CHOOSE YOUR BIBLE VERSION

Judges chapter 19

New International Version

1 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. 2 But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents' home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, 3 her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents' home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4 His father-in-law, the woman's father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.
5 On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman's father said to his son-in-law, 'Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.' 6 So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman's father said, 'Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.' 7 And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8 On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman's father said, 'Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!' So the two of them ate together.
9 Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman's father, said, 'Now look, it's almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home." 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.
11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, 'Come, let's stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.'
12 His master replied, 'No. We won't go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.' 13 He added, 'Come, let's try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.' 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.
16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, 'Where are you going? Where did you come from?'
18 He answered, 'We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the LORD. No one has taken me in for the night. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants--me, the woman and the young man with us. We don't need anything.'
20 You are welcome at my house,' the old man said. 'Let me supply whatever you need. Only don't spend the night in the square.' 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.
22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, 'Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.'
23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, 'No, my friends, don't be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don't do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don't do such an outrageous thing.'
25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, 'Get up; let's go.' But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, 'Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!'
English Standard Version

1 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. 2 And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. 3 Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him. 4 And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there. 5 And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.” 6 So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl’s father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.” 7 And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again. 8 And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl’s father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them. 9 And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”
10 But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12 And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” 13 And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” 14 So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, 15 and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.
16 And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. 17 And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?” 18 And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the LORD, but no one has taken me into his house. 19 We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.” 20 And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.” 21 So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.
22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.
27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”
King James Version

1 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. 2 And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months. 3 And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father's house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him. 4 And his father in law, the damsel's father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there. 5 And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart: and the damsel's father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way. 6 And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel's father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry. 7 And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again. 8 And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel's father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them. 9 And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel's father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home. 10 But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him. 11 And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it. 12 And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah. 13 And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah. 14 And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin. 15 And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.
16 And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites. 17 And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou? 18 And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehemjudah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehemjudah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me to house. 19 Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing. 20 And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street. 21 So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.
22 Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. 24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. 25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. 26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. 27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. 29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. 30 And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
New American Standard Bible

1 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. 2 But his concubine found him repugnant, and she left him and went to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah, and remained there for a period of four months. 3 Then her husband set out and went after her to speak gently to her in order to bring her back, taking with him his servant and a pair of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house, and when the girl’s father saw him, he was glad to meet him. 4 His father-in-law, the girl’s father, prevailed upon him, and he remained with him for three days. So they ate and drank and stayed there. 5 Now on the fourth day they got up early in the morning, and he prepared to go; but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, 'Strengthen yourself with a piece of bread, and afterward you may go.' 6 So both of them sat down and ate and drank together; and the girl’s father said to the man, 'Please be so kind as to spend the night, and let your heart be cheerful.' 7 However, the man got up to go; but his father-in-law urged him, and he spent the night there again. 8 Now on the fifth day he got up to go early in the morning, but the girl’s father said, 'Please strengthen yourself, and wait until late afternoon'; so both of them ate. 9 When the man got up to go, along with his concubine and servant, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, 'Behold now, the day has drawn to a close; please spend the night. Behold, the day is coming to an end; spend the night here so that your heart may be cheerful. Then tomorrow you may arise early for your journey and go home.'
10 But the man was unwilling to spend the night, so he got up and left, and came to a place opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). And with him was a pair of saddled donkeys; his concubine also was with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was almost gone; and the servant said to his master, 'Please come, and let’s turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.' 12 However, his master said to him, 'We will not turn aside into a city of foreigners who are not of the sons of Israel; instead, we will go on as far as Gibeah.' 13 And he said to his servant, 'Come, and let’s approach one of these places; and we will spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah.' 14 So they passed along and went their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. 15 They turned aside there to enter and spend the night in Gibeah. When they entered, they sat down in the public square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.
16 Then behold, an old man was coming out of the field from his work at evening. Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was staying in Gibeah, but the men of the place were Benjaminites. 17 And he raised his eyes and saw the traveler in the public square of the city; and the old man said, 'Where are you going, and where do you come from?' 18 And he said to him, 'We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, for I am from there, and I went to Bethlehem in Judah. But I am now going to my house, and no one will take me into his house. 19 Yet there is both straw and feed for our donkeys, and also bread and wine for me, and your female slave, and the young man who is with your servants; there is no lack of anything.' 20 Then the old man said, 'Peace to you. Only let me take care of all your needs; however, do not spend the night in the public square.' 21 So he took him into his house and fed the donkeys, and they washed their feet and ate and drank.
22 While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless men, surrounded the house, pushing one another at the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, 'Bring out the man who entered your house that we may have relations with him.' 23 Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, 'No, my brothers, please do not act so wickedly. Since this man has come into my house, do not commit this vile sin. 24 Here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine. Please let me bring them out, then rape them and do to them whatever you wish. But do not commit this act of vile sin against this man.' 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her outside to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. 26 As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was, until full daylight.
27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, then behold, his concubine was lying at the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold. 28 And he said to her, 'Get up and let’s go,' but there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey; and the man set out and went to his home. 29 When he entered his house, he took a knife and seized his concubine, and cut her in twelve pieces, limb by limb. Then he sent her throughout the territory of Israel. 30 All who saw it said, 'Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, make a plan, and speak up!'
New Living Translation

