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(MT versing)
A Levite's Concubine Degraded The Levite's Concubine The Failure of the Israelite Tribes
The Levite and His Concubine The Levite of Ephraim and His Concubine
The Levite and His Concubine
19:1-9 19:1-4 19:1-9 19:1-5 19:1-10
The Incident at Gibeah 19:9
19:10-15 19:10-15 19:10-15 19:10-11 The Crime of the Men of Gibeah
19:16-21 19:16-21 19:16-21 19:16-17 19:16-21
Gibeah's Crime 19:20-21
19:22-26 19:22-26 19:22-26 19:22 19:22-25
19:26-30 19:26-30
19:27-30 19:27-28 19:27-30

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. The central figure of Judges 17-18 is a Levite from Bethlehem, traveling in the hill country of Ephraim; strangely the same type of person is also the object of Judges 19.

  2. The chronological order of Judges 19-21 does not follow 17-18, but appears to be very early in the period of the Judges.

  3. The purpose of this section is to show the moral and legal problems involved when there is no central, strong, godly leadership. The horror of this crime is matched only by the over reaction of the tribes.

  4. Josephus, Antiq. 7.2.8, changes the story in several ways (i.e., traditions passed on to him).
    1. the lady was a very beautiful wife
    2. the men of Gibeah saw his wife and wanted her; this is different from the MT, which asserts clearly the homosexual nature of the event
    3. the woman felt her Levite husband would not forgive her and would feel great shame, so she voluntarily died

    This shows how Jewish tradition tried to spare the Levite the shame he so deserved!

  5. This account has similarity to Genesis 19 and 1 Samuel 11:7. Some think it is a merging of two different accounts. I am very uncomfortable with the J.E.P.D. mentality. Moderns do not know the time, process, or date of how the OT books reached their final form. Believers accept, by faith, that the Spirit guided the process. We cannot superimpose modern textual criticism onto ancient ANE texts.



1Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah. 2But his concubine played the harlot against him, and she went away from him to her father's house in Bethlehem in Judah, and was there for a period of four months. 3Then her husband arose and went after her to speak tenderly to her in order to bring her back, taking with him his servant and a pair of donkeys. So she brought him into her father's house, and when the girl's father saw him, he was glad to meet him. 4His father-in-law, the girl's father, detained him; and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and lodged there. 5Now on the fourth day they got up early in the morning, and he prepared to go; and the girl's father said to his son-in-law, "Sustain yourself with a piece of bread, and afterward you may go." 6So both of them sat down and ate and drank together; and the girl's father said to the man, "Please be willing to spend the night, and let your heart be merry." 7Then the man arose to go, but his father-in-law urged him so that he spent the night there again. 8On the fifth day he arose to go early in the morning, and the girl's father said, "Please sustain yourself, and wait until afternoon"; so both of them ate. 9When the man arose to go along with his concubine and servant, his father-in-law, the girl's father, said to him, "Behold now, the day has drawn to a close; please spend the night. Lo, the day is coming to an end; spend the night here that your heart may be merry. Then tomorrow you may arise early for your journey so that you may go home."

19:1 "in those days" Though this idiom is not specific, it is a textual marker for a later editor/compiler. Judges was written during the United Monarchy (i.e., Saul and David). See note at Jdgs. 17:6.

▣ "concubine" This was a second level, legal wife whose children had no inheritance rights.

19:2 "played the harlot against him" This is the reading of the MT and Peshitta, but the Vulgate has "she was angry and left him." The LXXA has "became angry with him," like the Vulgate, but LXXB has "left him." It seems that the context supports the MT, if understood in the sense of the Vulgate. For a wife to leave her husband was not allowed. When she left, everyone would assume she had committed an unfaithful act and was put away by her husband (cf. Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11-12).

The UBS Text Project, p. 120, says there were three meanings for the VERB (BDB 275, KB 278).

  1. play the harlot ‒ זנה I, KB 275
  2. became angry with ‒ זנה II, KB 275 (Akkadiana root)
  3. go away

In this context, #2 fits best.

