The Word Made Fresh
1In those days, when Israel had no king, a Levite man who lived in a remote area of the hills of Ephraim, took for himself a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. 2But she became angry with him and was unfaithful. She left him and returned to her father in Bethlehem. Three or four months passed, 3and the man decided to go after her and persuade her to return with him. He traveled there with a servant and two donkeys. When they got there, she met him at the door, and her father gladly welcomed him. 4He insisted that the man stay, and they stayed for three days eating and drinking. 5On the fourth day they arose early and packed to leave, but her father said, “Stay and have something to eat before you go.” 6So they sat down and ate and drank together. Then the girl’s father said, “Spend the night and enjoy yourself.” 7The man got up to go, but her father kept insisting until he gave in and stayed another night.
8On the fifth day the man prepared to leave again, but her father said, “Have something to eat and drink first,” so they stayed, eating and drinking, until the day was far gone. 9They got up to leave, but her father said, “Look, the day is gone – it’s almost evening. Stay another night. See, the sun is going down. Spend the night. Enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can get an early start.”
10But the man refused to stay any longer. He saddled his donkey and left with his servant, his concubine and the two donkeys, now saddled. They headed toward Jebus (later called Jerusalem). 11The day was late when they neared Jebus, and his servant said, “Let’s go in and spend the night in this Jebusite town.”
12But the man said, “We’re not going to stay with foreigners who don’t belong to Israel. We’ll keep going on to Gibeah. 13Come on, let’s go a little further and try to stay at Gibeah or maybe Ramah.”
14So, they kept going. The sun went down as they neared Gibeah, a town in Benjamin. 15They went into the town to spend the night, and sat in the town square, but no one offered them a place to stay.
16As darkness began to settle an old man came into town, returning from working in his field. He, too, was from the Ephraim hill country, but he had settled in Gibeah even though the residents there were Benjaminites. 17When he saw them sitting in the town square he said, “Where are you from? Where are you headed?”
18The Levite said, “We left Bethlehem in Judah, and are returning to the distant hills of Ephraim. That’s where I’m from. I went to Bethlehem, but now I’m going home. No one here offered to take us in for the night, 19but we have straw and fodder for our donkeys, and bread and wine for me and the woman and my servant. We don’t need anything.”
20The old man said, “Peace! Let me take care of everything, just don’t spend the night out here in the open.” 21And he brought them to his house. He fed the donkeys. He washed their feet, and they ate and drank together.
22While they were eating, some perverse men of the town gathered around the house. They knocked loudly on the door, and shouted at the old man, “Bring out the man you have in your house!” They wanted to use him for their sexual pleasures.
23The old man stepped outside. “No, friends,” he pleaded, “don’t be mean. This man is my guest. Don’t treat him like this. 24Look, my virgin daughter is here, and the man’s concubine. Let me bring them to you and you can have your fun, but don’t disgrace my guest.”
25But the men continued to press him, so the Levite pushed his concubine out the door to them, and they raped and abused her all night long. They let her go as the dawn was breaking. 26As the sun was rising, she collapsed at the door of the house where her master was staying and there she stayed until full daylight had come.
27When her master, the Levite, arose, he opened the door, prepared to resume his journey, and there she was, lying with her hands stretched out to the threshold. 28“Get up!” he said. “We have to go.” She didn’t answer. He put her on one of his donkeys and headed home.
29When he arrived at his house, he took a knife and cut his concubine into twelve parts, limb by limb, and sent some of his men with her body parts throughout Israel. 30He told them to say wherever they went, “Have you ever seen such a thing happen in Israel from the day they left Egypt until today? Think about this. Discuss it with one another and decide what should be done.”
1-9: We move on now to another tribe, Benjamin, and another unnamed Levite. We learn that he has taken a concubine from Bethlehem, apparently purchasing her from her father, and has brought her to his house in the hills of Ephraim. She runs away and returns to Bethlehem, and the Levite goes after her, “to speak to her tenderly,” but we will learn that he is far from being a tender man, for the story that follows is a case of the most extreme abuse imaginable. All seems well between the Levite and the girl’s father, who practices a demanding hospitality that keeps the Levite from leaving for nearly a week.
10-15: Finally he does leave, late in the day. They head north. His servant wants to spend the night in Jebus (later Jerusalem), but the Levite refuses because the people there are not Israelites. As night falls, they arrive in Gibeah, a Benjaminite town, and sit down in the town square. No one offers them hospitality until an old man from Ephraim who is living there comes in from the fields and bids them to spend the night at his house.
16-26: Some of the men of the city surround the house and demand that the Levite be turned over to them to be sexually humiliated. This is an insult to the Ephraimite, who offers to send out his own daughter and the Levite’s concubine to them instead. The similarity to the story of Sodom in Genesis 19 is obvious at this point. The men refuse, but the Levite then seizes his concubine (the word implies a harsh, forceful action) and pushes her out to them. They proceed to rape her repeatedly throughout the night while the Levite and his servant and the Ephraimite man and his daughter are asleep inside the house. They abuse her to the point of her collapse, but we are not clearly told that she is dead when she falls at the door of the house.
27-30: The next morning the Levite walks out the door and sees her body lying there. If you expect any sympathy on his part, you will be disappointed. He speaks harshly to her – “Get up! Time to go!” She does not respond, but again we are not told that she is dead. She may still only be unconscious. The Levite puts her on his donkey and travels on to his house in the hills of Ephraim. There we encounter a grisly scene: he grasps her (the same word used above when he seized her to throw her to the perverts in Gibeah) and dismembers her body. Still we have not been told whether or not she is alive or dead at this point! He sends pieces of her body to the other tribes and demands that they do something.
The remaining accounts in the book of Judges illustrate just how far Israel has descended into the sinful ways of the people of Canaan. This story is an example of the kind of life people experience when they ignore or know nothing of the loving God who created us.