1 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.
2 But she became angry with him and returned to her father's home in Bethlehem. After about four months, 3 her husband set out for Bethlehem to speak personally to her and persuade her to come back. He took with him a servant and a pair of donkeys. When he arrived at her father's house, her father saw him and welcomed him. 4 Her father urged him to stay awhile, so he stayed three days, eating, drinking, and sleeping there.
5 On the fourth day the man was up early, ready to leave, but the woman's father said to his son-in-law, 'Have something to eat before you go.' 6 So the two men sat down together and had something to eat and drink. Then the woman's father said, 'Please stay another night and enjoy yourself.' 7 The man got up to leave, but his father-in-law kept urging him to stay, so he finally gave in and stayed the night.
8 On the morning of the fifth day he was up early again, ready to leave, and again the woman's father said, 'Have something to eat; then you can leave later this afternoon.' So they had another day of feasting. 9 Later, as the man and his concubine and servant were preparing to leave, his father-in-law said, 'Look, it's almost evening. Stay the night and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can get up early and be on your way.'
10 But this time the man was determined to leave. So he took his two saddled donkeys and his concubine and headed in the direction of Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). 11 It was late in the day when they neared Jebus, and the man's servant said to him, 'Let's stop at this Jebusite town and spend the night there.'
12 'No,' his master said, 'we can't stay in this foreign town where there are no Israelites. Instead, we will go on to Gibeah. 13 Come on, let's try to get as far as Gibeah or Ramah, and we'll spend the night in one of those towns.' 14 So they went on. The sun was setting as they came to Gibeah, a town in the land of Benjamin, 15 so they stopped there to spend the night. They rested in the town square, but no one took them in for the night.
16 That evening an old man came home from his work in the fields. He was from the hill country of Ephraim, but he was living in Gibeah, where the people were from the tribe of Benjamin. 17 When he saw the travelers sitting in the town square, he asked them where they were from and where they were going.
18 'We have been in Bethlehem in Judah,' the man replied. 'We are on our way to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim, which is my home. I traveled to Bethlehem, and now I'm returning home. But no one has taken us in for the night, 19 even though we have everything we need. We have straw and feed for our donkeys and plenty of bread and wine for ourselves.'
20 'You are welcome to stay with me,' the old man said. 'I will give you anything you might need. But whatever you do, don't spend the night in the square.' 21 So he took them home with him and fed the donkeys. After they washed their feet, they ate and drank together.
22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, 'Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.'
23 The old man stepped outside to talk to them. 'No, my brothers, don't do such an evil thing. For this man is a guest in my house, and such a thing would be shameful. 24 Here, take my virgin daughter and this man's concubine. I will bring them out to you, and you can abuse them and do whatever you like. But don't do such a shameful thing to this man.'
25 But they wouldn't listen to him. So the Levite took hold of his concubine and pushed her out the door. The men of the town abused her all night, taking turns raping her until morning. Finally, at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman returned to the house where her husband was staying. She collapsed at the door of the house and lay there until it was light.
27 When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said, 'Get up! Let's go!' But there was no answer. So he put her body on his donkey and took her home.
29 When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine's body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel.
30 Everyone who saw it said, 'Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who's going to speak up?'
Christian Standard Bible

