Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Ephraim. Some think at Silo, to which place, he says, he was going, (ver. 18,) though it might be only out of devotion. (Calmet) — A wife. Hebrew, “a concubine.” Septuagint joins both together, “he took a harlot to wife.” (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Left him. Hebrew thozné. Now tizne, (Du Hamel) “his concubine, fell into fornication against (Junius improperly translates with) him.” Chaldean, “She despised and went from him.” Septuagint, “She was vexed at or she left him.” (Calmet) — Josephus, “as he was deeply in love with her on account of her beauty, he was displeased that she did not correspond with his love. Hence a quarrel ensuing, the woman would not bear his continual expostulations, and leaving her husband, after four months, returns to her parents. Hither, overcome by his love for her, he follows, and, by the mediation of her parents, he is reconciled to his wife, both agreeing to lay aside all complaints.” (Antiquities v. 2.) — It is clear that the Septuagint, Vulgate, &c., have read the text in a different manner from what we do at present, and their explanation seems more rational than the Hebrew. For, is it probable that a Levite should go to be reconciled to an adulteress, contrary to the intention of the law (Deuteronomy xxiv. 2., Jeremias iii. 1., and Proverbs xviii. 22.) and the custom of the Jews, as well as of pagan nations, who looked upon those with contempt, who kept a woman of this character? The word concubine, we have often remarked, signifies a wife without a dowry, &c., (Calmet) such as the Mahometans still maintain as lawful wives. (Busbec. ii.) — Months. Josephus explain this of the time she had remained with her husband.
Ver. 3. With him. Hebrew, “her husband arose and followed her to speak to her heart, to bring her back,” Genesis xxxiv. 3. He shewed great condescension and love, (Haydock) and she received him with suitable sentiments of regard, and did not become more haughty, as women, who perceive themselves to be courted, frequently do. If she had been married to another, she could not have been received by her former husband.
Ver. 7. With him. A beautiful instance of hospitality, like that of the disciples at Emaus, Luke xxiv. 29. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Advanced. Hebrew, “and they tarried until the evening.” Septuagint, “rest till the day decline.” (Haydock) — He wishes them to wait till the heat of the day be over. (Calmet) — When he had obtained this request, he made the late hour an excuse for detaining them longer. But unhappily, the Levite was too resolute and desirous of returning home.
Ver. 9. Depart. Hebrew and Septuagint add, “early,” before the sun was up to render travelling incommodious. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Jebus was about six short miles from Bethlehem, and as many from Gabaa. It had not yet fallen into the hands of Juda (Calmet) and Benjamin, (Haydock) or they had been expelled again, so that the old inhabitants held possession of it at this time, (Calmet) as they did of the citadel till the reign of David. See chap. i. 6, 21. (Haydock) — Concubine. She was his lawful wife: but even lawful wives are frequently in Scripture called concubines. See above, chap. viii. 31. (Challoner) — Ver. 2.
Ver. 13. Rama was not so far as Gabaa; so that, if they could not travel to the latter place, they might turn to the former, and lodge all night. They held on their journey, however, till they came not very late, to Gabaa.
Ver. 15. Lodge. No one invited them in. How much had these people degenerated from the manners of Abraham and of Lot, to imitate those of the men of Sodom! (Haydock) — There was no inn it seems at Gabaa, though we read of some at Jericho, Gaza, &c., chap. xvi. 1., Josue ii. 1., and Genesis xlii. 27. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Jemini. That is, Benjamin. (Challoner) — Chap. iii. 15.
Ver. 17. Bundles. Hebrew, “saw a traveller in,” &c.
Ver. 18. Of God. Septuagint, “to my house I return in haste; and no one brings me into his house.” The tabernacle was fixed at Silo in Ephraim. (Haydock) — Chaldean, “the house of the sanctuary of God.” (Menochius) (Ver. 1.)
Ver. 19. Straw. It used to be cut small, as hay was very scarce. (St. Jerome in Isaias xxv.) Hebrew, “straw and provender.”
Ver. 20. I will. Hebrew, “all thy wants be upon me.” I will furnish all that may be requisite. In this wicked city, there was at least, one generous soul, like Lot in Sodom, Genesis xviii., and xix.