NASB, NRSV  "to speak tenderly to her"
NKJV  "to speak kindly to her"
NJB  "to appeal to her affections"
JPSOA  "to woo. . .to win her back"
REB  "to appeal to her"
LXX  "to speak to her heart"
Peshitta  "to speak lovingly to her"

The MT is literally "to speak to her heart" (BDB 524). This is an idiom for "wooing" or "courting" (i.e., intimate love conversations, cf. Gen. 34:3; Ruth 2:13).

▣ "his servant and a pair of donkeys" In the culture of the day these donkeys would have carried a gift for the father of the concubine. This apparently was a wealthy Levite.

It is also possible that these donkeys were merely transportation for

  1. the concubine to return home
  2. provisions for the trip (Jdgs. 19:19)
  3. a ride for the Levite

19:4-9 This describes the father-in-law's joy and hospitality over the reunion and gift from the Levite. It includes many IMPERATIVES OF REQUEST.

Jdgs. 19:5 ‒ "sustain yourself with a piece of bread" ‒ Qal MPERATIVE

Jdgs. 19:6

  1. "please be willing to spend the night" ‒ Hiphil MPERATIVE and Qal IMPERATIVE; this VERB (BDB 533, KB 529) is used eleven times in this chapter
  2. Same as 1.
  3. "let your heart be merry" ‒ Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

Jdgs. 19:8

  1. "please sustain yourself" ‒ like Jdgs. 19:5
  2. "wait" ‒ Hithpael IMPERATIVE

Jdgs. 19:9

  1. "please spend the night" ‒ like 19:6, #1
  2. "spend the night" (twice) ‒ Qal IMPERATIVE, like 19:6, #1 and 19:9, #1
  3. "that your heart be merry" ‒ like 19:6, #3

10But the man was not willing to spend the night, so he arose and departed and came to a place opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). And there were with him a pair of saddled donkeys; his concubine also was with him. 11When they were near Jebus, the day was almost gone; and the servant said to his master, "Please come, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it." 12However, his master said to him, "We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners who are not of the sons of Israel; but we will go on as far as Gibeah." 13He said to his servant, "Come and let us approach one of these places; and we will spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah." 14So they passed along and went their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. 15They turned aside there in order to enter and lodge in Gibeah. When they entered, they sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.

19:10 "Jebus (that is, Jerusalem)" The city was first called Salem (cf. Gen. 14:18). Later it was called Jebus after its inhabitants, the Jebusites, origin unknown. Finally, it was called Jerusalem, possibly after David made it his capital (cf. 2 Sam. 5:6-9).


19:11-13 The servant requests that they stay in Jebus.

  1. "please come" ‒ Qal IMPERATIVE
  2. "let us turn aside" ‒ Qal COHORTATIVE
  3. "spend the night" ‒ Qal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense

But the Levite did not want to stay in a Canaanite city (Jdgs. 19:12, irony). So, they moved on.

  1. "come" ‒ Qal IMPERATIVE, like Jdgs. 19:11, #1
  2. "let us approach. . ." ‒ Qal COHORTATIVE

The servant requested but the Levite commanded.

19:13 "Gibeah" The town was 4 miles north of Jerusalem. It was Saul's birthplace and capital (cf. 1 Sam. 10:26; 11:4; 15:34). However, because of robbers, one could not travel at night. There may be a purposeful comparison of the cities associated with Saul (i.e., Gibeah) and the cities associated with David (Bethlehem, Jebus, Ramah). Remember, Judges was written during the United Monarchy (i.e., Saul then David).

There are three Gibeahs.

  1. in Judah ‒ Joshua 15:20, 57
  2. in Ephraim ‒ Joshua 24:33
  3. Saul's capital ‒ Jdgs. 20:31; 2 Sam. 10:26; 11:4

▣ "Ramah" Ramah was 2 miles farther. It was the hometown of Samuel.

19:15 "they sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house" This was a shameful act of the citizens not offering hospitality, which was so important in that day.

