Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. it came to pass in those days--The painfully interesting episode
that follows, together with the intestine commotion the report of it
produced throughout the country, belongs to the same early period of
anarchy and prevailing disorder.
a certain Levite . . . took to him a concubine--The priests under
the Mosaic law enjoyed the privilege of marrying as well as other
classes of the people. It was no disreputable connection this Levite
had formed; for a nuptial engagement with a concubine wife (though, as
wanting in some outward ceremonies, it was reckoned a secondary or
inferior relationship) possessed the true essence of marriage; it was
not only lawful, but sanctioned by the example of many good men.
2. his concubine . . . went away from him unto her father's house--The
cause of the separation assigned in our version rendered it unlawful
for her husband to take her back
and according to the uniform style of sentiment and practice 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, through frequent brawls.
3, 4. And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto
her--Hebrew, "speak to her heart," in a kindly and affectionate
manner, so as to rekindle her affection. Accompanied by a servant, he
arrived at the house of his father-in-law, who rejoiced to meet him, in
the hope that a complete reconciliation would be brought about between
his daughter and her husband. The Levite, yielding to the hospitable
importunities of his father-in-law, prolonged his stay for days.
8. tarried--with reluctance.
until afternoon--literally, "the decline of the day." People in
the East, who take little or nothing to eat in the morning, do not
breakfast till from ten to twelve A.M., and this
meal the hospitable relative had purposely protracted to so late a
period as to afford an argument for urging a further stay.
9. the day draweth toward evening--Hebrew, "the pitching time
of day." Travellers who set out at daybreak usually halt about the
middle of the afternoon the first day, to enjoy rest and refreshment.
It was, then, too late a time to commence a journey. But duty, perhaps,
obliged the Levite to indulge no further delay.
10-12. the man . . . departed, and came over against Jebus--The note,
"which is Jerusalem," must have been inserted by Ezra or some later
hand. Jebus being still, though not entirely
in the possession of the old inhabitants, the Levite resisted the
advice of his attendant to enter it and determined rather to press
forward to pass the night in Gibeah, which he knew was occupied by
Israelites. The distance from Beth-lehem to Jerusalem is about six
miles. The event showed that it would have been better to have followed
the advice of his attendant--to have trusted themselves among aliens
than among their own countrymen.
13. in Gibeah, or in Ramah--The first of these places was five miles
northeast, the other from four to five north of Jerusalem.
15. when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city--The towns
of Palestine at this remote period could not, it seems, furnish any
establishment in the shape of an inn or public lodging-house. Hence we
conclude that the custom, which is still frequently witnessed in the
cities of the East, was then not uncommon, for travellers who were late
in arriving and who had no introduction to a private family, to spread
their bedding in the streets, or wrapping themselves up in their
cloaks, pass the night in the open air. In the Arab towns and villages,
however, the sheik, or some other person, usually comes out and
urgently invites the strangers to his house. This was done also in
(Ge 18:4; 19:2).
That the same hospitality was not shown in Gibeah seems to have been
owing to the bad character of the people.
16. there came an old man from his work out of the field at even,
which was also of mount Ephraim--Perhaps his hospitality was quickened
by learning the stranger's occupation, and that he was on his return to
his duties at Shiloh.
19, 20. there is no want of any thing--In answering the kindly
inquiries of the old man, the Levite deemed it right to state that he
was under no necessity of being burdensome on anyone, for he possessed
all that was required to relieve his wants. Oriental travellers 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 beasts. Instead of hay, which is seldom met with,
they used chopped straw, which, with a mixture of barley, beans, or the
like, forms the provender for cattle. The old man, however, in the
warmth of a generous heart, refused to listen to any explanation, and
bidding the Levite keep his stocks for any emergency that might occur
in the remainder of his journey, invited them to accept of the
hospitalities of his house for the night.
20. only lodge not in the street--As this is no rare or singular
circumstance in the East, the probability is that the old man's earnest
dissuasive from such a procedure arose from his acquaintance with the
infamous practices of the place.
22-24. certain sons of Belial beset the house--The narrative of the
horrid outrage that was committed; of the proposal of the old man; the
unfeeling, careless, and in many respects, inexplicable conduct of the
Levite towards his wife, disclose a state of morality that would have
appeared incredible, did it not rest on the testimony of the sacred
historian. Both men ought to have protected the women in the house,
even though at the expense of their lives, or thrown themselves on
God's providence. It should be noted, however, that the guilt of such a
foul outrage is not fastened on the general population of Gibeah.
29. divided her . . . into twelve pieces--The want 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 of the Levite.