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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This history has no connection whatever with the preceding. The note of time Judges 20:28 shows that the date of it is in the lifetime of the first generation of settlers in Canaan.
1And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah.
A concubine - See the margin. The name does not imply any moral reproach. A concubine was as much the man's wife as the woman so called, though she had not the same rights. See Judges 19:3-4.
2And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months.
Played the whore against him - Perhaps only meaning that she ran away from him, and left him, for she returned to her father's house.
3And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father's house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.
4And his father in law, the damsel's father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.
5And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart: and the damsel's father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way.
6And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel's father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry.
7And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again.
8And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel's father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them.
9And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel's father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home.
This is a perfect picture of the manners of the time. It is probable that the father showed more than usual hospitality, in order to ensure the kind treatment of his daughter by her husband. These particulars are given to account for their journey running so far into the evening, which was the immediate cause of the horrible catastrophe which followed.
10But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him.
11And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it.
12And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah.
City of a stranger - This shows how completely, even in these early days, the Jebusite population had excluded both the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
13And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah.
14And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin.
Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin - See Joshua 18:24 note.
15And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.
A street - Probably the square or place within the gates, where courts were held, bargains made, and where the chief men and strangers congregated.
16And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites.
Which was also of Mount Ephraim - i. e., of the country of the Levite. This single giver of hospitality was himself a stranger and sojourner at Gibeah.
17And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou?
18And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehemjudah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehemjudah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me to house.
The house of the Lord - Probably at Shiloh (marginal references). The Levite was probably one of those who ministered at the tabernacle. His two donkeys and servant show him to have been in good circumstances, and he had a home of his own.
19Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing.
20And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.
21So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.
22Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.
23And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.
This man is come into mine house - He appeals to the sacred rights of hospitality, just as Lot did Genesis 19:8. Both cases betray painfully the low place in the social scale occupied by woman in the old world, from which it is one of the glories of Christianity to have raised her.
24Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.
25But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.
26Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light.
27And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.
28And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.
29And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.
A knife - Rather, "the" "knife". The single household implement used, not like our knives at our meals, but for slaughtering and cutting up the animals into joints for eating Genesis 22:6, Genesis 22:10; Proverbs 30:14.
Together with her bones ... - Rather, "into her bones", or "bone by bone, into twelve pieces". The "pieces" are synonymous with the "bones" (compare Ezekiel 24:4-5). There is something truly terrible in the stern ferocity of grief and indignation which dictated this desperate effort to arouse his countrymen to avenge his wrong. Compare 1 Samuel 11:7.
30And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.