When There is No King, Part 2 - Judges 19

Judges: In Need of a King  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  52:45
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When I was young boy, I decided that I was going to have some fun at the expense of some morning doves that made a nest in our crab apple tree. A bird was sitting on the next so I jumped u[, grabbed a hold of the branch and bounced on it until the bird flew away. I had my fun so I walked it away.
It wasn’t until later that I was confronted with the consequences of my actions. Unbeknownst to me, there were three tiny hatch-lings in that nest, and when I was bouncing that branch, I inadvertently bounced those hatch-lings out of the nest and onto the driveway where their lives came to an abrupt end. I was a bit of a gruesome image. Freshly hatched birds, bleeding out on the ground.
I couldn’t believe what I had done. It was wrong to abuse the bird on the nest. I felt guilty about that. The fact that my cruelty resulted in the bloody picture in front of me is an image that is forever seared in my mind. I didn’t mean to do that…but that did excuse the sin and that didn’t take away from the fact that the consequences were right there. It was a gruesome, bloody image, and it made me sick to my stomach and it forever changed my relationship to God’s creation.
Sometimes we have to stare into the face of the consequences of our own actions before we get the point. Sometimes its really ugly, takes our breath away, or makes us sick to our stomachs. In those moments sometimes its best to keep staring, burning the image into your mind so you never forget.
I think such is the case with our text for today. I mentioned last week that the end of the book of Judges is anything but pleasant. These are stories that make us sick to our stomachs, and they should! I mention last week and I’ll say it again:
The sickening feeling that we are going to experience is a good thing. We aren’t supposed to look at these stories and gloss over the troubling details in search of typology or veiled analogies to Christ.
We’re supposed to sit and stare into the face of our own depravity and see how vile sin really is, and see what happens to a society that has turned its back on the King of kings. So don’t try to push the yucky feeling away. Embrace it for the gift that it is.
Last week we saw how a rejection to the king inevitably leads to rampant idolatry and the pursuit of selfish ambition. Those things lead to a variety to sins, such as brutality, theft, and selfish opportunistic behavior.
This week the dial is really turned up to eleven in terms of the evil that was present in Israel, demonstrating her utter need for not just a godly king, but THE King.
We will see how the rejection of the rule of God leads to brutality, immorality, inhospitality, cowardice, and callousness.
Our chapter can be divided into four parts,
First, the we have what in literary terms is called the foil. A foil is a character whose purpose in the story is to highlight something about a second character. That’s what we find in the first paragraph: Surprising Hospitality
In the next two paragraphs we find the first hints that there is something that is not quite right in Gibeah. The details might seem relatively benign to us, but when we understand the cultural expectations and what the Law of Moses instructed about how to treat sojourners, it becomes much more eyebrow raising as we see surprising inhospitality
The fourth paragraph has the shocking sins of the men of the city, and then the final paragraph gives us the shocking response of the Levite. That’s where we’re going.
Let’s look at our text

Surprising Hospitality

Judges 19:1 ESV
1 In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.
Once again, the author prefaces the episode this statement, reminding us that what we are about to see is the result of rejecting godly leadership over their lives.
Something else you will notice is that no one in this story is named. This may be an indication that this is a true story, but the lack of specificity given for the names of the people tells us that this story is merely an example of what is happening all across the land. This could be any Levite, and concubine, and family. The kind of behavior we are about to see wasn’t limited to this specific story.
Verse 2.
Judges 19:2 ESV
2 And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months.
I need to pause a moment here as well. There is a textual issue with this verse. The word for “she was unfaithful” is a bit stronger than the ESV translates it. It ought to be “prostituted herself” “engaged in harlotry”. But it also a word that is nearly identical to another Hebrew word that means “to be angry with” or “to feel repugnance toward something”. You can see up on the screen how close these two words are, and if you say them quickly they may even sound exactly the same. So we aren’t sure what the original word is.
Contextually, some have made the argument that she being angry with her husband makes the most sense, considering how the Levite is going to peruse her in the following verses. Others argue that if she was prostituting herself, that should be of little surprise to us considering the condition of the land.
Personally, I think her being angry fits the context just a little bit better, though at the end of the day, I’m not sure that it makes a very big difference in how we understand the text other than directing to where our sympathies ought to lie.
Let’s read on,
Judges 19:3–10 ESV
3 Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him. 4 And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there. 5 And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.” 6 So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl’s father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.” 7 And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again. 8 And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl’s father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them. 9 And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.” 10 But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him.
Now, we read this and might wonder, what’s the point here? Its an interesting paragraph. A man goes to retrieve his concubine, and then his father-in-law essentially tries to throw him a week long party, and eventually says, no, no. I need to leave. I’ve stayed too long.
There are two things that are important to us from this paragraph.
Look at the over the top hospitality that is being granted to this man. That is going to stand in stark contrast with what will follow.
Notice that they didn’t end up leaving until the day was nearly spent. He just needed to get going lest he be detained another day.
This all sets us up for what comes next.

