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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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JUDGES 19

EXAMPLE 2

THE NEAR EXTERMINATION OF THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN (Judg. 19--21)

THE ATROCIOUS MURDER OF A LEVITE'S CONCUBINE

In these chapters, the near-total collapse of moral integrity in Israel occurred. Richard Halverson, as quoted by Campbell, stated that:

"Here we have the sewer of Scripture ... the most disgusting story in the Bible, unredeemed by an admirable character or a noble act. To read these chapters is to be repelled by them; and one cannot help feeling rather dirty. It is almost as bad as reading today's newspaper!"F1

The sordid record begins with the brutal murder of a helpless bride whose husband sacrificed her to cruel Sodomite sons of the Devil without lifting a little finger to protect her.

"The events recorded here occurred during the lifetime of Phinehas and while the Ark of the Covenant was at Shiloh ... Phinehas evidently outlived Joshua; and the events narrated here occurred during the interval between the deaths of Joshua and of Phinehas."F2 This appears to be true, based upon Judg. 2:27-28. Josephus' narrative of his version of these events coincides with this conclusion.

A LEVITE'S MARRIAGE IN TROUBLE

{"And it came to pass in those days when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the farther side of the hill-country of Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehem-judah. And his concubine played the harlot against him, and went away from him to her father's house in Bethlehem-judah, and was there the space of four months. And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak kindly 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."}

{"And his concubine played the harlot against him"} (Judges 19:2). This is a disputed passage, several able scholars claiming that it should be rendered, "she became angry with him," as in the RSV. However, Dalglish rejected this change, affirming that, "There is no need to adopt it, and that the concubine played the harlot against her husband."F3

If the ASV is correct, then this Levite violated the law of God (Leviticus 20:10) in taking back an adulteress as his wife. Although, we cannot dogmatically reject the RSV, the moral climate in which this narrative is set strongly favors retaining the ASV here, as Dalglish suggested.

{"He went after her, to speak kindly to her, to bring her again"} (Judges 19:3). Whatever the reason for the concubine's leaving, the Levite decided to go to her residence and persuade her to return. This favors the rendition in the RSV, because it seems that the Levite himself was to blame for the break-up, as indicated by these words.

Josephus' account of this episode is evidently untrustworthy in some particulars, but as regards the trouble with this marriage, he might have been correct.

They quarreled with one another perpetually, and at last the woman was so disgusted at these quarrels that she left her husband and went to her parents.F4

That the Levite, if he was faithful to God's law, attempted to restore the marriage certainly indicates that he must have been the guilty party in the break-up.

THE LEVITE WELCOMED BY HIS CONCUBINE'S PARENTS

{"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. And it came to pass on the fourth day, that they arose up early in the morning and he rose up to depart: and the damsel's father said unto his son-in-law, Strengthen thy heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward ye shall go your way. So they sat down, and did eat and drink; both of them together: and the damsel's father said unto the man, Be pleased, I pray thee, to tarry all night, and let thy heart be merry. And the man rose up to depart; but his father-in-law urged him, and he lodged there again. And he arose early in the morning of the fifth day to depart; and the damsel's father said, Strengthen thy heart. I pray thee, and tarry until the day declineth; and they did eat, both of them. 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 thy heart may be merry; and tomorrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home."}

{"He abode with him three days (Judges 19:4) ... Early in the morning of the fifth day"} (Judges 19:8). 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."F5 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.

The pleading of the concubine's father is understandable, because her parents probably thought that it might be a long while 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.

THEY FIND NO HOSPITALITY FROM THE MEN OF GIBEAH

{"But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus (the same is Jerusalem): and there were with him a couple of asses saddled; his concubine also was with him. When they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it. And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside into the city of a foreigner, that is not of the children of Israel; but we will pass over to Gibeah. And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near unto one of these places; and we will lodge in Gibeah, or in Ramah. And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them near to Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin. And they turned aside thither, to go in to lodge in Gibeah; and he went in and sat him down in the street of the city; for there was no man that took them into his house to lodge."}

{"Over against Jebus"} (the same is Jerusalem) (Judges 19:10). In the Conquest, Joshua had indeed captured this city (Josh. 10:23; 12:10); "But the Israelites had withdrawn and left the city entirely to the Jebusites who continued to hold it until David captured it and made it his capital (2 Samuel 5:6)."F6 Jerusalem was only a couple of hours traveling time from Bethlehem.

{"Gibeah"} (Judges 19:12). This place, only about two and one half hours beyond Jerusalem, was also known as "Gibeah of Saul," "The same being Saul's birthplace."F7 It was in the territory of Benjamin.

"The present site of Gibeah is called Tel el-Ful, which was identified as Saul's city by the brilliant Palestinian explorer, Edward Robinson. The site was excavated in 1922 and 1923 by W. F. Albright."F8 It is only four miles north of Jerusalem and just two miles south of Ramah.

{"They sat down in the street ... no man took them into his house"} (Judges 19:15). Yates pointed out that the man, along with his servant and his concubine, went to the open area at the city gate, the same being something like a public market, where the magistrates of the city sat, and where a stranger would have waited to receive hospitality. "He waited in the public square, inside the gate of the city; but no man of Gibeah offered hospitality."F9

A SOJOURNER FROM EPHRAIM PROVIDES HOSPITALITY

{"And, behold, there came an old man from his work, out of the field at even: now the man was of the hill-country of Ephraim; but the men of the place were Benjamites. And he lifted up his eyes and saw the wayfaring man in the street of the city; and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou? And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehem-judah unto the farther side of the hill-country of Ephraim; from thence am I, and I went to Bethlehem-judah: and I am now going to the house of Jehovah; and there is no man that taketh me into his house. 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 that is with thy servants: there is no want of anything. And the old man said, Peace be unto thee; howsoever, let all thy wants be upon me; only lodge not in the street. So he brought him into his house, and gave the asses fodder; and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink."}

The hunters of so-called "contradictions" never overlook an opportunity to shout their allegations!

