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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 19

Verses 1-51


(vv. 1:21)

The history of a different Levite was involved in the moral corruption that afflicted Israel in the time of the Judges. We are reminded in verse 1 that there was no king in Israel, but in spite of that a Levite should have been preserved from evil by the Word of God. More than once in the Book of Numbers God insisted "the Levites shall be mine" (Numbers 3:12; Numbers 3:45). God claimed them in place of the firstborn in Israel (Numbers 3:41). Therefore they ought to have been examples to the rest of the people. But instead we have seen a Levite involved in spiritual corruption in Chapters 17 and 18, and now in moral corruption.

This Levite took a concubine. "Marriage is honorable among all" (Hebrews 13:4), but co-habiting together apart from marriage is dishonorable. Often this is done because the man does not want the responsibilities of marriage. In the Old Testament various believers took concubines, but it was never with God's approval, though God bore with it at the time.

If marriage had taken place, the woman may not have been guilty of sexual relations with other men. She may have felt herself more or less free because she was not married. Yet this was sad confusion. However, it seems she did not give herself up to prostitution, but rather went back to her father's house, being there four months (v. 2).

The Levite at least had concern enough for her to go to speak kindly to her so that she would come back with him. If he had decided to forgive her, why did he not then offer to marry her? The woman's father was glad to meet the Levite, but even he did not suggest they should be married. How like the laxity of our times!

The young woman had agreed to return with the Levite to his home, but her father detained him for three days of social enjoyment (v. 4). When Abraham's servant went to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:55-56), he would not consent to being detained, but this Levite remained for the three days and planned to leave early the fourth day. But the woman's father urged him to stay another day (v. 7) and he gave in to this. Then on the fifth day, instead of leaving early, he succumbed to the urging of remaining till afternoon! Again the woman's father urged him to remain over night and go the next morning (v. 9). But he felt, evidently, that he had given in too much already, and they started their journey late in the day (v. 10). This wavering indecision is a sad comment on the character of the Levite, one who had the place of the Lord's servant!


(vv. 11-21)

They could not travel far, and when darkness was near they passed near to Jerusalem, named Jebus at the time, for it was still in the hands of the Jebusites. The man had a servant with him who suggested staying at Jebus (v. 11), but the Levite did not favor staying in a Gentile city, and decided they should go to Gibeah, a city of Benjamin (vv. 12-13). By the time they arrived, darkness had fallen (v. 14).

They evidently asked in Gibeah if they could find lodging, but no one was willing to take them in, so they sat in the town square (v. 15). Such was the coldness of Israelites toward Israelites at the time. They might have fared better in the Jebusite city!

However, it happened that an old man came in just then from working in his field. He was not a Benjamite, but came also from the mountains of Ephraim (v. 16), and he was concerned to see people in the open without lodging. Asking the Levite where they had come from and where they were going, he found they belonged in Ephraim too, but that they could find no lodging in Gibeah (vv.18-19). The old man kindly invited them to his house, giving food for both themselves and their donkeys. He knew the danger of spending the night in the open (v. 21).


(vv. 22-30)

Sadly, here in Israel the wickedness of Sodom was repeated (Genesis 19:4-5). Perverted men surrounded the house and beat on the door, demanding that the visiting man would be given to them so they could abuse him homosexually. Though the old man pled with them, they were adamant, but they were given, not the Levite, but his concubine, whom they abused sexually all night, then let her go (vv.24-25). She was able only to get back to the door of the house before collapsing and dying (v. 26).

How could the Levite's conscience be clear before God in giving up the woman to this horrible violence? But we have seen there were previous steps of disobedience to God and spiritual degradation, and God allowed this to progress to this terrible point.

Surely the Levite ought to have been humbled to the dust before God, but when finding the poor woman on the ground at the door, he said to her, "Get up and let us be going" (v.28). He did not realize she was dead, but if she had not been dead, he was still being heartlessly inconsiderate.

He took her dead body back to his home, but instead of stopping to consider his own criminal responsibility in this whole matter, he decided to make a public outcry against Gibeah.The means he took was gruesome. He cut the woman's body into 12 pieces and sent them to the 12 tribes of Israel, evidently with a report of what had happened (v. 29). The Levite wanted revenge on a national scale, but we see no sign of self-judgment on his own part.

However, this method of raising righteous indignation in Israel was successful.All who received this kind of information accompanied by part of a dead body, were greatly incensed against the perpetrators of the crime (v. 30). Does this mean it was right to do it this way. No, indeed! The case ought to have been addressed more locally, and settled in the courts without becoming a national scandal. But where were the local authorities to be appealed to? Thus is illustrated the great weakness of Israel at the time.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 19". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.