Surprising Inhospitality

Judges 19:11–15 ESV
11 When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12 And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” 13 And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” 14 So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, 15 and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.
Because they set out so late, they did not get as far as they may have wanted to. As a result, they had the option of turning to spend the night in Jebus, which was later known as Jerusalem, but at this time it was not an Israelite city. He concluded that it was safer to be in an Israelite town rather than a town controlled by the Jebusites.
But he came into Gibeah, they ended up in the open square for the night. Why? The text says “for no one took them into his house to spend the night”
The Law of Moses is very clear on what is expected for Israelites for those sojourning through the land. God expected a culture of hospitality among his people.
Furthermore, the cultural expectation was that someone would welcome him and give him a place to stay. But he seems to have been completely ignored. This would have raised eyebrows, not only because of the cultural expectations, but also because this was an Israelite city and the hospitality expectations were all the higher.
This stands out like a sore thumb after just reading about the over the top hospitality he was show by his father in law.
The irony only grows as as continue to read.
Judges 19:16–21 ESV
16 And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. 17 And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?” 18 And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord, but no one has taken me into his house. 19 We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.” 20 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.” 21 So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.
Finally. A man showing him the hospitality that we might expect. He seems rather urgent with his insistence for the man to stay with him. It seems as thought he is aware of what lurks within his own city.

Shocking Immorality

Judges 19:22–26 ESV
22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.
Now if you’re saying to yourself, “hey, this kind of sounds like another story we know. This sounds like Sodom and Gomorrah” you’d be exactly right. There are many striking parallels between the two accounts, even down the verbs used for the actions taking place. The accounts aren’t just similar. It seems as though the author patterned his telling of the story after the pattern of Gen 19, while holding true to the events that happened in Gibeah.
And so, with shocking detail, we have this account.
From time to time when cities are established, they can be named after existing cities, just with the word “new” at the beginning. Several of you here are from New Albany. The East Coast has the nickname “New England” there is the state of “New Hampshire”, all named after other places for different reasons.
There is one commentator that called Gibeah “New Sodom” because of the sins present.
As if simply being inhospitable wasn’t enough, the men of the city ambushed the house in order to rape, not the concubine, but the man. Their wickedness is astounding. And this is ISRAEL! This isn’t gentile Sodom. This is Gentile Jebus!
The man came to Gibeah in order to gain the protection of his own countrymen, and this is what the men of the city desire to do!
To his credit, the old man of the house comes out and urges the men of the city not to do what he rightly calls a wicked and a vile thing.
The word for vile is a strong one. It is outrageous, disgraceful, and foolish!
But instead of continuing on that line of reason, he does something that is just as vile! He offers them his own virgin daughter and the man’s concubine. Look at what he says in vs 24 “Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous (and that’s the name word translated as vile the verse before) outrageous thing.”
Here. Take them. Violate them. That word can legitimately be translated as rape. Rape them. Just don’t rape this man.
But them men wouldn’t listen. They continues to press against the house, so the man, rather than do what was honorable and protect his concubine, grabs her and throws her outside to the men. In frantic fear of his own life, he grab her, and forces her outside. Likely screaming and crying out as she was forced, knowing what would happen to her outside, she certainly wouldn’t be going out willingly.
And the men of city raped and abused her through the night and left her on the doorstep.
Sometimes you read a passage and its easy to gloss over the details. The longer you linger on this passage, the worse it gets. The more you look at the details, and think how that scene would have unfolded, the more vile this text becomes.
Certainly what the men of the city desired to do and what they ended up doing was a vile thing. It was wicked. It was pure evil.
But what about the Levite and his host? God designed men to leaders, protectors, and providers. These men both cower in fear and cowardice, and callously give their women over to be abused. There are hardly sufficient words to describe the abdication of responsibility from the Levite and the Old Man.
The evil that has happened here cannot be overstated. God literally rained down fire from heaven to destroy the last cities that acted in this way! Sodom and Gomorrah have become infamous for their actions, so much so that we have terminology that continues today. There are people who don’t have much if any biblical literacy, but they know what Sodomy means.
This account from what happened at Gibeah did not become quite as infamous as that, but it became infamous enough that Hosea used it as an illustration.
Hosea 9:9 ESV
9 They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins.
But this isn’t the end of the story. As socking as this immorality is, and that it would happen in Israel, the story isn’t over. The Levite’s response is shocking as well.

