THURSDAY, MAY 10
SCRIPTURE: JUDGES 19
If I could be real honest with you… By the way, that doesn’t mean I have made a practice of being dishonest with you… It just means if I could be real honest with you right now, I would have to confess that when we chose Judges for our daily devotions I not only knew this chapter was coming but also I actually kind of dreaded getting to this chapter. The reason is this chapter presents a most difficult story. I couldn’t get any of the other pastors to tackle this one. So, here goes…
This chapter starts out with what is now a familiar refrain in this book: “In those days, there was no king in Israel”. As I have said previously Israel had a King. He was in fact King of kings and Lord of lords. And His law dictated not only religious life but also civil life for the nation. But the people had turned away from their rightful King and chose to ignore His law. As a result the downward spiraling of Israel was gaining speed.
This story centers on another Levite, like the one we read about in the previous two chapters. Remember the Levites were not priests but had responsibilities at the Tabernacle as well as responsibilities to teach God’s Word to God’s people. As you read the chapter it appears this Levite either wasn’t very familiar with God’s Word or chose to be very blind to it.
The issue of concubines comes up in a variety of places in the Old Testament. It is important to remember that God did not command men to have concubines or encourage them to have concubines. But the Law does dictate how concubines should be treated. They were considered wives. Children that they bore would have been considered legitimate but did not necessarily become heirs to their father’s property. A concubine would have been, in many ways, a second class citizen who would have been guaranteed only food, clothing, and marital privileges.
The particular concubine in this story had been unfaithful to this Levite. She eventually returned to her dad. The Levite obviously thought enough of this woman to forgive her and go get her. After several nights of partying with her dad the Levite, his concubine, and his servant left to go back home.
They arrived in Gibeah which was populated by Benjamites (Israelites) to spend the night. With the exception of one old man, everyone else in the town refused to give the Levite, his concubine, and his servant lodging for the night. This was a violation of Old Testament Law as well as of an important tradition of the East.
In a scene that is eerily similar to Sodom, a group of men come to the old man’s house and demand the Levite be given to them so they could have sex with him. The old man refused and instead offered them his virgin daughter. As revolting as that is and should be to us, it is evidence of how some men in that era placed no value on women. It is not clear from the text whether the virgin daughter was actually given to the gang or not but we do know the concubine was forced out.
She was horribly abused and died as a result of that abuse. The Levite took her corpse to his home, cut it into twelve pieces and sent those pieces throughout all of Israel. This is an unspeakable act that was neither commanded nor condoned by God. The Levite obviously wanted to “rally the troops” against the men of Gibeah for their atrocities. But the ironic reality is the Levite was actually responsible for her death because he forced her to go to those men.
So what are we to take away from this story? Among other things, we just need to be reminded that when individuals and/or cultures reject God and turn away from His Law horrible things become not only commonplace but almost accepted. Our challenge is to intentionally stay closely connected to God and to follow His Law regardless of personal cost.