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Judges 19:16: The Old Man from Ephraim

Verse 16:[1] And, behold, there came an old man from (Ps. 104:23) his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites.

Of Mount Ephraim; whence also the Levite was, which obliged and inclined him to show the more kindness to his countryman.

[As a sojourner he was dwelling, וְהוּא־גָר[2]] And he was sojourning (Pagnine).

[The men of the region were children of Yemini, בְּנֵ֥י יְמִינִֽי׃] Children of Benjamin (Septuagint, Arabic), or Benjamites (Junius and Tremellius, Syriac, similarly Jonathan), children of Yemini (Munster, Pagnine, Drusius). He that had been called Benjamin, Genesis 35:18,[3] the same is sometimes called Yemini; as in Judges 3:15[4] [see the notes there]; 1 Samuel 9;[5] and elsewhere (Menochius out of Serarius). Others by יְמִינִי, which signifies the right hand, understand the strength of wickedness; that is to say, they were sons of wickedness and evil (Munster). They observe that it was taken in an ill sense for depraved men; as in 1 Samuel 22:7;[6] 2 Samuel 16:11.[7] But this is not necessary (Malvenda). Question: But how are the inhabitants of this city said to be Benjamites, since Gibeah in the tribe of Benjamin was a priestly city, as it is evident from Joshua 21:17[8] and 1 Chronicles 6:60[9] (Bonfrerius)? Response 1: There are those that acknowledge a twofold Gibeah in Benjamin, one in the mountain, the other in the plain, or in the field, as it is called in Judges 20:31 (certain interpreters in Serarius). Response 2: Not so much the city, as the surrounding region, is ascribed to the Benjamites. But this does not fully satisfy. For to the tribe of Benjamin, not to priests, do they send their legates, and against them they make war. Neither were the priests so depraved at that time. I say, therefore, 3. There were not enough priests to fill these cities; nor were they called priestly cities on account of this, as if no one might dwell in them except the priests, otherwise the priests would have been obliged to exercise the mechanical arts there; but because the land was proper to them, from whom, nevertheless, the laics were able to receive or to buy land to build their houses (Bonfrerius).

The men of the place were Benjamites: this was indeed one of thee cities belonging to the priests, Joshua 21; 1 Chronicles 6; but you consider that the cities which were given to the priests, and whereof they were possessors and owners, were not inhabited by the priests or Levites only, especially at this time when they were but few in number, but many other persons of differing professions and callings, which was necessary for their conveniency.

[1] Hebrew: וְהִנֵּ֣ה׀ אִ֣ישׁ זָקֵ֗ן בָּ֣א מִֽן־מַעֲשֵׂ֤הוּ מִן־הַשָּׂדֶה֙ בָּעֶ֔רֶב וְהָאִישׁ֙ מֵהַ֣ר אֶפְרַ֔יִם וְהוּא־גָ֖ר בַּגִּבְעָ֑ה וְאַנְשֵׁ֥י הַמָּק֖וֹם בְּנֵ֥י יְמִינִֽי׃

[2] גָר is the present, active participle.

[3] Genesis 35:18: “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin (בִנְיָמִין).”

[4] Judges 3:15b: “…Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite (בֶּן־הַיְמִינִי)…”

[5] 1 Samuel 9:1: “Now there was a man of Benjamin (מִבִּן־יָמִין), whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite (בֶּן־אִ֣ישׁ יְמִינִ֑י), a mighty man of power.” 1 Samuel 9:4b: “…and he passed through the land of the Benjamites (בְּאֶרֶץ־יְמִינִי), but they found them not.”

[6] 1 Samuel 22:7: “Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites (בְּנֵ֣י יְמִינִ֑י); will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds…”

[7] 2 Samuel 16:11: “And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite (בֶּן־הַיְמִינִי) do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.”

[8] Joshua 21:17: “And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba (גֶּבַע) with her suburbs…”

[9] 1 Chronicles 6:60: “And out of the tribe of Benjamin; Geba (גֶּבַע) with her suburbs, and Alemeth with her suburbs, and Anathoth with her suburbs. All their cities throughout their families were thirteen cities.”

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
21 apr 2019

Matthew Henry: 'Though there as not one of Gibeah, yet it proved there was one in Gibeah, that showed some civility to this distressed Levite, who was glad that any one took notice of him. It was strange that some of those wicked people, who, when it was dark, designed so ill to him and his concubine, did not, under pretence of kindness, invite them in, that they might have a fairer opportunity of perpetrating their villany; but either they had not wit enough to be so designing, or not wickedness enough to be so deceiving. Or, perhaps, none of them separately thought of such a wickedness, till in the black and dark night they got together to contrive wha…

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
21 apr 2019

Hebrew Highlights: Why all the variety in the way that Benjamites are referred to? Is it significant?

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