospitality. It seems that the idea to severely punish those Gibeathites who were guilty of beastly homosexuality never occurred to the Israelites!
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