A Levite and His Woman Servant
19 At that time the Israelites did not have a king.
There was a Levite who lived far back in the hill country of Ephraim. He had taken as a wife a slave woman. She was from the city of Bethlehem in the country of Judah. 2 But his slave woman had an argument with him. She left him and went back to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. She stayed there for four months. 3 Then her husband went after her. He wanted to speak kindly to her so that she would come back to him. He took with him his servant and two donkeys. The Levite came to her father’s house. Her father saw the Levite and came out to greet him. The father was very happy. 4 The woman’s father led the Levite into his house. The Levite’s father-in-law invited him to stay. So he stayed for three days. He ate, drank, and slept in his father-in-law’s house.
5 On the fourth day, they got up early in the morning. The Levite was getting ready to leave. But the young woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Eat something first. After you eat, you can go.” 6 So the Levite and his father-in-law sat down to eat and drink together. After that the young woman’s father said to the Levite, “Please stay tonight. Relax and enjoy yourself.” So the two men ate together. 7 The Levite got up to leave, but his father-in-law persuaded him to stay the night again.
8 Then, on the fifth day, the Levite got up early in the morning. He was ready to leave. But the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Eat something first. Relax and stay until this afternoon.” So they both ate together again.
9 Then the Levite, his slave woman, and his servant got up to leave. But the young woman’s father said, “It is almost dark. The day is almost gone. So stay the night here and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow morning you can get up early and go on your way.”
10 But the Levite did not want to stay another night. He took his two donkeys and his slave woman. He traveled as far as the city of Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). 11 The day was almost over. They were near the city of Jebus. So the servant said to his master, the Levite, “Let’s stop at this Jebusite city. Let’s stay the night here.”
12 But his master, the Levite man, said, “No, we will not go inside a strange city. Those people are not Israelites. We will go to the city of Gibeah.[a]” 13 The Levite said, “Come on. Let’s try to make it to Gibeah or Ramah. We can stay the night in one of those cities.”
14 So the Levite and those with him traveled on. The sun was going down just as they entered the city of Gibeah. Gibeah is in the area that belongs to the tribe of Benjamin. 15 They planned to stop there and stay the night. They came to the city square and sat down, but no one invited them home to stay the night.
16 That evening an old man came into the city from the fields. His home was in the hill country of Ephraim, but now he was living in the city of Gibeah. (The men of Gibeah were from the tribe of Benjamin.) 17 The old man saw the traveler in the public square and asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”
18 The Levite answered, “We have come from Bethlehem in Judah, where I went for a visit. Now I am on my way home,[b] which is a long way into the hill country of Ephraim. I expected that someone here would invite us in for the night, but no one has. 19 We already have straw and food for our donkeys. There is also bread and wine for me, the young woman, and my servant. We don’t need anything.”
20 The old man said, “You are welcome to stay at my house. I will give you anything you need, but don’t stay the night in the public square.” 21 Then the old man took the Levite and the people with him to his house. He fed their donkeys. They washed their feet and then had something to eat and drink.
22 While the Levite and those who were with him were enjoying themselves, some very bad men from the city surrounded the house. They began beating on the door. They shouted at the old man who owned the house. They said, “Bring out the man who came to your house. We want to have sex with him.”
23 The old man went outside and said to them, “My friends, don’t do such an evil thing! This man is a guest in my house.[c] Don’t commit this terrible sin. 24 Look, here is my daughter. She has never had sex before. I will bring her out to you now. This man also has a slave woman. You can use them any way you want, but don’t do such a terrible sin against this man.”
25 But those evil men would not listen to the old man. So the Levite took his slave woman and put her outside with them. They hurt her and raped her all night long. Then, at dawn, they let her go. 26 At dawn, the woman came back to the house where her master was staying. She fell down at the front door and lay there until it was daylight.
27 The Levite got up early the next morning. He wanted to go home. He opened the door to go outside, and a hand fell across the threshold of the door. There was his slave woman. She had fallen down against the door. 28 The Levite said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer.
The Levite put her body on his donkey and went home. 29 When he arrived at his house, he took a knife and cut her body into 12 parts. Then he sent the 12 parts of the woman to each of the areas where the Israelites lived. 30 Everyone who saw this said, “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel before. We haven’t seen anything like this from the time we came out of Egypt. Discuss this and tell us what to do.”
- Judges 19:12 Gibeah Gibeah was a few miles north of Jebus. Jebus was the old name for Jerusalem.
- Judges 19:18 home This is from the ancient Greek version, which has “to my house.” The standard Hebrew text has “to the Lord’s house.”
- Judges 19:23 This man … my house At this time it was a custom that if you invited people to be your guests, you had to protect and care for those people.