Judges 19 focuses on an unnamed Levite who resided in the remote mountains of Ephraim. “He took for himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But his concubine played the harlot against him, and went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there four whole months. Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back, having his servant and a couple of donkeys with him. So she brought him into her father’s house; and when the father of the young woman saw him, he was glad to meet him” (Jud. 19:1-3).
This woman was unfaithful to her husband and ended up going home to her father. After some time had passed, the Levite sought to be reconciled to her. He was willing to forgive her, and her father was very kind to him. In fact, as the text describes, the father was so hospitable that he kept the Levite there much longer than he originally intended to stay. One gets the sense that the father would have gladly kept his daughter and her husband with him indefinitely, if given the chance! Finally, on the fifth day, the Levite and his concubine left in the afternoon. Leaving at that hour would not allow them to travel all the way home in one day. Thus, they would have to stay overnight somewhere. And as they traveled – “They were near Jebus [i.e., Jerusalem, -SRB], and the day was far spent; and the servant said to his master, ‘Come, please, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and lodge in it.’ But his master said to him, ‘We will not turn aside here into a city of foreigners, who are not of the children of Israel; we will go on to Gibeah'” (19:11,12). Although he did not know it at the time, he was not any safer staying with Israelites than with Gentiles! How very sad!
After arriving in Gibeah after sundown, immediately the Levite looked for shelter. “They turned aside there to go in to lodge in Gibeah. And when he went in, he sat down in the open square of the city, for no one would take them into his house to spend the night” (19:18). The men of Gibeah were Benjamites, although there was one old man staying there who was not of Benjamin. When the old man learned of the Levite’s need for shelter, he gladly volunteered to take care of them, not wanting them to stay in the open square. “So he brought them into his house, and gave fodder to the donkeys. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank” (19:21).
“As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!’ But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, ‘No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!'” (19:22-24).
The similarities between this narrative and Genesis 19 (i.e., Lot and his angelic guests in Sodom) are many, but the differences are significant. In this case, one woman (the Levite’s concubine) is given over to the perverted mob. Such never happened in Lot’s case due to a miraculous intervention. Although it is hard to fathom offering women up to a sexually immoral bunch, we must be cautious in our judgments since we simply have no account of motive recorded. The old man seems honorable and perhaps believes (we cannot be certain) this is the option that will lead to the least amount of suffering or wickedness.
“And they knew her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go. Then the woman came as the day was dawning, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light. When her master arose in the morning, and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, ‘Get up and let us be going.’ But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey; and the man got up and went to his place” (Jud. 19:25-28).
The woman was raped and essentially murdered; they abused her to death. The Levite, preparing to leave the next morning, evidently did not believe he would see her again. She had managed, however, to make it back to the door of the house before perishing.