The Levite’s Concubine.[a] 1 In those days there was no king in Israel, and there was a certain Levite who lived on the far side of the hill country of Ephraim who took a concubine from Bethlehem of Judah. 2 His concubine cheated on him and she returned to her father’s house in Bethlehem. She had been there for four months 3 when her husband rose up to go to her in order to convince her to return to him. He took along his servant and two donkeys.
She invited him into her father’s house, and when her father saw him, he was pleased to meet him. 4 His father-in-law, the young woman’s father, urged him to stay with him. He stayed with him for three days, eating and drinking and sleeping there. 5 On the fourth day they rose early in the morning and were leaving. The woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Fortify yourself with something to eat, and then you can go on your way.” 6 Both of them sat down and they ate and drank together, and then the young woman’s father said to the man, “Please, stay the night and enjoy yourself.” 7 When the man rose up to go, his father-in-law urged him to stay, so he slept there. 8 Early on the morning of the fifth day, the young woman’s father said, “Fortify yourself, wait until the afternoon.” So the both of them ate together.
9 When the man got up to depart along with the concubine and his servant, his father-in-law, the young woman’s father, said to him, “Look, it is almost evening, stay the night because the day is almost over. Stay here and enjoy yourselves. You can get up early tomorrow morning and be on your way home.” 10 But the man would not stay the night. He got up and left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem) along with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.
11 It was already late in the day when they were passing by Jebus, so the servant said to his master, “Come, let us stop at the city of the Jebusites and stay for the night.” 12 The master said, “I will not stop at a foreign city whose inhabitants are not Israelites. Let us continue on to Gibeah.” 13 He said to his servant, “We will try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 They went on, and the sun was setting as they approached Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 They stopped there to spend the night in Gibeah. They went in and sat in the city square, but no one took them home for the night.
16 That evening an old man[b] came in from working in the fields in the hill country of Ephraim. He was living in Gibeah, and the men of that place were Benjaminites. 17 When he looked up and saw a traveler in the city square, the old man said, “Where are you going? Where have you come from?” 18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to the far side of the hill country of Ephraim. I am from there. I had gone to Bethlehem in Judah, but now I am going to the house of the Lord. No one has welcomed me into his home. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, your maidservant, and the young man who is with me. We do not need anything.” 20 The old man said, “Peace be with you. Let me supply whatever you need, only do not spend the night in the city square.” 21 So he took them into his home and fed the donkeys. He washed their feet, and they had something to eat and drink.
22 Abuse at Gibeah. While they were enjoying themselves, certain men from the city who were surely sons of Belial[c] surrounded the house. They beat on the door and spoke to the old man, the master of the house, saying, “Bring out the man who entered your house, so that we can know him.” 23 The master of the house went out to them and said to them: “No, my brothers, do not do this evil thing. This man is a guest in my house; do not do this disgraceful thing. 24 [d]Look, here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now. You can abuse them, and do whatever you want to them, but do not do such a vile thing to this man.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. The man thrust his concubine outside to them. They raped her and maltreated her all throughout the night, and in the morning they let her go.
26 At daybreak the woman came to the house where her master was staying and fell down in the doorway. She remained there until it was light. 27 Her master got up in the morning and opened the doors to the house to be on his way, and he found his concubine lying in the doorway to the house, her hands upon the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up. Let us be on our way,” but there was no answer. The man then put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he arrived home, he picked up a knife, took his concubine, and cut her body into twelve parts. He then sent it into each of the territories of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, “No one has ever done such a thing from the day that the Israelites came up out of Egypt until the present. Think about it. Take counsel. Tell us what to do.”
- Judges 19:1 In the absence of a single, stable authority, the religious anarchy that divided the people was accompanied by a moral and political anarchy; the royalist tradition likes to stress this fact. The story exaggerates the memory of grudges and acts of cruelty.
- Judges 19:16 An old man: since he was from the hill country of Ephraim, he was a compatriot of the Levite.
- Judges 19:22 Sons of Belial: “Belial” (nothing); in the course of time it came to be used as a proper name for the power of evil, as in 2 Cor 6:15.
- Judges 19:24 The despicable behavior and lack of moral integrity of the master and his guest is a blatant example of how low society had sunk without a religious leader to guide them.