The Levite and His Concubine [Judges 19.1-19.9]
Scripture (KJV) Judges 19.1-9
A Levite goes to Beth-lehem to fetch home his wife
1 And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah.
2 And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months.
3 And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father's house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.
4 And his father in law, the damsel's father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.
5 And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart: and the damsel's father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way.
6 And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel's father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry.
7 And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again.
8 And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel's father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them.
9 And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel's father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home.
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Introduction to Chapters: 19, 20, 21
The sad history of Israel now moves from idolatry to immorality and civil war. If sin is not dealt with, it spreads like a plague and destroys. The basic cause of Israel’s plight was their independence from God and their indifference to His law. Nothing can be right when every man does what is right in his own eyes. It was a time of moral and spiritual darkness (see Isa. 8:20).
Isaiah 8:20 (KJV) To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. During this time of spiritual darkness there were Familiar spirits (female witches and wizards (soothsayers) that chirp and whisper). The people were deeply distressed, and were actually consorting to witchcraft instead of turning to God. The messenger warns that they are not to seek these mediums for the living to the dead. Isaiah 8.19 in the RSV reads: “… Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?” The passage goes on to clearly speak against the cult of spiritism which is one of the oldest pagan religions known to mankind. True Old Testament religion, like Christianity, forbade such practices because there was no light in them. The guideline of verse 20 clearly states that the law (tōrah) and … the testimony (te˒ūdah, precept) are clearly declared to be the basis of interpreting any claim to divine revelation. Thus, those who neglect this standard of truth shall find no answer at all in their day of anguish and shall be driven even further into the impenetrable darkness.
The Levite was not a good example of a spiritual leader. He had a concubine, which was permitted and regulated by law, but not really approved by God. His main interests were eating, drinking, and enjoying life. If he had been a man of discipline and spiritual wisdom, he would never have caused all the trouble that he did. He had no godly influence on the people whose lives he touched, and his evil treatment of his concubine was inexcusable.
When spiritual leaders fail to obey God and set godly examples, the church and the community suffer, and ultimately the whole nation decays. One incident of lawlessness can cause a national crisis. It makes a difference when God’s people are truly salt and light in a decaying and dark society (see Matt. 5:13–16).
Matthew 5: 13-16 (KJV) Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The three remaining chapters of this book contain a very tragic story of the wickedness of the men of Gibeah, supported by the tribe of Benjamin, for which that tribe was severely chastised and almost entirely cut off by the rest of the tribes. This seems to have been done not long after the death of Joshua, since it occurred when there was no king, and no judge, in Israel (see v. 1, and v. 21:25), and during the time that Phinehas was the high priest, (see 20:28). These particular iniquities, the Danites’ idolatry, and the Benjamites’ immorality, let in that general apostasy, (see 3:7). The abuse of the Levite’s concubine is related in this passage.
Judges 21.25 (KJV) In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Judges 20.28 (KJV) And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.
Judges 3.7 (KJV) And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
Outline for chapter 19
I. Her adulterous elopement from him (v. 1, v. 2).
II. His reconciliation to her, and the journey he took to fetch her home (v. 3).
III. Her father’s kind entertainment of him (v. 4-9).
IV. The abuse he met with at Gibeah, where, being backward and unlearned, he was forced to stop.
a. He was neglected by the men of Gibeah (v. 10-15)
b. He was entertained by an Ephraimite that sojourned among them (v. 16-21).
c. They set upon him in his quarters, as the Sodomites did on Lot’s quests (v. 22-24). They villainously forced his concubine to death (v. 25-28).
V. The course he took to send notice of this to all the tribes of Israel (v. 29, v. 30).
1 And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah—Judges 19.1 (KJV)
1 Now in those days Israel had no king. There was a man from the tribe of Levi living in a remote area of the hill country of Ephraim. One day he brought home a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine.—Judges 19.1 (NLT)
And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel
The same observation is made in two other places (see Judges 17:6 and 18.1) and refers to the same times, the period between the death of Joshua and before God raised up Israel’s first judge, Othniel.
Judges 17:6 (KJV) In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Judges 18:1 (KJV) In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.
This opening statement is meant, as before, to account for wickedness, such as adultery, sodomy and murder being committed with impunity. All sorts of mayhem are attributed to the absence of civil government; this doesn't only mean that Israel had no one political monarch, but that they refused to recognize God's leadership over them.
This is the final story in the book, and it is one of lust and violence as if to bring to a terrifying close an account in which bloodshed played a constant and leading roll. It appears from Judges 20:27, 28 that the events narrated in these three last chapters of the Book of Judges happened during the lifetime of Phinehas, and while the ark was at Shiloh (see Judges 20:27, 28).