16Then behold, an old man was coming out of the field from his work at evening. Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was staying in Gibeah, but the men of the place were Benjamites. 17And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city; and the old man said, "Where are you going, and where do you come from?" 18He said to him, "We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, for I am from there, and I went to Bethlehem in Judah. But I am now going to my house, and no man will take me into his house. 19Yet there is both straw and fodder for our donkeys, and also bread and wine for me, your maidservant, and the young man who is with your servants; there is no lack of anything." 20The old man said, "Peace to you. Only let me take care of all your needs; however, do not spend the night in the open square." 21So he took him into his house and gave the donkeys fodder, and they washed their feet and ate and drank.

19:16 "the man was from the hill country of Ephraim" This is the same area that the Levite was from.

NASB, NRSV  "to my house"
NKJV, JPSOA, Peshitta  "to the house of the Lord"
TEV  "to our home"
NJB, REB, LXX  "I am going home"

The MT has "to the house of YHWH," but the LXX has "to my home." The difference between "my" (LXX) and "YHWH" (MT) is very close in Hebrew. Possibly the final yod (י) was mistakenly made the first letter (aberration) of the divine name, יהוה, by later Hebrew scribes.

Since the VERB "cut" in Jdgs. 19:29 has sacrificial connotations, some think the Levite dismembered his concubine at the shrine at Shiloh (cf. Jos. 18:1; Jdgs. 18:31) or even at Bethel (cf. Jdgs. 20:26-28) in a ritual manner.

19:19 The Levite is clearly stating he brought all the provisions for his trip. He needs no assistance of any kind, except a place to stay (i.e., house). The lavish hospitality of his concubine's father is not expected.

However, the culture demanded the host provide the needs and protection of guests (BDB 533, KB 529, Qal JUSSIVE, Jdgs. 19:20, cf. 19:21).

  1. washed their feet, cf. Gen. 18:4; 24:32; 43:24
  2. provided food
  3. provided drink
  4. provided a place to sleep
  5. tended to their animals

It was not as elaborate as the concubine's father, but still very expensive for this poor farmer and his unmarried daughter.

▣ "your servants" The MT (LXXB) has the PLURAL but the context demands the SINGULAR (Targum, Peshitta, Vulgate). The JPSOA footnote implies the PLURAL reflects:

  1. the concubine
  2. the servant
  3. the host and his daughter also called "your servants" (i.e., Oriental eastern hospitality)
  4. Same as 3.

▣ "they washed their feet and ate and drank" This is normal etiquette. The "they" may refer to the Levite's servant or the man and his daughter.

22While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, "Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him." 23Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly. 24Here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. Please let me bring them out that you may ravish them and do to them whatever you wish. But do not commit such an act of folly against this man." 25But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. 26As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man's house where her master was, until full daylight.

19:22 "worthless fellows" This is literally "sons of Belial," from two Hebrew words, "sons of worthlessness" (BDB 116, cf. Deut. 13:13; 1 Sam. 2:12). Later, in the Apocrypha it became a title for Satan (cf. 2 Cor. 6:15).

▣ "that we may have sexual relations with him" This aggressive homosexuality reminds one of Sodom (cf. Genesis 19). These Israelites were acting like perverse Canaanites. Homosexuality was a way to highlight the evil of the day (cf. Rom. 1:26,27, and also note NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 1209, #8).


19:23-24 This shows the cultural importance attached to ANE hospitality.

19:23 Notice how this request is characterized.

  1. "do not act so wickedly" ‒ BDB 949, KB 1269, Hiphil IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense, cf. Gen. 19:7
  2. "do not commit this act of folly" ‒ BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense; the NOUN "folly" (BDB 615) means "senseless" or "disgraceful," cf. Gen. 34:7; Deut. 22:21; Jos. 7:15; 2 Sam. 13:12; Jer. 29:33; it usually has a sexual connotation

There is no NEGATIVE IMPERATIVE, so Hebrew expresses this with a NEGATIVE and a JUSSIVE (cf. Gen. 13:8).

19:24 This shows the low morality and place of women in that day. Notice the IMPERATIVES.

The man offers both his virgin (BDB 143) daughter and the Levite's concubine.