Shocking Response

Judges 19:27 ESV
27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold.
The callousness of the Levite is further demonstrated here in verse 27. Earlier the narrator calls him “her husband”. Here? he is referred to as “her master”.
This is what sin does. It strips people of their personhood and treats others like animals, which we see even more as we continue.
Judges 19:28–30 ESV
28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 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. 30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”
The question that many ask of this text…was she already dead, or did he kill her? Verse 28 says she didn’t respond to his callous instruction, it didn’t say she was dead. You might infer it from the text, but the ambiguity that is present may be intentional on the part of the narrator. We are left to wonder, who killed her? The men of the city or her husband?
This is complicated by Judges 20:5 “5 And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead.” He doesn’t say they killed her. He just says “and she is dead”
I can’t help but wonder if he did the deed himself. Rather than being the provider, leader, and protector that he was supposed to be, he cowardly fails to defend her, and then possibly is the one to murder her.
Murders her, and then cuts her up and mails her first class to all the tribes, who are absolutely shocked at these things!
Such a thing has never been done! Are they talking about the rape? The hacking her to pieces? The whole thing? The text leaves that ambiguous. I lean toward the whole package. The rape is shocking on its own! Add to that getting a body part in the mail. Such a thing has never been done.
Sometimes I read passages like this, and I feel like I need a shower. It’s a dirty, messy passage. It’s hard to read. Its uncomfortable to get through. It makes us squirm and sick to our stomachs.
Brothers and sisters. That’s the point. That’s what we’re supposed to feel.
This text shows us in a graphic way what happens to a society that rejects the King of kings. And it isn’t a pretty picture.
Inhospitality toward their countrymen. Men chasing after unnatural and vile immorality. Women treated worse than animals.
Ultimately, when we understand this passage rightly in the context of the Scriptures, as one theologian put it: “The problem is not sins, but sin”
This is the wickedness of the human heart. When we forsake the King, and everyone does what is right in his own eyes, this is where it leads us.
We read what is happening here and it doesn’t take a genius to look around at the world around us conclude, yep, our culture and society is heading in the same direction. As our culture has become increasingly hostile to word of God, it has manifested the same kinds of sins.
But what we must realize, is that those sins don’t just exist in the world out there.
The same propensity for sin is within my heart and yours. This text is not just a window to look through to see what Israel was like. It’s a mirror that shows us our own hearts when we reject our King.
This whole sermon series was titled “in need of a King”
That is the only solution to this mess, the only solution to the mess inside of our own hearts.
It cannot be just any king though. It must be a godly king. We are in need to submission to the King of kings.
I can’t help but think of the text of Psalm 2.
Psalm 2:1–3 ESV
1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
It’s easy for us to look out and see the carnage that rebellion brings when we look out into the world out there, but this is where sin leads all of us. The namelessness of the characters of the story are to help us realize that this isn’t just isolated to these individuals. This is the propensity of our own hearts.
But praise be to God! Jesus Christ is the king and he offers forgiveness for our sin, he offers to cleans us from all that mess, he will save all those who trust in him and him alone.
Because if we reject his rule in our lives. chaos is the inevitable result. Look to Jesus now and live.
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