Judges 20:27-28 (KJV) And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.
Phinehas evidently outlived Joshua (see Joshua 24:29, 33), though there is no evidence to show how long. The events in these chapters must have occurred in the interval between the death of Joshua and the death of Phinehas.
Joshua 24:29, 33 (KJV) And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old…And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.
that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of Mount Ephraim;
A Levite was sojourning in a city that was on one side of that mountain. It seems that it was not a Levitical city, because he was only a sojourner in it; perhaps he chose to reside there, because he would be near the tabernacle of Shiloh, which was in that tribe. A sojourner is one who takes up a temporary residence; but, in this instance there is the additional meaning of living outside of a Levitical town, and in the more remote parts of the mountains of Ephraim.
It is an intriguing coincidence that both the Levite whose sad story is told here, and the Levite the son of Gershom that we read in the preceding chapters, were sojourners in the hill country of Ephraim, and were also closely connected with Bethlehem-judah. Perhaps the legitimate explanation (see verse 18, and Judges 20:26, 27) is that in both cases the Levites were drawn to Ephraim by the ark being at Shiloh, and also because there was a colony of Levites at Bethlehem-judah.
Judges 19:18 (KJV) 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 20:26-27 (KJV) Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD…And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,
Whether there was any connection between the presence of Levites at Bethlehem and the annual sacrifice at Bethlehem which existed in David’s time, and which argues for the existence of a high place there, can only be a matter of conjecture (see1 Samuel 9:13, and 20:29).
1 Sam 9:13 (KJV) As soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that be bidden. Now therefore get you up; for about this time ye shall find him.
1 Sam 20:29 (KJV) And he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king's table.
All we can say is that there was the widespread occurrence of high-place worship during the time of the judges, and that the services of Levites were sought after in connection with it (see Judges 17:13).
Judges 17:13 (KJV) Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
The marital affairs of this Levite would not have been related here except to make way for the following story pertaining to the injuries done to him, in which the whole nation was interested. In Micah’s idolatry a Levite was active; in the wickedness of Gibeah a Levite was passive; the tribe of Levi will be the first to suffer due to the lack of a government; and, in all the book of Judges, no mention is made of any of that tribe, other than these two.
who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah;
This is the same place that the wicked Levite came from; he is spoken of in the preceding chapters, and he is certainly one of those responsible for spreading idolatry in Israel; and here we are told about another Levite and his wicked concubine that comes from the same place, and we will find in this passage that she was the cause of great blood-letting in Israel. These two instances may seem to reflect dishonor and disgrace on Bethlehem, but as bad as they were, they are wiped off this little village when it became the birthplace of some illustrious persons; such as Boaz, Jesse, David, and especially the Messiah.
The woman that the Levite took from there is called in the Hebrew, "a wife, a concubine"; because a concubine was a secondary wife, taken without a marriage ceremony and a dowry. Some think they were married, despite the fact that there was no dowry, and they were considered wives, although they never received all the honor and privileges accorded true wives. It appears that this woman was truly the wife of the Levite, since he is frequently called her husband; and her father is said to be his father-in-law, and he is called his son-in-law; and besides, she could have been chargeable with adultery otherwise. This woman is thought to be the Levite’s only wife, and the reason she did not have a dowry could be that he didn’t have anything to give for her, since he was a sojourner and not settled.
The Levites under the Mosaic Law were not like Catholic priests, since they enjoyed the privilege of marrying as well as other classes of the Hebrew people. It was not disgraceful for this Levite to have a wife who was also a concubine (although their marriage began without some of the outward ceremonies, it was deemed to be a secondary or inferior relationship) and even though their life together didn’t possess the true essence of marriage; it was not only lawful, but sanctioned by the example of many good men; for example, several prominent men in the Old Testament had concubines (such as Abraham [Genesis 25:6], Jacob [Genesis 35:22], Caleb [1 Chronicles 2:46], Saul [2 Samuel 3:7], David [2 Samuel 5:13], and Solomon, who had 300 concubines [1 Kings 11:3], Rehoboam [2 Chronicles 11:21]). A concubine was, in a sense, a legal mistress. And though we see these godly men with their concubines we never see such a family life blessed by God. The New Testament makes it clear: God's plan is one man and one woman to be one flesh forever (see Matthew 19:4-6), and each man is to be a "one-woman man" (see 1 Timothy 3:2)
Matt 19:4-6 (KJV) And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
1 Tim 3:2 (KJV) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
The people of Israel were very accepting of concubines and multiple wives, but that is only another reflection of the religious, political, and social chaos of the period. Having concubines had become an accepted custom, originating with childless couples who sought to produce heirs. Later, the custom evolved into relationships with free women who did not have the full status of a wife. This custom was not pleasing to God, though He had regulated its potential problems in the Law (see Ex. 21:7–11; Deut. 21:10–14; see The Levite’s Defenseless Concubine; Article 19.1; page 825).
