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Judges 19: A Look into Darkness Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 June 2015

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Some days make it easier to believe in humanity’s depravity and need for a Savior. We had one of those days this past week. Think about it with me. You get up on a Wednesday morning, you get ready, you go to work, you come home in time to make it to Church, and you even notice a visitor in the back of the room. You spend time in prayer and study of the Word and all feels well. Until the visitor stands, takes out a gun, and begins to kill the people around you. Before you can even get over the initial shock and confusion, he is aiming at you.

When we hear about tragedies like what took place in Charleston, South Carolina this week, we are filled with emotions. We are angry. How could someone do such a thing? Why is there such hatred and rage over race? We are sad. How do the families pick up and move on after this? How do they make it through the next few days, few months, few years? And if we are honest, really honest deep down, we tremble. How could sin drive a man to take such action? How deep does depravity really run? Although our sin may not ever look like what happened in Charleston, we cannot deny it’s presence in our lives, nor can we deny it’s ugliness. Bottom line: humans are broken creatures. We are not ok. We are desperate, all of us, for the grace of God. Some days make this easier to see.

The God of the Bible is not surprised by the depths of our depravity. He knew the cost of that first sin in the garden. He knows what men can do when they start doing what is right in their own eyes. In fact, He gives us a picture of it in Judges 19. We said last week that the final stories in the book of Judges take place before some of what we have already studied. The final story that we are beginning this week actually took place early on in the time of the judges. Yet, it reveals just how dark things have gotten in Israel. In fact, one of my commentator’s calls this account “one of the darkest pictures of Israelite life in the entire Old Testament.” So how do we see the darkness in this passage? Let’s follow the individual characters.

The Darkness of the Levite

The story begins with the introduction of another Levite who is having relational problems.  Look at verses 1-2. We are not given names of either of these individuals, perhaps because the author wants us to recognize that they could be anybody, since everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes at this point (17:6, 21:25). We are told that the woman was unfaithful to him. It is hard to be certain about what this means (committed adultery, angry with him, etc.), but it should be noted that her struggles play a part (which we are rightfully reluctant to do in light of how things end up for her). The Levite decides to go after her. Look at verses 3-9. When the Levite gets to her house in Bethlehem, we see her dad being a gracious host (which will contrast the rest of the story). He convinces them to stay a few days and wants them to stay even longer, but the Levite refuses. We should note that we see some good in the Levite at this point. He goes to get his concubine and he restores his relationship with her. Yet, this is only the beginning.

Next we see that he wants to avoid staying with foreigners in favor of his fellow Israelites.  Look at verses 10-15. We might be wondering at this point why the author has chosen to tell this particular story. Nothing seems to be happening. But the plot is building. Since the father-in-law wanted them to stay longer, they were not able to leave until later in the day. Thus, before they could make it back home, the sun was going down. The servant suggested that they stay in Jebus (which later became Jerusalem), but the Levite did not want to stay with foreigners. So they traveled a bit further and went to stay in Gibeah, a city of the tribe of Benjamin. No big deal, everything seems normal. But did you notice the last thing said in verse 15: no one took them into his house to spend the night. The tension is growing. First, they decided to leave too late in the day (v. 9) and now they are refused hospitality in a city of Israel. Things are not going well.

But, then things seem to get better. Look at verses 16-21. We are not told this man’s name either but we are told that he was not from Gibeah. He decides to show hospitality and put the Levite up for the night. Yet, did you catch again the ominous language in verse 20: Only, do not spend the night in the square. It seems that he knows that there are problems in the city.

Unfortunately, the old man did not know just how great they were. Look at verses 22-26. We will consider the actions of the others in a moment, but how did the Levite respond when these terrible men came to the old man’s door? He gave up his concubine to try and satisfy the lust of these men. He gave her life for his own. And not only that, but look at how he treats her in the morning in verses 27-30. Apparently, when she returned he was sleeping too hard to open the door (or maybe he was just still protecting his own neck). When he sees her, he speaks harshly to her and seems not to care for her well-being at all. And when he finds out she is dead, he desecrates her corpse by cutting it up and mailing it to the rest of Israel.