{"I am now going to the house of Jehovah"} (Judges 19:18). "By `the house of Yahweh' we must understand Shiloh ... Everywhere else in the story, however, and even in the immediately preceding context we are given to understand that the Levite is returning to his own home, which is not at Shiloh."F10 Keil fully explained this alleged contradiction. "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.' This the man gave as a reason why no one in Gibeah would take him in. It was because he served at the house of Jehovah in Shiloh!"F11 The words "I go to the house of Jehovah" could not possibly have been a statement of the Levite's destination, for that he had already uttered in the same breath. Of course, the critic's explanation of this involves theories of multiple sources, redactors and editors; but if there was indeed a contradiction here, just what kind of `an editor' would have put it together?

Before leaving this, we should also note that, according to Hervey, "The words, `I go to the house of Jehovah' may also be translated, `I frequent the house of Jehovah.'"F12

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.

{"Only lodge not in the street"} (Judges 19:20). Like our own streets in the city of Houston, Texas, 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."F13

THE HOMOSEXUALS OF GIBEAH MURDER THE CONCUBINE

{"As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain base fellows, beset the house round about, beating at the door; and they spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying; Bring forth the man that came into thy house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man has come into my house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a virgin, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not any such folly. But the men would not hearken unto him; so the man laid hold on his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all that night until the morning: and when the day began to spring; they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was till it was light."}

There was hardly ever a more tragic episode than this. In this narrative the Lord has given us a picture of the true nature of the homosexual. He is an unqualified beast, willing to sacrifice any human being whomsoever upon the altar of his own selfish lust. We are astounded that some in our age are willing to apologize and even seek grounds of justification for this type of perversion! It has even been described as an ACCEPTABLE modern lifestyle. Ridiculous! The example before us occurred shortly after the conquest of Canaan in 1,400 B.C., and there was also the despicable example of the sodomites of Sodom and Gomorrah centuries earlier in the times of Abraham and Lot (Gen. 19).

The Holy Scriptures make it abundantly clear that the disapproval of God frowns upon all such activity, and an apostle has declared that impenitent practitioners of this shameful vice (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) "shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

"The resemblance of this narrative to that of Gen. 19 suggests that the Israelites by their contact with the Canaanites had themselves been reduced to the level of the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah, and it shows the wisdom of God in commanding that such workers of abomination should have been destroyed. A society that is willing to put up with this type of immorality is placing a celestial order for its own destruction.

"The prophet Hosea (Hosea 9:9) made allusion to `the days of Gibeah' as a time of notorious moral depravity in Israel, and he probably had in view the events of this chapter."F14 Our own view is that such a "probability" is in fact a CERTAINTY.

{"Here is my daughter a virgin, and his concubine"} (Judges 19:24). There is no justification for this cowardly surrender of two able-bodied men to the unbridled lust of Gibeah's "homosexuals." Josephus states that the homosexuals carried the woman to their home, "Where they satisfied their lust upon her the whole night."F15 As Kyle Yates said, "This kind of action by those men (the Levite and his host) cannot be justified."F16

THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN ANTIQUITY

We should not leave this tragic episode without observing the low estimate which the men of that era placed upon the value of women. Not only did the men of this chapter offer a virgin daughter and a concubine to satiate the lust of the savage homosexuals of Gibeah, even Abraham offered to sacrifice Sarah to save himself (Genesis 12:10-20). Women should beware of forsaking the principles of the Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, who alone, has elevated woman above the humiliations that marked her status in the pre-Christian era. Satan is today offering women all kinds of inducements to turn against the teachings of Christ, but once those teachings are rejected, woman will quickly find herself again treated as a chattel. India supplies the only proof of this that is needed.

{"Then came the woman and fell down at the door of the man's house, where her lord was"} (Judges 19:26). "Poor thing! With her last breath, she turned to the house where her lord was, who should have protected her, but who had abandoned her in her hour of need."F17

THE CONCUBINE'S BODY DISCOVERED

{"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, with her hands upon the threshold. And he said unto her, "Up, and let us be going; but none answered: then he took her up upon the ass; and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the borders of Israel. 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 it, take counsel, and speak."}

{"And all that saw it said"} (Judges 19:30). Apparently, as Moore noted, "This clause is much more natural in the mouth of the Levite's messengers."F18

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 trespass of the husband's property rights! and to punish Gibeah for the violation of the laws of hospitality. That their beastly homosexuality should have been severely punished seems never to have occurred to the Israelites!

{"There was the woman, his concubine, lying at the house door with her hands on the sill"} (Judges 19:27). There is not a more pathetic line in the O.T. than this.

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."


Footnotes for Judges 19
1: D. K. Campbell, p. 156.
2: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 3-C, 192.
3: Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 456.
4: Josephus, Antiquities, p. 152.
5: International Critical Commentary, Judges, p. 411.
6: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 193.
7: Ibid.
8: Unger's Archeology of the Old Testament, p. 199.
9: Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Old Testament, Judges, p.263.
10: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 415.
11: C. F. Keil in the Keil-Delitzsch Commentaries, op. cit., p. 444.
12: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 293.
13: Beacon Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 457.
14: Arthur S. Peake Commentary, p. 269.
15: Josephus, Antiquities, p. 152.
16: Wycliffe Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 263.
17: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 194.
18: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 421.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Judges 19". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=jud&chapter=019>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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