Ex 21:7-11 (KJV) And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.
Deut 21:10-14 (KJV) When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.
Article 19.1: The Levite’s Defenseless Concubine
The concubine had been unfaithful to the Levite and left him (Judg. 19:2). The Levite had gone after her (v. 3). They had come from the house of the concubine’s father in Bethlehem when they stopped in Gibeah for the night. As darkness came, apparently nobody in Gibeah wanted to extend hospitality to the Levite, his servant, and his concubine (one privileged over slaves but not a full legal wife).
Having intentionally passed by the pagan city Jebus (renamed Jerusalem after David’s conquest), they had sought a better place of rest among the Israelites. Finally, an old man, a foreigner himself in that unfriendly town, opened his home, ominously begging them not to spend the night outside in the marketplace. Then, while they were eating and resting, men who were willing sodomites surrounded the house, seeking to rape the Levite guest. The Levite, supposedly a spiritual leader, sacrificed his defenseless concubine to a night of brutality to save his own life. This incident occurred during the darkest period of Israel’s history, during which everyone was a law unto himself (see Judg. 21:25). Israel as a community was repulsed by this heinous crime and accordingly took serious steps to hold the guilty accountable (Judg. 20:6, 13, 23).
The concubine was betrayed by her lover and his host. She was raped, tortured, and murdered. She lived in an unjust world where violence permeated even the closest of relationships and where moral decay extended even to the spiritual leaders.
See also Gen. 19:8; notes on Fornication (1 Cor. 6); Sexual Immorality (Prov. 6); Suffering (Ps. 33; 113; Is. 43; Mark 3; 1 Pet. 5)
2 And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months.—Judges 19.2 (KJV)
2 But she became angry with him and returned to her father’s home in Bethlehem. After about four months,—Judges 19.2 (NLT)
And his concubine played the whore against him
One interpretation of this phrase is that she was unfaithful to him, thereby breaking the covenant and agreement between them. She did it while she was with him in the house; therefore, he knew about it and had proof of it; though some think this is not to be understood as an act of whoredom or adultery, but that she simply used him to her advantage, and then she left him.
This passage is not clear-cut, since several capable scholars claim that it should be rendered, "she became angry with him." However, Dalglish rejected this change, insisting that, "There is no need to adopt it, and that the concubine played the harlot against her husband." If he is correct, then this Levite violated the law of God (see Leviticus 20:10) by taking back an adulteress as his wife.
Lev 20:10 (KJV) And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
The confusion over this phrase is amplified by the Vulgate, Septuagint, Targum, and Josephus, who understand this phrase as implying any act of marital infidelity on the woman's part. They merely state that the parties disagreed and the woman returned to her father's house. Indeed all the circumstances of the case support this view of the subject. If she had been a whore, or adulteress, it is not very likely that her husband would have gone after her to speak friendly, literally, to speak to her heart, and entreat her to return. The Vulgate simply states that she left him; the Septuagint, that she was angry with him; the Targum that she despised him; Josephus, that she was alienated, or separated herself, from him; and Houbigant translates the clause: "who when she was alienated from him, or angry with him, left him;" and he defends this version in his note. I think the true meaning can be found among the above interpretations. They had an argument; she ceased to love him, her affections were alienated from him; and she left his house, and went home to her father. Kimchi and Ben Gersom interpret it as her leaving him, and returning to her father's house, as follows: and indeed, had she been guilty of adultery, one would think he would never have gone after her to reconcile her, and take her again, since she not only deserved to be put away, but to be put to death according to the law of God:
Played the whore against him – The predominant meaning, as we see from the above is that she ran away from him, and left him, and she returned to her father's house; which was situated at the northern extremity of the mountains if Ephraim, probably in the neighborhood of Shiloh, according to Judges 19.18.
Judges 19:18 (KJV) 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.
and went away from him to her father's house to Bethlehemjudah;
I believe she knew her father would be glad to see her, since he may have been too indulgent with her and even encouraged her to leave her husband. Today we would say that her father spoiled her.
