Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Judges 19

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
19:1. Who took him a concubine — Hebrew, a wife, a concubine, that is, such a concubine as was also his wife: called a concubine only because she was not endowed. Perhaps he had nothing to endow her with, being himself only a sojourner. “Women of this sort differed little from the wife, except in some outward ceremonies and stipulations, but agreed with her in all the true essentials of marriage, and gave themselves up to the husband, (for so he is called in the next chapter, 19:4,) with faith plighted, and with affection.” — Dr. Dodd, who refers to Sterne’s Sermons, vol. 3. Ser. 3., and Selden de Jure, Nat. lib. 5. c. 7.

Verse 2-3
19:2-3. Played the whore against him — Against her faith given to him. Went away — Either for fear of punishment, or because her heart was alienated from him; wherein not only she sinned, but her father, by connivance at her sin, and neglect of just endeavours for her reconciliation to her husband. Her husband went to speak friendly unto her — To offer her pardon and reconciliation.

Verse 12
19:12. The city of a stranger — That is, of a strange nation; a city which the Canaanites possess. For though Jerusalem had been taken by Caleb, (chap. 1.,) yet the strong fort of Zion was still in their hands, whence it is likely they did much molest, and afterward, by God’s permission, drive out the Israelites who dwelt there.

Verse 15
19:15. He sat down in the street of the city — There being no public inns in that country in those days, this was the general custom. Travellers sat down in the streets till some person invited them into his house. And this was generally readily done by one or other, except in places where there was a great degeneracy of manners. Here, although they were soft and effeminate in other respects, yet they were hard-hearted to strangers, for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging, till a poor labouring man performed that office of hospitality toward them.

Verse 16
19:16. Also of mount Ephraim — Whence likewise the Levite was, which inclined him to show the more kindness to his countryman. But the men of the place were Benjamites — This was indeed one of the cities belonging to the priests; but the cities which were given to the priests, and whereof they were owners, were not inhabited by the priests or Levites only, especially at this time, when they were but few in number, but by many other persons of different professions.

Verse 18
19:18. House of the Lord — Which was in Shiloh. Thither he went, either because he lived there for that was in the tribe of Ephraim; or, rather, because he would there offer prayers and praises, and sacrifices to God, for his mercy in reconciling him and his wife.

Verse 19
19:19. Yet there is both straw, &c. — The Levite here acquaints the man that he had with him all things necessary both for himself and his concubine, his servant and his asses; so that he should not burden any man who should receive him, as he only wanted some place to lodge in. For thy handmaid — Or, as we should speak now, for the woman that is with me. The young man that is with thy servants — Or along with us. It was a form of expression in those days to entitle themselves the servants of those they spoke to with any degree of respect.

Verse 20-21
19:20-21. Let all thy wants lie upon me — It matters not whether thou wantest nothing or every thing; I will take care to supply all thy wants. They washed their feet — As they used to do to travellers in those hot countries.

Verse 22-23
19:22-23. As they were making their hearts merry — That is, refreshing themselves with the provisions set before them. Behold, certain sons of Belial — Children of the devil, wicked and licentious men. Bring forth the man, &c. — They wanted the Levite brought forth, that they might satisfy their unnatural lusts. This man is come into my house — And therefore I am obliged to protect him by the laws of hospitality. As several circumstances of this horrid wickedness resemble those of the affair recorded Genesis 19., we refer the reader to the notes on that chapter.

Verse 24
19:24. Behold, here is my daughter, &c. — The master of the house came at last to a resolution that it was less wickedness to prostitute the women to their lusts than the Levite. The dilemma to which he was reduced was indeed dreadful, nevertheless he is not to be justified in the proposal which he makes, no more than Lot was to be justified in a similar case, in offering his two daughters to satisfy the lusts of the men of Sodom. Although of two evils we must choose the less, yet, as we have there observed, “of two sins we must choose neither, nor ever do evil that good may come.”

Verse 26
19:26. Then came the woman, and fell down, &c. — Namely, dead; killed partly with grief of heart, and partly with excessive abuse. Thus the sin she formerly chose, ( 19:2,) is now her destruction; and though her husband pardoned her, God would punish her, at least as to this life.

Verse 27-28
19:27-28. Went out to go his way — Concluding, without doubt, that the Gibeathites had conveyed away his concubine, and would keep her, and therefore he hasted home to take proper measures for the recovery of her; as we find he did afterward to revenge her death. He said unto her, Up, and let us be going — He thought she was only asleep, and the unexpected surprise of seeing her, and his haste to get out of this inhospitable place, might make him express himself in this manner.

Verse 29
19:29. He took a knife, &c. — As the Levite expected no justice from the elders of Gibeah, and there was no supreme head over all the tribes at that time, he had recourse to the elders of each respective tribe; and to move them the more, and stir them up to punish the offender, he sent a part of the body to each of them, preserved undoubtedly by some means from putrefaction. And, undoubtedly, he instructed those he sent with it to relate particularly the circumstances of the unparalleled and barbarous fact.

Verse 30
19:30. All said, There was no such deed done or seen, &c. — All who saw it, and heard the relation, were so moved with horror at it that they called upon each other to consult and give their opinion in what manner justice should be done upon the lewd and inhuman Gibeathites; as follows in the next chapter.