Notes on Judges 19, verses 11-21
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 19:11, KJV: (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.
This saying, “the day is far spent“, might well mean the sun was setting. These are the identical words spoken by Cleopas and another disciple, to the risen Lord Jesus Christ, on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). The Levite’s servant apparently was quite concerned with finding shelter and suggested the party spend the night or “lodge” in Jebus/Jerusalem. He called it a city of the Jebusites, so even though Israel had at one time conquered this city (see Joshua 12:10, Judges 1:8) they had still allowed the Canaanites to live there (Josh. 15:63).
The Levite and the others may have lived during a period when Israel did not control the city. Judah had been invaded several times before (by the Moabites, Judges 3; the Ammonites, Judges 10:9; perhaps other times that are not recorded in Scripture although there is no evidence) so this may have been one of those times. At any rate, the servant wanted to find shelter quickly, it seems, and Jebus was close.
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.
The Levite replied strongly that they would have nothing to do with a city that was (. . . not of the children of Israel . . .). This may reinforce the concept that Israel was no longer in control of the city.
Gibeah was originally located in Judah’s territory (Joshua 15) but it is uncertain how far it was away from Jebus. The Levite was determined to not stay in Jebus itself. Was Gibeah the next closest city?
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.
This is a repetition, perhaps for emphasis, from the Levite that he, his concubine, and his servant, were going to “lodge” for the night in Gibeah or Ramah, added here as a second possible location. Ramah was located in Benjamin’s territory (Joshua 18:21-25). Deborah had previously judged Israel between Ramah and Bethel, located in Mount Ephraim (Judges 4:5).
Later, Ramah would be known as the home town of Elkanah, Samuel’s father (I Sam. 2:11) and later, that of Samuel himself (1 Sam. 7:17). Apparently there was nothing significant about the place at this time except for possibly being a place to stay for a night.
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.
This means it was dark after the sun set for that day.
Note that the word “belongeth” is in italics in the KJV, meaning the word is not part of the original text.. Gibeah was originally given to Judah (see notes on verse 12). The men of Gibeah were Benjamites (see verse 16), which may explain why both tribes are mentioned in connection with the one city.
[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.]
This had to be heartbreaking for the Levite and others. They had left the concubine’s home in Bethlehem-Judah, traveled to Jebus but chose not to stay there, and tried to reach Gibeah before it became too dark to risk traveling further. Apparently there was no public inn or boarding house; the text states no one offered to give them a place to stay. At the very least this shows that
the people of Gibeah did not “love (their) neighbor as (themselves)!”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.
This stranger, an “old man”, was going to be the answer to their problems, but they didn’t realize it at first. We know nothing about this man, such as his age, his job—except that he worked in the fields—or even his name. We do know he was from Mt Ephraim but was sojourning in Gibeah. The man finished his work at “even” or evening but it may have taken him a good bit of time to come back to Gibeah, especially now that it was dark.
Why the Benjamites (children of Benjamin) had decided to move to Gibeah is nowhere specified.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?
Now the old man saw or noticed the Levite, described here as a wayfaring man. He asked a couple of open-ended questions, like “where are you headed?” and “where are you from?” As it was dark, he probably had no idea who the “wayfaring man” actually was.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.
Here the Levite explains the situation in a brief manner. The “house of the LORD” was in Shiloh (compare Joshua 18:1 with Judges 18:31 and 1 Sam. 1:24) but the Levite had not mentioned this before. 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.
Travelers had brought straw and provender (feed?) along for the animals on journeys since at least the time of Jacob. One of his sons, after they had bought food in Egypt, opened his sack to give his beast some “provender (Gen. 42:27, KJV)”and found his payment for the food back in the feed sack! Here, the Levite and the others had brought their own supplies with them, along with bread and wine for the three humans, also stating they had no need of anything—except a place to stay for the night. No one in the town (reason/s why are not disclosed) would give them lodging for the night.20 And the old man said, Peace (be) with thee; howsoever (let) all thy wants (lie) upon me; only lodge not in the street.
The old man gave them the greeting of peace but cautioned them to not spend the night in the street. Compare this with the visit of the Two Angels to Lot when he lived in Sodom (Genesis 19). They too wanted to spend the night in the street but Lot warned them to not do so (if he explained why, it is not mentioned in the text directly). Lot knew the character of the Sodomites and did not want anything to happen to his guests.
Did the old man have knowledge of these people of Gibeah, such as what they might do to visitors?21 So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.
Now the old man took the Levite (and most likely the others) into his house. He fed the animals (“gave provender”) and then provided water, for washing the feet, plus food and drink.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).