I need to point out again that there is confusion over her reason for leaving her Levite husband. One school of thought maintains that this concubine played the whore and left her husband to elope with another man. The Chaldee reads it only that she carried herself insolently to him, or despised him, and, since he was disappointed with her, she went away from him, and she was received and entertained at her father’s house (which was not fair). If her husband through her out unjustly, her father ought to have pitied her and taken her in; but, if she treacherously left her husband for the bosom of a stranger, her father should not have put up with her sin. Perhaps she would not have left her husband if she had not been assured that her father would welcome her back. Children are often ruined by their parents’ indulgence.
The cause of the separation may have made it unlawful for her husband to take her back (see Deuteronomy 24:4); and according to the customs of those times in the East, she would have been put to death, had she gone to her father's family. Other versions concur with JOSEPHUS, in representing the reason for the flight from her husband's house to be, that she was disgusted with him, and therefore they argued often.
Deut 24:4 (KJV) Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
Went away - Either for fear of punishment; or, because she disliked him; but either way she sinned, or her father sinned by conniving with her to prevent reconciliation with her husband.
and was there some whole months
According to Ben Gersom, a year and four whole months had passed, while others insist that four months had passed since she returned to her father’s house.
3 And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father's house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.—Judges 19.3 (KJV)
3 her husband set out for Bethlehem to speak personally to her and persuade her to come back. He took with him a servant and a pair of donkeys. When he arrived at her father’s house, her father saw him and welcomed him.—Judges 19.3 (NLT)
And her husband arose
From the place where he lived.
and went after her;
He must have known all along where she had gone, since the only place he went was to Bethlehemjudah, where her father lived. The part of the Levite’s story is similar to Samson’s relationship to his wife (see Judges 15.1).
Judges 15:1 (KJV) But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in.
Whatever the reason for the concubine's leaving, the Levite decided—after four months or a year and four months—to go himself to her father’s house and persuade her to return. It was a sign there was no king, no judge, in Israel, or else she would have been prosecuted and put to death as an adulteress; but, instead of that, she is addressed in the kindest manner by her injured husband, who takes a long journey on purpose to plead with her to be reconciled. This seems to favor the suggestion that the Levite himself was to blame for the break-up.
to speak comfortably to her
"or to her heart"; having heard perhaps that she repented of her sin, or if their separation was only the outcome of a quarrel between them, his anger might have cooled by this time, and therefore, he sought a reconciliation with her; which was very commendable of him, since he did not divorce her when she left him. Divorce (see Article 19.2; page 829) was very easy for a man to get, because the Law of Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife when she found “no favor in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her” (see Deut. 24:1).
Deut 24:1 (KJV) When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
If he had divorced her, it would have been a crime for him to accept her again as his wife, (see Jer. 3:1).
Jer 3:1 (KJV) They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD. It was ever understood, by the law and practice of the country, that if a woman were divorced by her husband, and became the wife of another man, the first husband could never take her again. —Adam Clarke's Commentary
But, she did not remarry, perhaps because he did not give her a bill of divorcement. She left him, therefore it was good of him to forgive the offence, and, though he was the party wronged, for him to make the first move to rekindle their friendship. He spoke friendly to her, or comfortably (which the Hebrew phrase of speaking to the heart commonly signifies). She must have realized that it was wrong for her to leave her husband, and now she is sorry and penitent which he probably heard of when he came to take her back. God made similar promises concerning adulterous Israel (see Hos. 2:14 ).
Hosea 2:14 (KJV) Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. After inflicting many judgments upon her, I will restore her again. I will deal with her as a very affectionate husband would do to an unfaithful wife. Instead of making her a public example, he takes her in private, talks to and reasons with her; puts her on her good behavior; promises to pass by all, and forgive all, if she will now amend her ways. In the meantime he provides what is necessary for her wants and comfortable support, and thus opening a door of hope for her, she may be fully reconciled; rejoice as at the beginning, when he first took her by the hand, and she became his bride. This is most probably the simple meaning of the above metaphorical expressions. The valley on Achor was very fruitful; it lay to the north of Jericho, not far from Gilgal See Isaiah 65:10.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
Hebrew, "speak to her heart," in a kindly and affectionate manner, so as to rekindle her affection. "To speak to her to the heart," i.e., to talk to her in a friendly manner (see Genesis 34:3), and to reconcile her to himself again, so that she might return; To offer her pardon and reconciliation.
Gen 34:3 (KJV) And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.
Article 19.2: Divorce
DIVORCE — the legal dissolution of a marriage.