  1. "to ravish them" ‒ BDB 776, KB 853, Qal IMPERATIVE, which means to humble a woman by sexual relations, cf. Gen. 34:2; Deut. 21:14; 22:24, 29; Jdgs. 20:5; 2 Sam. 13:12, 14, 22, 32; Lam. 5:11; Ezek. 22:10, 11
  2. "do to them whatever you wish" ‒ BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERATIVE

This incident is so shocking. One wonders if the man thought that since the crowd wanted to have sex with the Levite, maybe they would not want to have sex with a woman.

At any rate, this shows clearly

  1. the gracious and absolute requirement of ANE hospitality
  2. the cowardly act of these men to save their own lives
  3. the terrible plight of women in the ANE (i.e., property)


19:25 "the man seized his concubine" There were no more love words (cf. Jdgs. 19:3)! He sacrificed her for his own life. I am surprised this Levite did not offer his male servant to the homosexual mob. Apparently servants were valued more than concubines.

Notice the actions of this sex-crazed mob.

  1. they raped her ‒ BDB 393, KB 390, Qal IMPERFECT with waw; this is literally "knew," cf. Gen. 4:1
  2. they abused her ‒ BDB 759 I, KB 834, Hithpael IMPERFECT with waw, cf. 1 Sam. 31:4; Jer. 38:19
  3. all night until morning ‒ repeated abuse which caused her death (Jdgs. 19:28)

Number 3 shows the prolonged attack by the mob. I must admit this account bothers me! This was a horrible night for this poor woman. I feel the same sinking feeling about Job's family and servants (i.e., Job 1-2). Remember, the Bible records what it does not advocate. In historical narratives one must look for the overall purpose (i.e., Judges 17-21) and not focus on the details of the accounts.



27When her master arose in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, then behold, his concubine was lying at the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold. 28He said to her, "Get up and let us go," but there was no answer. Then he placed her on the donkey; and the man arose and went to his home. 29When he entered his house, he took a knife and laid hold of his concubine and cut her in twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout the territory of Israel. 30All who saw it said, "Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!"

19:27-29 These verses show

  1. the Levite's callused feelings toward his concubine (as did his actions in Jdgs. 19:25)
  2. the Levite's anger and sense of violation expressed toward the whole tribe of Benjamin (Jdgs. 19:29)

The actions of

  1. the townspeople of Gibeah (i.e., no offer of shelter)
  2. the worthless fellows (i.e., sexual demands)
  3. the Levite (i.e., putting his concubine at the door for the mob and his callous reaction to her murder)
  4. the tribe of Benjamin (i.e., not punishing the worthless fellows in their midst)
  5. the over reaction of the Israeli tribes in destroying a whole tribe (i.e., men, women, and children)

This is the theological point of Judges 17-21. The editor/compiler thinks a righteous king would/could solve the problem (cf. Jdgs. 19:1).

19:29 "cut her in twelve pieces" This VERB is often used of sacrificial acts (BDB 677, KB 732, cf. Exod. 29:17; Lev. 1:6, 12; 8:20). A similar act was performed by Saul to call the Twelve Tribes into action (cf. 1 Sam. 11:7). In this case, Benjamin tried to protect these vile men of their tribe! Why, is not stated.

19:30 The terrible acts of this mob became a proverb for evil (cf. Hosea 9:9; 10:9).

Notice the three IMPERATIVES of the last sentence of Jdgs. 19:30.

  1. consider ‒ BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE
  2. take counsel ‒ BDB 734, KB 801, Qal IMPERATIVE
  3. speak up ‒ BDB 180, KB 210, Piel IMPERATIVE


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why record this horrible account?
  2. Define "concubine."
  3. Contrast the hospitality of
    1. the concubine's father
    2. the people of Gibeah
    3. the farm worker from Ephraim
  4. What type of sex was requested by the "worthless fellows"?
  5. How could the farmer offer his virgin daughter and the Levite's concubine to the sex-crazed mob?
  6. How does this account demonstrate the low status of women in the ANE?
  7. List the ways the Levite comes across as a bad person.

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