"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Judges 17:6
This passage summarizes the last five chapters of Judges. It accurately depicts a period of no authority, a time when God called no one to judge Israel, and where everyone did what they desired without concern for God or His instruction. Chapter 19 is one of the most appalling events in Scripture. By placing this tragic episode at the end of the book, the author portrays this as the culmination of Israel's descent into depravity.
The similarities between Genesis 19 and Judges 19 are stark. Gibeah becomes Israel's Sodom. However, the people of the LORD populate Gibeah, not godless heathens. Both stories have strangers arriving in town with no place to stay. No one in the town extends hospitality by inviting the sojourners with a place to stay, except for another foreigner. After the travelers settle into the home as guests, the men of both towns demand the male visitors be given to them "that we may know" them. Both hosts offer the females in the house instead, hoping to assuage the sexual lust of the worthless men of the community. The difference comes when there is no one to save the Levite's concubine.
There are so many questions that come to mind as I read this chapter. How could this Levite become so calloused, after appearing to swallow his pride and travel from Ephraim to Bethlehem to woo his betrothed unfaithful concubine back to himself? He could have chosen to divorce her as Joseph considered doing to Mary in Matthew 1:19 when he thought she had been unfaithful to him. How had the entire town of Gibeah become so corrupt to allow this to happen? It seems the old man was concerned for their welfare when he said, "Only do not spend the night in the square." What was the Levite hoping to accomplish by sending the body parts to each of the twelve tribes? What were they referring to when the people saw it and said, "Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the...people of Israel...consider it, take counsel and speak." It seems this refers to the savage rape and murder rather than the man's dismemberment of his concubine's body since he received no rebuke for his action. Instead, he exposes the abomination and expresses his outrage for Gibeah to the whole nation of Israel in chapter 20.
Romans 1:18-32 answers my question concerning the perversion of Gibeah and as we will see in the next chapter, the entire tribe of Benjamin. Romans 1:32 says, "Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." Before Paul makes that statement, he describes how God's wrath is revealed in a corrupt society. The first step is on society's refusal to acknowledge God and appreciate His blessings on humanity. Man trades the glory of God for the glory of His creation. When that occurs, Paul says, "God gave them up." Three separate times Paul used that description of God's action. He gave them up to the lust of their heart, dishonorable passions and a debased mind. He describes the evidence of God's giving them up as "the women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men." But Paul does not stop with the evidence of homosexuality, he continues with unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.
LORD God, when I read this event, I am disgusted. How could they succumb to such immorality after all You had done for the nation of Israel? But immediately, I am reminded of all you have done for my country and realize we are equally deserving of Your wrath. It is easy for me to ask where were the righteous people in Israel and what were they doing, but immediately the finger is pointed at me. Please forgive me, Father, for failing to keep myself unstained by the world. I want to be salt and light in the adulterous and sinful generation in which I live. I do not want to be ashamed of You, Jesus.