The divine ideal for marriage is clearly a lifelong bond that unites husband and wife in a “one flesh” relationship (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5). The marriage union is a holy condition founded by God and is not to be dissolved at the will of human beings (Matt. 19:6). Separations of this bond displease God and pose a serious threat to the social order: “And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garments with violence” (Mal. 2:15–16).
The Law of Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife when she found “no favor in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her” (Deut. 24:1). The primary purpose of this legislation was to prevent him from taking her again after she had married another man—“an abomination before the LORD” (Deut. 24:4).
This law was intended to discourage, rather than encourage, divorce. A public document known as a “certificate of divorce” was granted the woman. This permitted her the right to remarry without civil or religious sanction. Divorce could not be done privately.
The Mosaic Law called for severe penalties for certain types of “uncleanness.” Adultery carried the death penalty by stoning for the woman. If a man believed that his wife was not a virgin when he married her, he could have her judged by the elders of the city. If they found her guilty, she could be put to death (Deut. 22:13–21). Although a man was allowed to divorce his wife, the wife was not allowed to divorce her husband for any reason. Legally the wife was bound to her husband as long as they both lived or until he divorced her (1 Cor. 7:39).
In Jesus’ day, confusion prevailed about the grounds for divorce. Even the rabbis could not agree on what constituted the “uncleanness” of Deuteronomy 24:1. Followers of Rabbi Shammai felt adultery was the only grounds for divorce. Those who followed Rabbi Hillel accepted many reasons, including such things as poor cooking.
The gospels record four statements by Jesus concerning divorce. In two of these He allowed divorce in the case of adultery. In Matthew 5:32 Jesus commented on the situation of both the woman and her new husband: “Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”
In another statement, Jesus described the position of the man who divorced his wife: “Whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). While these two statements seem to allow divorce because of unfaithfulness, two other statements of Jesus appear to make no provision for divorce (Mark 10:11–12; Luke 16:18).
Are Jesus’ statements allowing divorce for infidelity in conflict with biblical statements that seem to forbid it entirely? Jesus’ statements in Mark and Luke were made in conversations with Pharisees about the Mosaic Law, which they believed allowed divorce on grounds other than adultery (Deut. 24:1–4). Jesus’ main point in these statements was that divorce is contrary to God’s plan for marriage and should never be taken lightly. Even though Moses allowed divorce, this was an exception granted under the law because of their “hardness” of heart (Mark 10:5). Jesus desired to put “teeth” into the Law by declaring that, even if the divorced couple had not been sexually unfaithful to each other, they would commit adultery in God’s sight if they now married other partners.
In allowing divorce for the single reason of “immorality,” or illicit sexual intercourse, Jesus’ thought is clearly that a person dissolves his marriage by creating a sexual union with someone other than the marriage partner. Such union violates the sacred “oneness” intended by God when he united Adam and Eve in the first marriage relationship (Gen. 2:18–25).
In the case of sexual unfaithfulness, the decree of divorce simply reflects the fact that the marriage has already been broken. A man divorcing his wife for this cause does not “make her an adulteress,” for she already is one. Thus, divorce on the grounds of unchastity usually frees the innocent partner to remarry without incurring the guilt of adultery (Matt. 19:9). However, this is sometimes questioned. Although Jesus allowed divorce for adultery, He did not require it. On the contrary, He insisted that divorce disrupts God’s plan for marriage and left the way open for repentance and forgiveness.
Paul was essentially in agreement with Jesus’ teachings on marriage and divorce. However, the apostle dealt with new situations involving the marital conflict between believers and between a believer and an unbeliever.
In the case of two Christians, Paul admonished them to follow the Lord’s teachings and be reconciled. In any event, neither is to marry another (1 Cor. 7:10–11). In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul says that a Christian whose mate has abandoned the marriage should be free to formalize the divorce: “If the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.” Many authorities hold that the phrase “not under bondage” means that a deserted Christian spouse may lawfully go from divorce to remarriage. But other scholars disagree with this interpretation. In any event, Paul encourages the believer to keep the marriage together in hopes that the unbelieving partner might be saved (1 Cor. 7:16).
and to bring her again;
to his own city, and to his own house and bed, so everything would be as before.
having his servant with him, and a couple of asses;
one of them was for her to ride upon, and the other was to carry provisions.
and she brought him into her father's house;
It seems that she met with him before he arrived at his father-in-laws house. Perhaps they met in the fields, or in the street; and by this it appears that she was glad to see him, and greeted him in a loving manner, and then she took him to her father’s house where she introduced him to her father. So, now things look very promising for them to get back together.
