Judges 19:29, 30: The Mutilation of the Concubine's Corpse, and a Call to War

Verse 29:[1] And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and (Judg. 20:6; see 1 Sam. 11:7) divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.

[Chopping her into twelve parts, he sent unto all the coasts of Israel] Suppose, to the twelve Tribes; to each Tribe one part (Lapide, Montanus, Drusius): and so he sent one part to the tribe of Benjamin, because, since that whole tribe had not sinned, but one city only, the Tribe was able to be invited to the severing of one of its noxious and putrid members (Cajetan in Serarius, similarly Tostatus, Serarius, Bonfrerius, Martyr). He sent to Benjamin, lest they should appear to be despised, or to be regarded as enemies (Tostatus). But it is not likely that he sent to them, because they would have killed the mover of this matter (Drusius, Lyra). Others, therefore, substituted the Levites for that tribe. But they were not having certain seats anywhere, and had been dispersed throughout all the Tribes (Bonfrerius, Lyra, Drusius). Or, he sent two parts to the tribe of Manasseh, one on this side, the other on that side, of Jordan (Lyra). He sent unto the Princes of the tribes; and it is likely that it was enjoined upon those bearing these burdens to explain to them the entire matter as it had happened. And he sent to all the Tribes, because at that time there was neither King nor Judge to bear the principate of the entire people (Bonfrerius). Moreover, this deed of the Levite is singular, and also illegitimate: for it is contrary to the Law of God, Deuteronomy 21:23; and contrary to public and common laws of humanity and decency, which prohibit men to rage against dead bodies; and contrary to marital duty, whatever reason might be pled as an excuse (Malvenda). But the husband did not sin in this, because he chop up his wife to dishonor her corpse, but rather to restore honor to that through vengeance upon such a shameful act (Lapide out of Tostatus). They say that he did this, impelled by zeal for righteousness and by God, so that he might rouse them to vengeance (Malvenda). The atrocity of the deed compelled him to atrocious remedies. Neither was he deceived in his hope; for this sight brought it to pass that all the Tribes took counsel together; which had not been done previously (Grotius). The Levite, meditating vengeance, supposed that a beginning was to be made from the horrific spectacle. Things inserted through the ear arouse souls more slowly than those things that are subject to trusty eyes: Horace’s Concerning the Poetic Art (Montanus’ Commentary).

Together with her bones, or, according to her bones, according to the joints of her body, for there he made a division. This might seem to be a barbarous and inhuman act in itself; but may seem excusable, if it be considered that the sadness of the spectacle did highly contribute to stir up the zeal of all the Israelites to avenge his concubine’s death, and to execute justice upon such profligate offenders; and was necessary, especially in this time of anarchy and general corruption, Judges 17:6, to awaken them out of that lethargy in which all the tribes lay. Into twelve pieces; that one piece might be sent to every tribe; whereof none to Levi because they would meet with it in every tribe, being dispersed among them; but one to Benjamin; for he might well presume, that they would as much abhor so villainous an action, though done by some of their own tribe, as any of the rest. Sent her into all the coasts of Israel, by several messengers, by whom also he sent a particular relation of the fact.

Verse 30:[2] And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, (Judg. 20:7; Prov. 13:10) take advice, and speak your minds.

No such deed; so wicked and abominable.

[Pass judgment, שִֽׂימוּ־לָכֶ֥ם עָלֶ֖יהָ] Verbatim: put ye to yourselves super illud, upon that (Montanus), or, ad istud, upon that[3] (Piscator), concerning that evil (Hebrews in Vatablus). Apply yourselves to that (Junius and Tremellius). Apply yourselves completely to this business (Malvenda). Consider this matter (Tigurinus, English). Put to yourselves counsel upon this matter (Septuagint). Put (understanding, your heart) upon that, or, upon this, matter (Munster, Pagnine, Vatablus, Drusius, Piscator), that is, Weigh it with the utmost diligence. It is a Hebraism (Vatablus). Put, that is, your heart. Which expression is found entire in 1 Samuel 25:25.[4] Here, therefore, two contrary figures concur, namely, ellipsis and pleonasm: Inasmuch as the pronoun, to yourself, is superfluous; but the noun, heart, is wanting (Piscator). He well directed his accusation: for he did not utter his complaint before the Amorites or Jebusites, but before his own people. And it was not to be borne, that the laws with impunity should be violated openly and nefariously (Martyr).

Consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds; let us meet together, and seriously consider, and every one freely speak what is to be done in this case.

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֣א אֶל־בֵּית֗וֹ וַיִּקַּ֤ח אֶת־הַֽמַּאֲכֶ֙לֶת֙ וַיַּחֲזֵ֣ק בְּפִֽילַגְשׁ֔וֹ וַֽיְנַתְּחֶ֙הָ֙ לַעֲצָמֶ֔יהָ לִשְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָׂ֖ר נְתָחִ֑ים וַֽיְשַׁלְּחֶ֔הָ בְּכֹ֖ל גְּב֥וּל יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

[2] Hebrew: וְהָיָ֣ה כָל־הָרֹאֶ֗ה וְאָמַר֙ לֹֽא־נִהְיְתָ֤ה וְלֹֽא־נִרְאֲתָה֙ כָּזֹ֔את לְמִיּ֞וֹם עֲל֤וֹת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם עַ֖ד הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה שִֽׂימוּ־לָכֶ֥ם עָלֶ֖יהָ עֻ֥צוּ וְדַבֵּֽרוּ׃

[3] The demonstrative with a negative connotation.

[4] 1 Samuel 25:25: “Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belialאַל־נָ֣א יָשִׂ֣ים) אֲדֹנִ֣י׀ אֶת־לִבּ֡וֹ אֶל־אִישׁ֩ הַבְּלִיַּ֙עַל הַזֶּ֜ה, let not my lord, I pray thee, put his heart to this man of Beliel), even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send.”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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