The narrative which closes the Book of Judges, in this and the next two chapters, is certainly the darkest in the whole history. The end result was a civil war which was carried nearly to the limit of extermination; and like so many other bloody contests, it began with a breach of morality in private life. Although these events are recorded after the death of Samson, they chronologically transpired after the death of Joshua (around 1424 BC), but before the beginning of Israel’s first period of oppression under foreign powers (which began in 1400 BC).
Common decency makes us shrink from even describing some of the dark deeds that were done in this chapter. The scene described here is horrible; but let each of us take heed therefrom and pray for grace to escape from the wrath to come, to mortify the sins of our own hearts, to resist Satan’s temptations, and to avoid the pollutions that are in the world.
The painful story is soon told, and its details do not need to be amplified more than what is necessary to understand the chapter. The episode of Micah’s idols in the last two chapters revealed a state of corruption among the supposed ministers of religion, but this incident exhibits a still more degrading sensualism. A Levite who lived in the northern part of the Ephraimite highlands took a spouse from a family in Bethlehem, in the tribe of Judah (the same city, interestingly enough, where Micah’s “priest” had originally hailed from). It does not appear that this Levite had any other wife, but this woman was called his “concubine” because it seems that he may not have been wealthy enough to provide her with a dowry. Sadly, however, she proved to be unfaithful in spirit and also in outward conduct; and she left her husband to live again with her father. Having waited for four months, her husband made a journey to Bethlehem in order to reconcile with her and convince her to accompany him home. Having effected a reconciliation, the Levite prepared to return home; but he was persuaded by his father-in-law to remain – eating and drinking and making merry. However, on the afternoon of the fifth day, the Levite declared that he could stay no longer and left for his home.
But the Levite had left so late in the day that night overtook the travelers before they could get farther than Gibeah. They were just in time to enter the city gate of that place, but they waited in vain for the customary offer of hospitality that most people of those times would have extended to them. At length, an Ephraimite who was sojourning in Gibeah – and who perhaps knew the Levite, since they were both from the same area – offered a night’s lodging to the Levite and his party. This Ephraimite knew how to be compassionate to a traveler, for he himself was only a sojourner in Gibeah. We Christians are sojourners in this world; and therefore, we ought to be more loving to one another, for we all belong to the same “better country” and are not at home here below.
While we admire the generosity the elderly Ephraimite, let our eyes be directed to the kindness of the Lord Jesus, our heavenly Good Samaritan, Who truly showed us His amazing love when He found our sinful nature exposed in the street – without home or shelter, and struck down by the enemy of our souls!
Gibeah was not far from Shiloh, the location of the Lord’s Tabernacle at the time; but the town was truly a Sodom full of wickedness! One would not imagine that it could ever enter into the hearts of people who had the benefit of Divine revelation to be so very evil. As in the case of Lot, the house of the Ephraimite and his guests was assaulted by a band of depraved villains. The Levite’s host knew only too well what these evil men desired: the fulfilment of that vile lust which is called an abomination in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:22); and which ranks those guilty of it as being among the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:10), who shall not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9). To the credit of the Ephraimite, he did attempt to imitate Lot when he was in a similar case (compare Gen. 19:6-8). He went out and spoke civilly to these men – begging them to desist, and showing them the great wickedness of their actions. Unfortunately, however, he also imitated Lot’s bad example as well, by offering his daughter to these wicked villains. But these men would not desist from the most terrible threats until the Levite’s concubine had been given up to their violence. When the morning dawned, her corpse was found on the threshold of the house; and in speechless horror, it was carried home by her husband.
Upon arriving home, the Levite divided the dead body into twelve pieces and sent these horrid missives into every tribe throughout Israel. There was no king in Israel at the time to execute justice upon the doers of this evil deed, and so this was a method of appeal to the people in general. And this summons to vengeance was well understood. All who heard the story and saw the evidence expressed the same sentiments upon it. The men of Gibeah were guilty of heinous wickedness that had never before been seen or done in Israel. It was decided that a general assembly of all the people should be called together to decide what punishment was fit for this great wickedness, so that a stop might be put to such deeds, and the wrath of God might not be poured out upon the whole nation. This was not a common case; and therefore, the people stirred one another up to come together upon this matter, with these words: “Consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.”
O holy, pure, and spotless Lamb of God! The contents of this chapter clearly show us the sorrowful consequences of our depraved nature. Under a deep sense of our sin which we carry about with us, we give You thanks that we may take refuge under the incense of Your merits and the redemption of Your blood! Amen.
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