Here, the Levite is an example of how an offended spouse should act when there is adultery; Jesus told us that divorce is never commanded when there is adultery (see Matthew 19:8)
Matt 19:8 (KJV) He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. He saith unto them, Moses -- as a civil lawgiver. because of -- or "having respect to." the hardness of your hearts -- looking to your low moral state, and your inability to endure the strictness of the original law. suffered you to put away your wives -- tolerated a relaxation of the strictness of the marriage bond -- not as approving of it, but to prevent still greater evils. But from the beginning it was not so -- This is repeated, in order to impress upon His audience the temporary and purely civil character of this Mosaic relaxation.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him;
It appears that he has a good opinion of his son-in-law, and perhaps he understood from his daughter's story, that she was the one most at fault, and therefore he was pleased to see him come after her; even though he should have sent her home before this, or sought for her to reconcile with her husband. No doubt, he rejoiced, in part at least, because the expense of his daughter’s maintenance would be transferred from himself to his daughter’s husband; and he relished the thought that a complete reconciliation may be brought about between his daughter and her husband, and she would once again be out of his house. With that in mind, her father made him feel very welcome, and, by his extraordinary kindness to him, endeavored to atone for the acceptance he had shown his daughter after she left him.
He entertains his son-in-law for three days (see verse 4), which is evidence that the Levite had succeeded in reconciling with his wife.
4 And his father in law, the damsel's father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.—Judges 19.4 (KJV)
4 Her father urged him to stay awhile, so he stayed three days, eating, drinking, and sleeping there.—Judges 19.4 (NLT)
And his father in law, the damsel's father, retained him
His father-in-law persuaded him to stay a few days with him. And the Levite, to show that he was perfectly reconciled, accepted his generous offer, and we do not find that he scolded him or his daughter for what went wrong with their marriage, but instead, he was as at ease and as pleasant as he was at his first wedding-feast. It becomes all of us, but especially Levites (God’s ministers), to forgive as God does.
and he abode with him three days;
His father-in-law is very sincere when he asks him to stay with him for awhile, because he wanted his stay to be a further demonstration of his warm welcome. It seems as if he agreed to stay with him a certain number of days; at least three days as it says here.
The affection he had for him, and the pleasure he took in his company, grew out of the affection he felt for him as his son-in-law and as an engrafted branch of his own family. Note, Love and duty are appropriate ingredients to the friendship we have with those to whom we are related by marriage as well as to those who are bone of our bone: and those that show kindness as this Levite did may expect to receive kindness in return, as he did. But this particular son-in-law was special and he was due a pious respect, as a Levite and a servant of God’s house. If he was the kind of Levite that he should be (and nothing appears to the contrary) he is to be commended for encouraging him to stay, since his conversation with the Levite could prove to be profitable by giving him the opportunity to learn from him the good knowledge of the Lord, hoping also that the Lord will do him good because he has a Levite for his son-in-law, and will bless him for his sake.
so they did eat and drink, and lodged there;
The Levite and his servant were very handsomely entertained, and had everything provided for them in the way of meat, drink, and lodging.
Everything in the house of his father-in-law gave him a hopeful outlook that they would live comfortably together in the future; but, if they could only have foreseen what lie ahead for them within one day or two, all their happiness would have turned into mourning! When the affairs of our families have the best outlook, we ought to rejoice; but we should do it with trembling, because we don’t know what troubles will one day come to meet us. We cannot foresee what evil is around us, but we ought to consider what may be, that we may not be secure, that tomorrow may not be like this day and much more abundant, see Isaiah 56:12.
Isaiah 56:12 (KJV) Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. The spirit of this Epicurean sentiment is this: Let us indulge ourselves in the present time to the utmost, and instead of any gloomy forebodings of the future, let us expect nothing but increasing hilarity for every day we shall live. Thus they,
"Counting on long years of pleasure here,
Are quite unprepared for the world to come."
5 And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart: and the damsel's father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart(inner man, mind,) with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way.—Judges 19.5 (KJV)
5 On the fourth day the man was up early, ready to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Have something to eat before you go.”—Judges 19.5 (NLT)
And it came to pass on the fourth day
It seems that the Levite agreed to stay three days, because here we read that on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart. The time was up, that the Levite had agreed with his father-in-law to stay with him.
when they arose early in the morning
The Levite, his concubine and servant, in order to set out on their journey, got up early in the morning and prepared to leave his father-in law’s house.
that he rose up to depart:
Here, the Levite got up from his seat to thank his father-in-law for making his stay so pleasant and to leave his house to go to his own; since rising out of his bed is expressed before this.
and the damsel's father said to his son in law, comfort thy heart with a morsel of bread;
Or, have some breakfast first, because everyone knows that food is the fuel that makes one fit for his journey, since bread comforts or strengthens men's hearts, (see Psalms 104:15) though here it may stand for any and all sorts of provisions; whatever might be proper to take early in a morning, and before setting out on a journey.