Ver. 22. That is, &c. An interpretation of the Vulgate. Belial is sometimes rendered “devilish, apostate,” &c. Septuagint, “lawless, or transgressors.” (Menochius) — Aquila, “rebels.” Symmachus, “libertines,” without education or restraint. (Calmet) — Josephus lays the blame on some young men, who had been captivated with the charms of the Levite’s wife, whom they had seen in the street. But they seem to have had designs still more criminal, though they were prevailed upon to desist, when she was abandoned to them. (Haydock) — The demanded the Levite himself. (Calmet)
Ver. 24. I have, &c. A similar proposal was made by Lot; (Genesis xix. 8,) and hence the old man, who was brought up to hard labour, and the young Levite might, through ignorance, suppose it lawful for them to do the like. (Menochius) — It is lawful to advise a man, who is about to commit two crimes, to be satisfied with the less: but we cannot persuade any one to do even the smallest offence, that good may ensue, Romans iii. 8. The ignorance or good intention of these people might extenuate, but could hardly excuse their conduct, as it was unjust to the woman, whom the people of Gabaa did not ask for; and they ought rather to have encountered the utmost fury of the populace. Had the latter even come to the extremity proposed, if the Levite had made all possible resistance, his virtue could not have been injured. (Calmet) — His crown would have been doubled, as St. Lucy observed when the judge threatened to have her prostituted. Castitas mihi duplicabitur ad coronam. (Dec. xiii.) (Haydock) — Perhaps in the agitation of mind, caused by such a brutal proposal, the old man might have been so disturbed, as scarcely to know what he was saying, and he did not afterwards expose his daughter. (Calmet) — But the Levite, seeing him in such a dilemma, on his account (Haydock) took his wife by force. (Hebrew, &c.) See Tostat; Bonfrere. (Estius) (Calmet) — Against nature. Hebrew, “unto this man do not so vile a thing.”
Ver. 25. And abandoned. Hebrew, “and they knew her and abused her.” (Haydock) — Interpreters say in the most unnatural manner. (Calmet)
Ver. 26. Lord. So wives styled their husbands, 1 Peter iii. 5. — Down dead through fatigue, (Menochius) shame, and grief. (Josephus) — She had not power to knock. (Calmet) — Though the former misconduct of this unhappy woman might call for punishment, yet, after she was reconciled to her husband, we cannot but think he used her ill, though he acted through a sort of constraint and ignorance. (Haydock) — Instances of women dying under a similar treatment, may be found in Herodotus, and in the Russian and Turkish historians. (Calmet)
Ver. 29. Israel. One part, like an epistle, written with blood, to every tribe. (Salien) — Some, without reason, think that Benjamin was neglected: but they were to be summoned, to bring their guilty brethren (Calmet) to condign punishment, or to share in their fate, as accomplices of the crime. (Haydock) — The state of the republic authorized the Levite to take this extraordinary method of rousing all to a sense of horror for what had been done. (Calmet) — His brethren, dispersed through the country, would no doubt take part in his grief.
Ver. 30. Egypt, that is for the space of eighty years. (Salien) — Indeed the annals of all past ages could hardly furnish an instance of such barbarous lust. — Done. In every city, people gathered together to consult how the crime was to be expiated; (Haydock) and all agreed to assemble before the Lord. (Calmet) — Grabe’s Septuagint observes, that the Levite “gave order to the men, to whom he sent, saying, these things shall you speak to every Israelite. If such a word (or thing) has come to pass, from the day of the coming up of the sons of Israel out of Egypt, till the present day? Take ye advice concerning it, and speak.” (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
A Levite bringing home his wife, is lodged by an old man at Gabaa, in the tribe of Benjamin. His wife is there abused by wicked men, and in the morning found dead. Her husband cutteth her body in pieces, and sendeth to every tribe of Israel, requiring them to revenge the wicked fact.
1 There was a certain Levite, who dwelt on the side of Mount Ephraim, who took a wife of Bethlehem Juda:
2 And she left him, and returned to her father’s house in Bethlehem, and abode with him four months.
3 And her husband followed her, willing to be reconciled with her, and to speak kindly to her, and to bring her back with him, having with him a servant and two asses: and she received him, and brought him into her father’s house. And when his father-in-law had heard this, and had seen him, he met him with joy,
4 And embraced the man. And the son-in-law tarried in the house of his father-in-law three days, eating with him and drinking familiarly.