The darkness in the Levite is obvious. Yes, he is willing to try to work things out with his concubine only so that he can turn her over to evil men in exchange for his own safety. And after they abuse her and kill her, he decides to use her corpse to seek revenge. His actions are ugly and the darkness is telling. Yet, he is perhaps the most honorable in the story. Consider the rest.

The Darkness of the old man

We see some good from the old man at first. After all, he is willing to take in the Levite and his concubine. He shows them hospitality and does try to protect them when the men come. Yet, how does he propose to protect them? Look at verse 24. He offers them his own daughter and the concubine! He actually says to them: Violate them and do what seems good to you. What!!?? Who does that? You could maybe make the argument that he was only trying to protect the Levite, whom the men desired, but even so, where is the honor in offering your own daughter? How could this even be considered? Do you see the darkness of humanity in his actions? And of course, he is still not the worst.

The Darkness of the men of Gibeah

The most vile humans in the text are the men of the city. First, they show no hospitality to the Levite, which to us seems like no big deal but was terrible in those days. Perhaps we don’t even consider it because of what they do next. Look at verse 22. The ESV says that they were beating on the door, but the Hebrew suggests that they were flinging themselves up against the door. Their lust was so strong that they could not contain it. They were throwing themselves at the door like savage beasts. Their desire is for the Levite. They ask for him so that they can perform homosexual acts with him. When refused what they want, they settle for the concubine. And what they do to her is unspeakable. One of my commentator’s writes: “The narrator does not dwell on the harrowing details, but if ever a human being endured a night of utter horror it was the Levite’s concubine on that night, which must have seemed as interminable as eternity and as dark as the pit itself.” It is one of the darkest scenes in all of Scripture.

But it is not alone. In fact, if certain parts of this story sounded like another story, then maybe you were confusing it with what happened to Lot in the city of Sodom. Remember that story? Two angels come to save him and the men of Sodom demand to have homosexual relations with them. Lot offers his daughters instead (another example of depraved parenting). Yet, in that situation the angels intervene and rescue Lot and his family. The author of judges uses very similar language to tell this story. Why does he do this? Because people were easily offended by those terrible Sodomites. They were the epitome of evil. But they were pagans. They were ‘those out there.’ Yet, when the author of Judges tells his story in the way that he does he makes it plain that Sodom has come to Israel. Evil is not just ‘out there’ in the pagan nations, it actually dwells in the midst of God’s chosen nation. Can you imagine how shocking this would have been for the original readers? They would have been angry and sad and trembling. They would have wondered with us: ‘How can such darkness exist? And what hope can we have to ever overcome it?’

The answer to these questions are found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Savior. He is the light of the world and the darkness cannot overcome Him (John 1:1-5). What hope is their for sinful humanity? The hope that our sins have been paid for by the blood of Christ at the cross. The darkest scene in all of the Bible did not take place in Gibeah that night or in Sodom those many years before. No, the darkest scene of the Bible is Jesus hanging naked on a tree, suffering under the righteous wrath of God for my sin. If you need to better understand your own depravity and your own sins, then just answer this question: ‘What did it take for my sins to be forgiven?’ I may not be like those men on the streets of Gibeah, but my sin, my sin, put Jesus on a cross. There is darkness looking back at us every morning in the mirror.

But the cross is not the end of the story. Three days after Jesus was laid in a tomb, He came back from the dead. And He promised that any who turn from their sins and believe in Him will be saved (Romans 10:9). Sinners can be saved through faith in Him! So follow with me. In Genesis 19 we read of a terrible day of Sodom and the sin of the nations. In Judges 19 we read of the sin of Gibeah, a city of the people of God. In John 19 we read of Jesus paying for the sins of the world on the cross. And in Revelation 19 (as we read to begin our service) we read of the Bride of Christ being welcomed to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. John describes the scene: Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure (v. 7-8). Only the grace of God can do that! He can take broken, sinful, desperate people and clothe them with the Light of His Son. The darkness is great, but it will not overcome the Light of the World! Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 03 July 2015 )

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