Judges 19:1-30. “ In those days Israel didn’t have a king. There was a Levite who lived deep in the hill country of Ephraim. He got a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But she wasn’t faithful to him. She left him. She went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem in Judah. She stayed there for four months. Then her husband went to see her”. (Then, after he convinced her to return home with him the came to a town to spend the night). “As they came near Gibeah in Benjamin, the sun went down. They stopped there to spend the night. They went to the city’s main street and sat down. But no one took them home for the night. That evening an old man came into the city. He had been working in the fields. He was from the hill country of Ephraim. But he was living in Gibeah. The people who lived there were from the tribe of Benjamin. The old man saw the traveler in the main street. He asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?” The Levite answered, “We’ve come from Bethlehem in Judah. We’re on our way to Ephraim. I live deep in the hill country there. I’ve been to Bethlehem. Now I’m going to the house of the Lord. But no one has taken me home for the night. We have straw and feed for our donkeys. We have food and wine for ourselves. We have enough for me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.” “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “I’d be happy to supply anything you might need. But don’t spend the night in the street.” So the old man took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After the travelers had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink. They were inside enjoying themselves. But some of the evil men who lived in the city surrounded the house. They pounded on the door. They shouted to the old man who owned the house. They said, “Bring out the man who came to your house. We want to have sex with him.” The owner of the house went outside. He said to them, “No, my friends. Don’t do such an evil thing. This man is my guest. So don’t do this terrible thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter. And here’s the Levite’s concubine. I’ll bring them out to you now. You can have them. Do to them what you want to. But don’t do such a terrible thing to this man.” The men wouldn’t listen to him. So the Levite sent his concubine out to them. They forced her to have sex with them. They raped her all night long. As the night was ending, they let her go. At sunrise she went back to the house where her master was staying. She fell down at the door. She stayed there until daylight. Later that morning her master got up. He opened the door of the house. He stepped out to continue on his way. But his concubine was lying there. She had fallen at the doorway of the house. Her hands were reaching out toward the door. He said to her, “Get up. Let’s go.” But there wasn’t any answer. Then he put her dead body on his donkey. And he started out for home. When he reached home, he got a knife. He cut up his concubine. He cut her into 12 pieces. He sent them into all the territories of Israel. Everyone who saw it spoke to one another. They said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen or done before. Nothing like this has happened since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So let’s hear your ideas!”
Let me make two very obvious points:
a. This Levite—-a religious man—allowed this woman to be abused—-they raped all night…they raped her to death. So the behavior of the “Ravi Zacharias’” you hear about today about isn’t anything new. Religious frauds and charlatans have been around since we’ve had religious leaders. But they will be judged more severely.
b. Next, even though this was a city within Israel, it was comprised of some pretty sorry citizens. They were trying their best to rape the Levite! But the host offered them his own young daughter to rape instead. What kind of people were they?!!! No one in this story is chivalrous, godly, or brave. Thousands died because of what these folks did to that poor girl and what her own husband would not even lift a finger to stop—-what cowards and cads! Think about it: Thousands and thousands died!
Then this man butchered and sent her body parts out to all the tribes to get their attention. It worked. But what a disgusting, barbaric and heartless thing to do! He did not honor her in life or in death! It reminds me of a man named Lot when he offered his own daughters to men that wanted to rape some angels that came to visit him one night. Lot is not one of my heroes…
When people tell me that the Bible is inaccurate or full of scribes attempts to edit, redact, or “correct" it to make it fit better into their narrative, or that the book was obviously man-written, I point to stories like this. If I were trying to write a book to get folks into my religion, I would NOT include this story, or I would change it to make it sound better. But the Bible does not read like a fairy tale but rather a news report—-with all the blood and brokenness in black and white. This book was not written to impress men but to convey a message from God.
And this is perhaps the most gruesome and tragic story in Scripture. The details of the story are intentionally crafted to chronicle the “Canaanization” and perversion of Israel. It was recorded here to show just how corrupt men can become—-even religious leaders—-when they turn their back on God. You can’t help but be struck by the wickedness of the people of Israel. They are not just wicked, but they have reached the utter depravity of the very people they were supposed to destroy!