1 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. 2 But she was unfaithful to him and left him for her father's house in Bethlehem in Judah. She was there for four months. 3 Then her husband got up and followed her to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had his servant with him and a pair of donkeys. So she brought him to her father's house, and when the girl's father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4 His father-in-law, the girl's father, detained him, and he stayed with him for three days. They ate, drank, and spent the nights there.
5 On the fourth day, they got up early in the morning and prepared to go, but the girl's father said to his son-in-law, "Have something to eat to keep up your strength and then you can go." 6 So they sat down and the two of them ate and drank together. Then the girl's father said to the man, "Please agree to stay overnight and enjoy yourself." 7 The man got up to go, but his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed and spent the night there again. 8 He got up early in the morning of the fifth day to leave, but the girl's father said to him, "Please keep up your strength." So they waited until late afternoon and the two of them ate. 9 The man got up to go with his concubine and his servant, when his father-in-law, the girl's father, said to him, "Look, night is coming. Please spend the night. See, the day is almost over. Spend the night here, enjoy yourself, then you can get up early tomorrow for your journey and go home."
10 But the man was unwilling to spend the night. He got up, departed, and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). The man had his two saddled donkeys and his concubine with him. 11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, "Please, why not let us stop at this Jebusite city and spend the night here? "
12 But his master replied to him, "We will not stop at a foreign city where there are no Israelites. Let's move on to Gibeah." 13 "Come on," he said, "let's try to reach one of these places and spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah." 14 So they continued on their journey, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 They stopped to go in and spend the night in Gibeah. The Levite went in and sat down in the city square, but no one took them into their home to spend the night.
16 In the evening, an old man came in from his work in the field. He was from the hill country of Ephraim, but he was residing in Gibeah where the people were Benjaminites. 17 When he looked up and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, "Where are you going, and where do you come from? "
18 He answered him, "We're traveling from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote hill country of Ephraim, where I am from. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and now I'm going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me into his home, 19 although there's straw and feed for the donkeys, and I have bread and wine for me, my concubine, and the servant with us. There is nothing we lack."
20 "Welcome! " said the old man. "I'll take care of everything you need. Only don't spend the night in the square." 21 So he brought him to his house and fed the donkeys. Then they washed their feet and ate and drank. 22 While they were enjoying themselves, all of a sudden, wicked men of the city surrounded the house and beat on the door. They said to the old man who was the owner of the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him! "
23 The owner of the house went out and said to them, "Please don't do this evil, my brothers. After all, this man has come into my house. Don't commit this horrible outrage. 24 Here, let me bring out my virgin daughter and the man's concubine now. Abuse them and do whatever you want to them. But don't commit this outrageous thing against this man."
25 But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and took her outside to them. They raped her and abused her all night until morning. At daybreak they let her go. 26 Early that morning, the woman made her way back, and as it was getting light, she collapsed at the doorway of the man's house where her master was.
27 When her master got up in the morning, opened the doors of the house, and went out to leave on his journey, there was the woman, his concubine, collapsed near the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold. 28 "Get up," he told her. "Let's go." But there was no response. So the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he entered his house, he picked up a knife, took hold of his concubine, cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and then sent her throughout the territory of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, "Nothing like this has ever happened or has been seen since the day the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt until now. Think it over, discuss it, and speak up! "

What does Judges chapter 19 mean?