The word used for comfort means strengthen; strengthen your heart.
Psalms 104:15 (KJV) And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. Bread which strengtheneth man's heart—In hunger not only the strength is prostrated, but the natural courage is also abated. Hunger has no enterprise, emulation, nor courage. But when, in such circumstances, a little bread is received into the stomach, even before concoction can have time to prepare it for nutriment, the strength is restored, and the spirits revived. This is a surprising effect; and it has not yet been satisfactorily accounted for.
Comfort thine heart—compare to Genesis 18.5—And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
and afterward go your way.
He seemed as if he was willing for his son-in-law and his daughter to leave his house and begin the trip to the Levite’s house; but first he insists that they have a meal.
We ought to avoid giving in easily to pressure, good and bad that would cause us to neglect our duty on the one hand, and to neglect our friends on the other hand. Our Savior, after his resurrection, was prevailed upon to stay with his friends longer than he at first insinuated to be his purpose, (see Luke 24:28, 29).
Luke 24:28-29 (KJV) And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. He made as though he would have gone farther—That is, he was going on, as though he intended to go farther; and so he doubtless would had they not earnestly pressed him to lodge with them.
What happened? He forced him to stay until the afternoon of the fifth day, and this proved to be disastrous.
6 And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel's father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry.—Judges 19.6 (KJV)
6 So the two men sat down together and had something to eat and drink. Then the woman’s father said, “Please stay another night and enjoy yourself.”—Judges 19.6 (NLT)
And they sat down
The Levite got up from his seat and was ready to leave, when his father-in-law persuaded him to set back down at the table.
and did eat and drink both of them together;
It appears by this, and what follows, that the Levite did not take a small meal, or breakfast with him, but stayed and dined with his father-in-law; both the Levite and his father-in-law ate a lavish meal, and drank freely after dinner.
for the damsel's father (That is, his concubines father) had said to the man, be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry;
He said, let’s spend a pleasant evening together, drinking liberally, and in cheerful conversation, and innocent fun; and he hoped he would agree to it.
The Levite had not intended to stay another day, but he planned to go on his way after he had eaten and drunk (see verse 5). But after spending time carousing with his father-in-law he was persuaded to stay on another night (see verse 7).
7 And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again.—Judges 19.7 (KJV)
7 The man got up to leave, but his father-in-law kept urging him to stay, so he finally gave in and stayed the night.—Judges 19.7 (NLT)
And when the man rose up to depart
He got up from the table, on the fourth day, after having ate and drank his fill, and was intending to leave the house, and proceed on his journey:
his father in law urged him;
His father-in-law appealed to his sense of gratitude and belonging and was able to pressure him into staying another night.
therefore he lodged there again;
Also, on the fourth day, in the morning, when he was about to depart, the Levite yielded to the persuasion of his father-in-law, that he would first of all strengthen his heart again with a bit of bread; and then afterwards, while they were eating and drinking, he consented to stay another night.
He lodged there again. Literally, he returned and lodged there. The Septuagint and one Hebrew MS. read, And he tarried and lodged there.
Do you agree with me? I believe it was good for the Levite to stay another day, since they didn’t know when they might get together again. Actually, his father-in-law wanted him to stay with him for as long as possible. However, the fact that the Levite was treated like royalty didn’t prevent him from missing his own home and having a sense of urgency about returning there.
A good man’s heart is where his home and business is; for as a bird that wanders from her nest so is the man that wanders from his place. It is a sign a man has either too little to do at home, or little heart to do what he has to do; when he can take pleasure in being away from home for a long time when he has nothing to do. It is especially good to see a Levite willing to go home to his few sheep in the wilderness. Yet this Levite was overcome by persistence and kind persuasion to stay longer than he intended,
8 And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel's father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them.—Judges 19.8 (KJV)
8 On the morning of the fifth day he was up early again, ready to leave, and again the woman’s father said, “Have something to eat; then you can leave later this afternoon.” So they had another day of feasting.—Judges 19.8 (NLT)
And he rose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart,
Once again, as he gets out of bed; he does so with the full intention to leave of his father-in-law’s house.
