What does Judges 19:29 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: 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.
NASB: 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.
CSB: 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.
NLT: 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.
KJV: 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.
The horror of the previous night continues. The Levite's concubine (Judges 19:10) has been raped, abused, and left to die by a mob of rapist brutes in the city of Gibeah (Judges 19:22–26). The Levite himself is the one who gave her to them, to save himself from the same fate. While not explicitly stated, context from this passage makes it clear she was dead by the time her master opened the door and found her on the threshold (Judges 19:27–28). He's taken her corpse back to his home.
Adding further indignity to the woman's fate, the Levite chooses a gruesome way to rally Israel against the men who murdered her. Rather than burying her, he dismembers the body into twelve pieces. He sends the pieces to various places, most likely dispatching one to each of the tribes in their respective territories. This was almost certainly accompanied by a message explaining what had happened.
The natural question one asks is why the Levite would do such a thing. The following verses, leading into chapter 20, provide useful context. He clearly intends his fellow Israelites to understand what wickedness is going on in Gibeah. By extension, this shows how deeply depraved and dangerous the region has become. The Levite seems to want a reaction from the nation of Israel, so this is how he seeks to get it. Whether from shock or grief or holy indignation, the man wants to rally Israel against those who have done this.
Israel's initial reaction will be shock (Judges 19:30), followed by a brutal, low-level civil war (Judges 20:8–10).
Judges 19:22–30 finds a Levite traveler and his concubine spending the night in the home of an old man in the Israelite town of Gibeah. Suddenly, the house is surrounded by a mob of men demanding the Levite be handed over so they can rape him. In desperation, the Levite sends out his concubine to save himself. The mob violates and beats her until morning, after which she is found dead. The Levite carries her body home and sends a graphic message to all of Israel: cutting her into twelve pieces and sending them throughout the tribes. This sparks outrage against Gibeah leading to a civil war (Judges 20:8–10), and infamy (Hosea 9:9)
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.
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.
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).
Accessed 11/30/2023 6:08:57 AM
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