5 But on the fourth day, arising early in the morning, he desired to depart. But his father-in-law kept him, and said to him: Taste first a little bread, and strengthen thy stomach, and so thou shalt depart.
6 And they sat down together, and ate and drank. And the father of the young woman said to his son-in-law: I beseech thee to stay here to-day, and let us make merry together.
7 But he rising up, began to be for departing. And nevertheless his father-in-law earnestly pressed him, and made him stay with him.
8 But when morning was come, the Levite prepared to go on his journey. And his father-in-law said to him again: I beseech thee to take a little meat, and strengthening thyself, till the day be farther advanced, afterwards thou mayest depart. And they ate together.
9 And the young man arose to set forward with his wife and servant. And his father-in-law spoke to him again: Consider that the day is declining, and draweth toward evening: tarry with me to-day also, and spend the day in mirth, and to-morrow thou shalt depart, that thou mayest go into thy house.
10 His son-in-law would not consent to his words: but forthwith went forward, and came over-against Jebus, which by another name is called Jerusalem, leading with him two asses loaden, and his concubine.
11 And now they were come near Jebus, and the day was far spent: and the servant said to his master: Come, I beseech thee, let us turn into the city of the Jebusites, and lodge there.
12 His master answered him: I will not go into the town of another nation, who are not of the children of Israel, but I will pass over to Gabaa:
13 And when I shall come thither, we will lodge there, or at least in the city of Rama.
14 So they passed by Jebus, and went on their journey, and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gabaa, which is in the tribe of Benjamin:
15 And they turned into it to lodge there. And when they were come in, they sat in the street of the city, for no man would receive them to lodge.
16 And behold they saw an old man, returning out of the field and from his work in the evening, and he also was of Mount Ephraim, and dwelt as a stranger in Gabaa; but the men of that country were the children of Jemini.
17 And the old man lifting up his eyes, saw the man sitting with his bundles in the street of the city, and said to him: Whence comest thou? and whither goest thou?
18 He answered him: We came out from Bethlehem Juda, and we are going to our home, which is on the side of Mount Ephraim, from whence we went to Bethlehem: and now we go to the house of God, and none will receive us under his roof:
19 We have straw and hay for provender of the asses, and bread and wine for the use of myself and of thy handmaid, and of the servant that is with me: we want nothing but lodging.
20 And the old man answered him: Peace be with thee: I will furnish all things that are necessary: only I beseech thee, stay not in the street.
21 And he brought him into his house, and gave provender to his asses: and after they had washed their feet, he entertained them with a feast.
22 While they were making merry, and refreshing their bodies with meat and drink, after the labour of the journey, the men of that city, sons of Belial (that is, without yoke), came and beset the old man’s house, and began to knock at the door, calling to the master of the house, and saying: *Bring forth the man that came into thy house, that we may abuse him.
23 And the old man went out to them, and said: Do not so, my brethren, do not so wickedly: because this man is come into my lodging, and cease I pray you from this folly.
24 I have a maiden daughter, and this man hath a concubine, I will bring them out to you, and you may humble them, and satisfy your lust: only, I beseech you, commit not this crime against nature on the man.
25 They would not be satisfied with his words; which the man seeing, brought out his concubine to them, and abandoned her to their wickedness: and when they had abused her all the night, they let her go in the morning.
26 But the woman, at the dawning of the day, came to the door of the house, where her lord lodged, and there fell down.
27 And in the morning the man arose, and opened the door, that he might end the journey he had begun: and behold his concubine lay before the door with her hands spread on the threshold.
28 He thinking she was taking her rest, said to her: Arise, and let us be going. But as she made no answer, perceiving she was dead, he took her up, and laid her upon his ass, and returned to his house.
29 And when he was come home, he took a sword, and divided the dead body of his wife with her bones into twelve parts, and sent the pieces into all the borders of Israel.
30 And when every one had seen this, they all cried out: There was never such a thing done in Israel, from the day that our fathers came up out of Egypt, until this day: give sentence, and decree in common what ought to be done.
22: Genesis xix. 5.