What does Judges 19:20 mean?
ESV: 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."
NIV: "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."
NASB: 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.'
CSB: "Welcome!" said the old man. "I’ll take care of everything you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square."
NLT: 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.'
KJV: And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.
NKJV: And the old man said, “Peace be with you! However, let all your needs be my responsibility; only do not spend the night in the open square.”
Verse Commentary:
The Levite (Judges 19:10) has explained his circumstances to an old man who has asked how he and his companions came to be sitting in the city square of Gibeah after dark (Judges 19:11–17). They need only a place to sleep for the night, but nobody has offered them the customary hospitality of the times (Judges 19:18–19). This is a subtle, early sign that Gibeah is not as safe as the Levite expected it to be.

The old man greets them with the words "peace be to you," officially welcoming them to the town. Despite the group having more than enough provisions, the old man offers to care for all their needs. He seems insistent that they do not remain out in the square into the night. While he does not say so, the man likely knows exactly why nobody in town offered a place to stay. He may be the only hope they have to pass the night in safety.

His appeal parallels that of Lot, who probably recognized similar danger and wanted to help a pair of travelers he met in Sodom (Genesis 19:2–7). What happens in Gibeah, tragically, will parallel that event (Judges 19:22). This further reflects how far into sin and lawlessness God's people had sunk during their earliest years in the Promised Land (Judges 2:16–19; 21:25).
Verse Context:
Judges 19:11–21 explains how the Levite, his concubine, and his servant came to stay in the Israeli town of Gibeah. The man refuses to stop in the city of Jebus. Instead, they continue after dark to Gibeah. Oddly, no one there is willing to take them in. An older migrant worker sees the group and insists they avoid the square overnight. This parallels the comments Lot made to a pair of angels he encountered in Sodom (Genesis 19:2–7), and for good reason (Judges 19:22). What happens next is one of the most stomach-turning incidents in the entire Bible.
Chapter Summary:
A Levite man travels to reconcile with his runaway concubine. On their way back home, they spend the night in the city of Gibeah, in the home of an old man. The wicked men of the town form a mob, demanding the Levite be handed over to be raped. Instead, the Levite forces his concubine outside; the mob rapes and beats her until sunrise. The Levite finds her body, carries it home, and cuts it into twelve pieces. He sends these pieces throughout Israel. This shocks the entire nation into demanding some action be taken against Gibeah.
Chapter Context:
This chapter's stomach-turning depravity provides another example of the great wickedness in Israel, in an era when everyone did whatever they wanted to without regard for law or God (Judges 21:25). A mob of rapists murders a Levite man's concubine. He sends pieces of her body throughout the nation. This shocks the people into demanding justice. In the following chapters, the tribe of Benjamin refuses to hand over their guilty members. Israel is plunged into civil war.
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
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