Everyone knows the stories in the book of Judges and of Gideon and Samson of the amazing things they accomplished. But what no one ever teaches are the last few chapters of Judges when the culture of Israel collapses into degenerate and murderous behavior. The Bible describes the opening of the story in Chapter 19 with the note that there is no king. God has been rejected and everyone lives life as they see fit. What then is the path of degenerate behavior we find in Judges 19 and specifically verse 23?
Judges 19 Overview
To set the chapter we have a Levite from the priestly class who has taken a “concubine”. A concubine is a sexual partner who is not an official wife. This woman would have been a second or third woman that he had taken as his own.
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. Judges 19:2 ESV
A “Nice” Man vs the Mob
The story paints the Levite as a nice man showing her and her father kindness when he travels to bring her back to his home. Then in Judges 19:23 on the return trip he stops in a town of the tribe of Benjamin and there is a shocking situation that has eerie similarities to another famous event from Genesis.
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. Judges 19:22-23 ESV
This Levite is staying in the home of a man in this Benjaminite town when “worthless” men surround the house and demand to have sex with the Levite. If this sounds familiar that is because we find an almost identical situation when Lot is the owner of the house and he has guests.
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Genesis 19:4-5 ESV
This is where those similarities end. The men a Lot’s house where Angels there to rescue him from destruction. The Levite guest in our story of Judges 19:23 is a “nice” man who is bringing is concubine back home and there is no king in Israel meaning God taken a step back since the people would not listen to him.
Unlike the Angels in Lot’s situation this “nice” Levite does something shocking in verse 25. He gives his concubine over to this evil mob.
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. Judges 19:25 ESV
Culture Falls into Depravity
This story is not fun and it is not inspiring. There are reasons it is never taught or preached. Most people in the church don’t even know what to do with something like this let alone contemplate it. But we are in such a time where this seems plausible. Just like Judges 19:23 we can see degenerate behavior following a path and reaching this point where we have rejected God and he is no longer king in our culture. What do you think happens to a people and a culture that has no room for God? The same thing happens over and over in history. The times we live in are not new.
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15 ESV
The Path to Judges 19:23
Sin in an individual’s life have consequences and one of the consequences rarely understood or taught is the impact to a culture and a people when everyone starts to participate in the same sins. For this people of this tribe both the Levite and the Benjaminite they became obsessed with sex. The Levite with his concubine and the Benjaminite with their own lusts. The bonds of marriage are broken and both camps are lusting after their own selfish desires.
Honor and Righteousness Gone
The Judges 19:23 “nice” Levite is revealed to have cold concern for his concubine by showing no care for the assault on her by the men of the town. A husband would have died to protect his wife. But this woman was an object to be used not someone he loved. On the other side are the men of the town that they would demand to assault the guest who is visiting. All of these actions lead to death. Death spiritually, physically, and culturally. Nothing good will come from this and they will all answer to God one day.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Romans 1:26-31 ESV
Lusts of the Flesh
Those of us staring into the darkness of culture gone wrong see this behavior as shocking. However, the degenerate path is well worn over time and is predictable. I may not have understood or been able to imagine how it could come about but the times we live now make it clear. The culture rots under the sin of every person. Look at the description Paul gives to the culture that follows the degenerate path. “Unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice” also “envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness” more “gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” This is the culture we see on the horizon. Such selfish behavior is almost always poured out in the lusts of the flesh especially sexually. The Levite would not be happy with his wife that he would have other women serve him. The Benjamite was so consumed with sex that he would in a mob demand unwilling participants submit by force.
Make your Life Right with God
The current culture is on this path of degenerate behavior. The frothy edges of this madness are forming around the selfish consuming mouth of our culture. Repent of your sins dear reader. Prepare for the reality that you may need to withdraw from the town square. You will need to protect your loved ones from a mob set on its own selfish desires. Make yourself right with God and ask for his mercy in the coming judgment.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19 ESV