The Levite from Ephraim. 1In those days, when there was no king in Israel,* a there was a Levite residing in remote parts of the mountain region of Ephraimb who had taken for himself a concubine from Bethlehem of Judah. 2But his concubine spurned him and left him for her father’s house in Bethlehem of Judah, where she stayed for some four months. 3Her husband then set out with his servant and a pair of donkeys, and went after her to soothe her and bring her back. He arrived at her father’s house, and when the young woman’s father saw him, he came out joyfully to meet him. 4His father-in-law, the young woman’s father, urged him to stay, and so he spent three days eating and drinking and passing the night there. 5On the fourth day they rose early in the morning and he prepared to go. But the young woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Fortify yourself with a little food; you can go later on.” 6So they stayed and the two men ate and drank together. Then the young woman’s father said to the husband, “Why not decide to spend the night here and enjoy yourself?” 7The man made a move to go, but when his father-in-law pressed him he went back and spent the night there.
8On the fifth morning he rose early to depart, but the young woman’s father said, “Fortify yourself!” He coaxed him, and he tarried until the afternoon, and the two of them ate. 9Then when the husband was ready to go with his concubine and servant, the young woman’s father said to him, “See, the day is wearing on toward evening. Stay for the night. See, the day is coming to an end. Spend the night here and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow you can start your journey home.” 10The man, however, refused to stay another night; he and his concubine set out with a pair of saddled donkeys, and traveled until they came opposite Jebus, which is Jerusalem. 11Since they were near Jebus with the day far gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let us turn off to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12But his master said to him, “We will not turn off to a foreigner’s city,c where there are no Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah. 13Come,” he said to his servant, “let us make for some other place and spend the night in either Gibeah or Ramah.”d 14So they continued on their way until the sun set on them when they were opposite Gibeah of Benjamin.
15* There they turned off to enter Gibeah for the night.e The man went in and sat down in the town square, but no one took them inside to spend the night. 16In the evening, however, an old man came from his work in the field; he was from the mountain region of Ephraim, though he was living in Gibeah where the local people were Benjaminites. 17f When he noticed the traveler in the town square, the old man asked, “Where are you going, and where have you come from?” 18He said to him, “We are traveling from Bethlehem of Judah far up into the mountain region of Ephraim, where I am from. I have been to Bethlehem of Judah, and now I am going home; but no one has taken me into his house. 19We have straw and fodder for our donkeys, and bread and wine for myself and for your maidservant and the young man who is with your servant; there is nothing else we need.” 20“Rest assured,” the old man said to him, “I will provide for all your needs, but do not spend the night in the public square.” 21So he led them to his house and mixed fodder for the donkeys. Then they washed their feet, and ate and drank.g
The Outrage at Gibeah. 22* h While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a bunch of scoundrels, 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 has come into your house, so that we may get intimate with him.” 23The man who was the owner of the house went out to them and said, “No, my brothers; do not be so wicked. This man has come into my house; do not commit this terrible crime. 24Instead, let me bring out my virgin daughter and this man’s concubine. Humiliate them, or do whatever you want; but against him do not commit such a terrible crime.” 25But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and thrust her outside to them. They raped her and abused her all night until morning, and let her go as the sun was coming up. 26At the approach of morning the woman came and collapsed at the entrance of the house in which her husband was, and lay there until morning. 27When her husband rose in the morning and opened the door of the house to start out again on his journey, there was the woman, his concubine, collapsed at the entrance of the house with her hands on the threshold. 28“Come, let us go,” he said to her, but there was no answer. So the man placed her on a donkey and started out again for home.
29* On reaching home, he got a knife and took hold of the body of his concubine. He cut her up limb by limb into twelve pieces and sent them throughout the territory of Israel.i 30He instructed the men whom he sent, “Thus you shall say to all the men of Israel: ‘Has such a thing ever happened from the day the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt to this day?* j Take note of it; form a plan and give orders.’”
* [19:1] No king in Israel: see note on 17:6. The violent story that follows is offered as another example of the disorder that prevailed before the inauguration of the monarchy.
* [19:15–21] The narrative casts a very unfavorable light on Gibeah of Benjamin, the town from which Israel’s first king would come (cf. 1 Sm 9:1–2). No Benjaminite offers hospitality to the Levite and his travel party, who are obliged to wait at night in the town square until an Ephraimite residing in Gibeah welcomes them into his home.
* [19:22–25] This part of the grim story closely parallels that of the assault on Lot’s angelic visitors in Gn 19:4–8.
* [19:29] The Levite’s gruesome way of summoning the tribes is a drastic version of that used by Saul in 1 Sm 11:7, where he dismembers a yoke of oxen.
* [19:30] Has such a thing ever happened…?: the outrage became a byword in Israel, so that in the eighth century the prophet Hosea could invoke “the days of Gibeah” (Hos 9:9; cf. 10:9) to signify corruption and wrongdoing.
a. [19:1] Jgs 17:6; 18:1; 21:25.
c. [19:12] Jgs 1:21; 2 Sm 5:6.
g. [19:21] Gn 18:4; 24:32; 43:24.