So why did this Levite cut up his concubine? First, let’s be clear: Dismembering her body was an ungodly and heinous act. Nowhere in biblical law is this suggested or condoned. In fact, this disregard for proper burial of the concubine would have been egregious the neighbors or Israel as well as to those in ancient Israel—-Israelites were even required to bury criminals (cf. Deut 21:23 NIV).
The fact that this man was a Levite (a spiritual leader) is all the more disturbing. The way in which he treated his concubine is quite instructive about how wicked and calloused Israel had become. People were treated worse than animals—particularly women. There’s no good reason for a man to cut up a poor girl that was raped to death just to show how angry he was. There’s no indication that he was heart-stricken or that he mourned her death! It’s not that he was outraged that someone had raped this young lady all night, but that they had raped her to death—i.e. he lost some personal property. That’s how he saw her! Perhaps he was still angry that she had left him to become a prostitute earlier, but the man showed no compassion for her.
From start to finish the story of the Levite and his concubine is a discouraging tale of how Israel was led away from God to the very pagan life He warned them about. It is fascinating that throughout the story the concubine remains silent, never saying a word. Yet, it is the concubine who tells the story so clearly—Israel is in trouble and is in desperate need for God’s sovereign and gracious intervention. She ran away from a man—-who is called her “husband”, a Levite and priest, who was obviously devoid of God and abusive.
When the Levite arrived home to the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim with his dead concubine, he cut her up into twelve pieces. One piece for each of the twelve tribes was distributed throughout Israel. Nothing like this had ever happened. So the twelve tribes tried to decide how to respond. He didn’t mourn for her…..did not give her a proper burial—-he used the savagery she endured to get vengeance from those that were unkind to him and that killed his concubine. But I never get a sense of his indignation——the Bible does not even give him a name. He acted shamelessly and then vulgarly.
Then the tribes of Israel (minus Benjamin) declared a civil war against the tribe of Benjamin. A total of forty thousand Israelites died as a result of God’s punishment on the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:21, 25). Only six hundred men of Benjamin remained alive (Judges 20:47). Judges 20:48 states that Israel destroyed the cities of the tribe of Benjamin that they could find, including the cattle. Later Judges 21:16 states all the women were killed too!
The lessons learned?
1. Obviously God did not approve of the horrible sins that occurred in the city of Gibeah when these men tried to rape the Levite and then raped this girl to death. God directed the other tribes of Israel to basically erase this bankrupt tribe. But why did all this happen? Because…..“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25 , NIV) It reveals what happens when a nation abandons God. The human race is utterly “bent” and corrupted and their actions will demonstrate it. Romans 3:10-18 describes our utter sinfulness and the despicable behavior that will follow when we abandon God. This is the reason God told them to totally annihilate the Canaanites! He knew that they would become a snare to Israel and that their lack of sexual restraint and idolatrous ways would infiltrate and disease the nation of Israel.
2. When people are left to do “what was right in their own eyes”, without any moral compass, an entire nation will fall into sin. The reason that God ordered the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin was that they had become like the Canaanites— the same culture they were told to utterly destroy. In Deuteronomy 8:19-20, God warned Israel that He would destroy it if they abandoned Him. He destroyed most of the tribe of Benjamin in order to prevent contamination to the other eleven tribes.
3. The Levite was supposedly a godly man and priest, but not really. The account does not tell us what ultimately happened to him, but Judges 20:4-5 seems to imply that he lied about his actions in order to save himself. It is not enough for someone to claim to a godly person. This guy was not fit for the priesthood. Being a pastor or a priest is not a “job” or “vocation.” Some, like the former president of Liberty University, have said that “character does not matter, rather it is what one accomplishes that matters.” But Scripture repeatedly demonstrates that God uses righteous men and women to establish His enterprises! This man’s behavior demonstrated he was not qualified to be a priest.
4. Gentleman and ladies: are we people of courage or are we cowards and morally bankrupt? Do we defend those that cannot defend themselves? Do we stand up against a bully? Are we prepared to suffer loss to protect the interests of others?