and the damsel's father said, comfort thine heart, I pray thee;
The pleading of the concubine's father is understandable, because her parents probably thought that it might be a long time before they saw her again. The Levite should have stayed another night, as it was very bad judgment on his part to leave in the middle of the afternoon.
comfort thine heart—Meaning, that he should refresh himself with food, as in Judges 19:5. Today we hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And his father-in-law must have known the saying since he urges him to eat breakfast, so that he will be stronger and fit to start out on his journey.
and they tarried until afternoon;
or "until the decline of the day", when the sun had passed the meridian, and was declining, as it immediately does when noon is past. By traveling after noon they might avoid the heat of the day, which would have been very uncomfortable for the travelers.
tarried—They stayed, but it was with reluctance, because the desire to return home was strong in their hearts.
until afternoon—literally, "the decline of the day." People in the East, have little or nothing to eat in the morning, but they do eat between ten and twelve A.M.; but, his father-in-law deliberately delayed this meal long enough so that he could argue for them to stay another day.
and they did eat both of them;
The man and his servant stayed and had dinner with his father-in-law; and though no mention is made of the concubine, neither in this, nor in the other instances, there’s no doubt she ate with them.
Note: It requires an eager critic to find a contradiction in this, but Moore declared that, "The fusion of two narratives seems to have added one to the number of days." Such a comment is uncalled for. Any fair reading of the text indicates that the "three days" refers to the period the Levite intended to stay with his concubine's family, and the nearly two days added were due to the insistence and urging of her father. Otherwise, the Levite would have left on the fourth day, not late on the fifth day.
9 And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel's father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home. —Judges 19.9 (KJV)
9 Later, as the man and his concubine and servant were preparing to leave, his father-in-law said, “Look, it’s almost evening. Stay the night and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can get up early and be on your way.”—Judges 19.9 (NLT)
And when the man rose up to depart, he and his concubine, and his servant
Rose up from the table, having comfortably refreshed themselves.
his father in law, the damsel's father, said unto him, behold, now the day draweth towards evening;
In Hebrew, there’s the adage "the pitching time of day." Travelers who set out at daybreak usually halt about the middle of the afternoon of the first day, to enjoy rest and refreshment. It was that time of day, "the pitching time of day," when it was too late to begin a journey, because the heat, light, and strength of the sun wanes, and becomes weaker and more unreliable, as it does when it goes down, and is nearer setting. But duty, perhaps, influenced the Levite to no longer delay his departure.
I pray you tarry all night;
He is suggesting that it was a very inappropriate time to set out on a journey, for the reasons given above. And, of course, he wants them to stay another day.
behold, the day groweth to an end;
Or “behold, it is the time of the day, when the day or sun seems to be pitching its tent,” and taking its rest; or it is the time when an army on the march stops and pitches their tents, in order to continue all night; or when men go to their tents and habitations, and lie down to rest, before rising again to complete the day’s activities. Our Lord was also cautioned against traveling late in the afternoon (see Luke 24.29).
Luke 24:29 (KJV) But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. For it is toward evening—And consequently it was both inconvenient and unsafe to proceed to another village.
"The day is about to pitch its tent;" that is, it was near the time when travelers ordinarily pitched their tents, to take up their lodging for the night.
And even on the morning of the fifth day he allowed himself to be persuaded to remain till the afternoon.
lodge here, that thine heart may be merry;
In other words; let’s have another pleasant evening together, which is something you cannot enjoy in a roadside inn; you cannot be as comfortable there, as you can be here, and therefore I want you to stay here, since it is not possible for you to get home tonight. He would by no means let him go before dinner; but he promises him that he will have an early dinner, scheming, as he had done the day before, to detain him another night
and tomorrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home;
When the Levite got up on the morning of the fifth day, with his concubine and his attendant, he planned to leave immediately and head for the town or city where he lived. His father-in-law, though, is still conniving to keep them there one more day. This time he plead with his daughter: "Behold the day has passed, and now it is evening; consider my feelings and stay one more night here.” The Levite was about to depart with his wife and attendant, and their remaining or departing depended upon the decision of the man alone.
But the Levite did not consent to remain any longer, but set out upon the road, and came with his companions to Jebus, i.e., Jerusalem, which is only two hours from Bethlehem, because the road from Bethlehem to Shiloh went past Jerusalem. The Levite was determined to reach the house of the Lord at Shiloh (see verse 18), and he was impatient to get there.
This passage provides a perfect picture of the manners of the time. It is probably true that the father showed more than usual hospitality, in order to ensure the kind treatment of his daughter by her husband. These particulars are given to account for their journey running so far into the evening, which was the immediate cause of the horrible catastrophe which followed.
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