7 June Judges 19:1-30

7 June. The Israelite men of Gibeah gang rape a young woman

Warning: This Old Testament Bible passage contains graphic accounts of violence that might upset you.

“There was a Levite who lived in the faraway mountains of Ephraim. He had taken a slave woman from the city of Bethlehem in the land of Judah to live with him, but she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah and stayed there for four months.”

“Then her husband went to ask her to come back to him, taking with him his servant and two donkeys. When the Levite came to her father’s house, she invited him to come in, and her father was happy to see him. The father-in-law, the young woman’s father, asked him to stay. So he stayed for three days and ate, drank and slept there.”

“On the fourth day they got up early in the morning. The Levite was getting ready to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, ‘Refresh yourself by eating something. Then go.’ … On the fifth day … the woman’s father said, ‘Refresh yourself. Wait until this afternoon.’ … When the Levite, his slave woman, and his servant got up to leave, the father-in-law, the young woman’s father, said, ‘It’s almost night … Tomorrow morning you can get up early and go home.’”

“But the Levite did not want to stay another night. So he took his two saddled donkeys and his slave woman and travelled towards the city of Jebus (also called Jerusalem). As the day was almost over, they came near Jebus. So the servant said to his master. ‘Let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites, and spend the night here.’”

“But his master said, ‘No. We won’t go inside a foreign city. Those people are not Israelites. We will go on to the city of Gibeah.’ … So they went on. The sun went down as they came near Gibeah, which belongs to the tribe of Benjamin. They stopped there to spend the night. They came to the public square of the city and sat down, but [contrary to the accepted norm in Israelite society] no one invited them home to spend the night.”

“Late in the evening an old man came in from his work in the fields. His home was in the mountains of Ephraim, but now he was living in Gibeah. … He saw the traveller in the public square and asked, ‘Where are you going? Where did you come from?’ … You are welcome to stay at my house. Let me give you anything you need, but don’t spend the night in the public square.’”

“So the old man took the Levite into his house, and he fed their donkeys. They washed their feet and had something to eat and drink. While they were enjoying themselves, some wicked men of the city surrounded the house and beat on the door. They shouted to the old man who owned the house, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house. We want to have sexual relations with him.’”

“The owner of the house went outside and said to them, ‘No, my friends. Don’t be so evil. This man is a guest in my house. Don’t do this terrible thing! Look, here is my daughter, who has never had sexual relations before, and also the man’s slave woman. I will bring them out to you now. Do anything you want with them, but don’t do such a terrible thing to this man.’”

“But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took his slave woman and sent her outside to them. They forced her to have sexual relations with them, and they abused her all night long. Then at dawn, they let her go. She came back to the house where her master was staying and fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.”

“In the morning when the Levite got up, he opened the door of the house and went outside to go on his way. But his slave woman was lying at the doorway of the house, with her hands on the doorsill. The Levite said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But she did not answer [because she was dead]. So he put her on his donkey and went home.”

“When the Levite got home, he took a knife and cut his slave woman into twelve parts, limb by limb. Then he sent a part to each area of Israel. Everyone who saw this said, ‘Nothing like this has ever happened before, not since the people of Israel came out of Egypt. Think about it. Tell us what to do.’”

          (Judges 19:1-30)



We’re sorry if, like us, this passage made you feel sick – it’s probably the most horrific passage in the whole of the Old Testament – and we know that most Bible study guides and church sermons avoid it. But to understand why the LORD sent his only son Jesus to bring God’s message of unconditional love to the ungodly and sinful Jews of the 1st century AD, you need to appreciate just how deprived and evil the descendants of Jacob had become.

The passage tells us how a Levite from the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine (a woman bought as a sexual partner) from Bethlehem in Judah, but she escaped from him and returned to her father in Bethlehem (see 1 on the map).

The Levite (presumably with the help of a large cash gift) persuaded her father to let the young woman return with him to Ephraim. After much delay, they set off late on the fifth day and not wishing to stay overnight in the non-Kosher Canaanite city of Jebus (Jerusalem), the Levite and his sex slave pushed on northwards towards Ramah (see the map).

As dusk fell, they agreed to stay overnight with an old man in Gibeah. The men of Gibeah (who were from the Israelite tribe of Benjamin) gang raped and abused the young woman repeatedly during the night, and she died of her horrific injuries on the doorstep outside the house. The news of this appalling murder spread quickly throughout Israel when the Levite sent parts of her dismembered body to each of the tribes of Israel.

The story of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19:1-30) may seem strange to modern ears, but in the days of the ‘Judges’, it was quite common for an Israelite man to have a ‘concubine’ as well as a wife. A concubine had the legal status of a marriage partner, but had much less esteem than a wife and was treated more like a sex slave.

When the Levite’s concubine was gang raped and left for dead on the doorstep of his overnight host at Gibeah, the other Israelite tribes decided to bring the unrepentant men of Gibeah to account for their atrocious crime. We’ll discover tomorrow what happened next.

You can read more about the city of Gibeah @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/28-the-israelites-face-continuing-opposition/gibeon-is-destroyed-and-the-benjamites-punished/.

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