Judges 19:1 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 19:1, NIV: In those days Israel had no king. Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.

Judges 19:1, ESV: In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.

Judges 19:1, KJV: And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah.

Judges 19:1, NASB: Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah.

Judges 19:1, NLT: Now in those days Israel had no king. There was a man from the tribe of Levi living in a remote area of the hill country of Ephraim. One day he brought home a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine.

Judges 19:1, CSB: In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a Levite staying in a remote part of the hill country of Ephraim acquired a woman from Bethlehem in Judah as his concubine.

What does Judges 19:1 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This is the third chapter in a row to mention that there was no king in Israel during that era (Judges 17:6; 18:1). This may be an editorial comment to establish the time in Israel's history when these events occurred. Yet most commentators suggest the writer is making a greater point. Israel does not yet have a centralized government, or a single ruler. Yet the nation is also deeply sinful; they not only lack a political king, but they are also ignoring their Heavenly King.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Israel was meant to regard Yahweh, the Lord God, as their King. If they had done so by obeying all of Yahweh's commands, none of the chaos, injustice, and disorder of the last chapters of the book of Judges would have taken place. No centralized government would have been needed. Yet the Israelites will not submit to God's will. Eventually, He will allow kings to rule over them (1 Samuel 8:19–22).

This story also involves a Levite living in the hill country of Ephraim. This is not the same man as the young Levite from the previous two chapters (Judges 17:7; 18:15), although he lived in Ephraim for a time, as well.

A Levite is someone belonging to the tribe of Levi, one of twelve in Israel. God assigned the Levites to provide priests for the worship of the Lord. They were not given their own territory in Israel, as were all the other tribes. Instead, they were assigned specific Levite cities within the territories of the other tribes. Levites were also allowed by the law to live outside of those cites, if so led by the Lord.

Though this Levite man lived in Ephraim, he took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. The role of a "concubine" in the Old Testament varies by era and region. In most instances, a concubine held some, but not all, of the privileges and rights of a wife. She was legally bound to a specific man, though in the context of a servant rather than as a spouse. Yet she could expect to be supported and cared for by the husband. Any children she bore may not have had the same inheritance rights as children born to wives. This dynamic is seen in the lives of men such as Abimelech (Judges 8:30–31). In other cases, a woman may have become a concubine if the woman's family could not afford a dowry, or for the purpose of bearing children, as a sort of surrogate (Genesis 30:4). Some of Israel's kings took extensive numbers of concubines, for purely sexual reasons.

In this case, no mention is made of the Levite man having a wife; he is only referred to as his concubine's husband.