The writer of Judges gives another example of the depth of Israel's wickedness in the days before the nation had kings (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 21:25). The central figure in this story is a Levite, but not the same person mentioned in the previous chapters (Judges 17:7; 18:15).

This man lived in a remote area controlled by tribe of Ephraim. He arranged to take a woman from Bethlehem, in the territory of the tribe of Judah, as a concubine. In most ancient contexts, a " concubine " was some combination of a servant and a lesser wife. Typical concubines were women from families with little wealth or status. They would be supported and cared for, but not given the same rights as a "full" spouse. Kings, on the other hand, often took numerous concubines for purely sexual purposes (Judges 19:1).

The concubine is said to have been unfaithful to her husband. Scripture does not specify exactly what happened. However, it uses the Hebrew word zanah, which most often implies sexual immorality or adultery. Either in addition to adultery, or separate from it, she abandoned the Levite and went home to her father in Bethlehem. The Levite waited four months and then went to persuade her to return to Ephraim with him. He appears to be gracious and forgiving. She responds well, as does her father (Judges 19:2–3).

In keeping with the cultural laws of hospitality, the Levite's father-in-law entertains the man with food and drink. He urges the Levite to extend his stay for several days. Striving to be polite, the Levite remains longer than he wishes. Finally, he insists on leaving late one afternoon with his concubine, his servant, and their donkeys. As it's late, the sun is already low in the sky when they approach the city of Jebus (Judges 1:21). At that time, the city later named "Jerusalem" was under Gentile control. The servant suggests they stop there rather than travel at night (Judges 19:4–11).

However, the Levite refuses to stay in a city occupied by non-Israelites. Instead, the group pushes on a few more hours to Gibeah, controlled by Israelites of the tribe of Benjamin. Rather than finding hospitality and safety, they find a cold and unwelcome environment. Nobody offers to take them in for the night. So, the small group prepares to sleep outside, in the city square (Judges 19:12–15).

What happens next is a tragic, deliberate echo of Lot's experience in the city of Sodom (Genesis 19:2–7). An elderly worker, who is not a native of Gibeah, sees the small group in the square. Though they have ample supplies, he is adamant they cannot stay in the open. He demands they come to his home, offering to meet all their needs. As did Lot, this man likely knows that unsecured visitors to the city are in grave danger (Judges 19:16–21).

While the group is eating and drinking together, a mob surrounds the old man's house. The men are described using a Hebrew term which literally means "sons of wickedness." They violently demand the Levite be sent out to be raped. The old man pleads with them not to do something so heinous. In desperation, he offers them his virgin daughter and the Levite's concubine, inviting the mob to violate them (Judges 19:22–24).

The throng of depraved men completely ignores this request. They continue to demand access to the Levite. Finally, in an act of shocking cruelty, the Levite physically forces his concubine outside and into the hands of the mob. They rape and beat her, releasing her only shortly before the sun rises. She makes it to the door of the old man's house and collapses on the threshold, unable to enter. Whether locked out or simply ignored, she dies on the doorstep (Judges 19:25–26).

The Levite, portrayed here as oddly cold towards his concubine, opens the door in the morning and demands she get moving. She does not answer, having died from her injuries. The Levite picks up her corpse and puts it on a donkey. Then he returns, with the body, to his home in Ephraim. There, he further dishonors the concubine by dismembering her body and sending it in twelve separate pieces, presumably to each of the twelve tribes and with a messenger (Judges 19:27–29).

Israel reacts with stunned surprise. They indicate that such heinous things have not been seen since the people left Egypt. This, itself, connects the deep depravity of Israel with cities such as Sodom, which was destroyed in the time of Abraham. If the Levite's intent was to get the attention of his countrymen—to warn them and call them to respond—he is successful (Judges 19:30).

In the next chapter, the Levite will further explain what happened. Israel will rally to punish those responsible, but the tribe of Benjamin will refuse to hand over the guilty men. This sparks a bloody, chaotic civil war which nearly obliterates an entire tribe of Israel (Judges 20).