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Judges 19:23, 24: An Illicit Offer

Verse 23:[1] And (Gen. 19:6, 7) the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, (2 Sam. 13:12) do not this folly.

This man is come into mine house, and therefore I am obliged to protect him by the laws of hospitality. Compare Genesis 19:7, 8.

Verse 24:[2] (Gen. 19:8) Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and (Gen. 34:2; Deut. 21:14) humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing (Heb. the matter of this folly[3]).

[I will them them out, אוֹתָם] In the place of אוֹתָן/them;[4] an Enallage of gender[5] (Drusius). Thus afterwards, לָהֶם, to/with them, in the place of לָהֶן, to/ with them. In expressions of this sort, regard is had, not to the word, but to the sense. The reason for this anomaly here is dependent upon that most shameful intention of the Benjamites. There is a similar Enallage in Judges 21:22, when come אֲבוֹתָם, the fathers of them (namely, of the virgins at Shiloh), or אֲחֵיהֶם, the brothers of them…we will say, For us be favorable to אוֹתָם/them (Glassius’ “Grammar”). Contrariwise, in Ruth לָהֶן is in the place of לָהֶם/them[6] (Drusius).

[So that ye might humble them, וְעַנּ֣וּ אוֹתָ֔ם[7]] And afflict ye them (Pagnine), humiliate (Tigurinus, Munster), press (Drusius). It properly signifies the pressing that is done by force (Drusius). Question: Whether that old man was sinning in offering his daughter, and the Levite in offering his wife? Response 1: It is the common opinion that they did not sin, says Menochius [namely, among the Papists: although that is not true, as the following things show]. Because he offered these woman so that they might avoid the greater and filthier sin; which is lawful (Tirinus out of Lapide). To one desiring to commit a greater sin, for example, adultery, it is permitted to urge a lesser, for example, fornication with a prostitute: for this evil is not recommended absolutely, but under this condition, If you overwhelmingly desire to commit a greater sin, commit rather this lesser (Lapide). Yet it had not been lawful for them, if the wife or daughter had not consented thus to be delivered over (Tirinus, similarly Lapide). A most unexceptionable reason appears for excusing them, from ignorance, which is probable out of verse 16 to have been in that old man, and perhaps in that young Levite. Otherwise, by no right were they able to expose those women, of whom the men of Gibeah were not thinking, to their lust, even if they did it for that purpose, that the greater sin might be avoided. Perhaps from the deed of Lot[8] they both received occasion for this error (Menochius). Finally, perturbation and inconsideration of the mind greatly mitigates their error (Lapide). Response 2: Others think that they sinned (thus Tostatus, Estius, Martyr). For, for no reason ought we to offend God. In the next place, the old man was doing this to avoid either the sin or the punishment of the Levite. But for these things the old man was not obliged to sin. Not to avoid the sin of the Levite: for the old man ought rather to have suffered the Levite to sin, than that he himself should sin, since he ought rather to love his own soul than that of another. And that the Levite might be known was involuntary, and a penal disgrace. Neither was it lawful in order to avoid the punishment of the Levite, because the least sin is worse than all punishment, even infernal punishment. Now, what they say, that the least of evils ought to be chosen, has a place in the case of temporal evils, not in the case of sins, in which such weighing of factors is not acceptable (Tostatus). In external afflictions the lesser loss is to be preferred to the greater, since it has regard to the good: But in sin there is no regard for the good. And certainly whatever is sin, it is right that it be rejected on the spot, follow what may: For the care of that is to be committed to God. No one is to be led up to heaven through a lie, says Augustine. To commit a lesser sin in order to avoid a more grievous one is to offer sacrifices from wickedness to God, says Gregory the Great[9] (Martyr). The Apostle teaches that evils are not to be committed so that bood things might come[10] (Estius, Martyr): and much less ought lesser evils to be done so that greater evils might be avoided. These men are not able to be excused, as if they permitted a lesser sin in order to hinder a greater, because they even cooperated in bringing forth woman for illicit intercourse, women who likely were not otherwise going to sin (Estius). Neither was that old man less obliged to fidelity and guardianship in their case, than in the case of the Levite, his guest. For a father does not have a daughter in his power, so that he might expose her to the lust of others: Neither ought a daughter, if her father should command, to obey in sinful acts (Martyr). They are scarcely excused from sin, unless ignorance, or inadvertency arising from perturbation, or persuasion that others are not going to make use of the offered condition, should remove, or at least extenuate, the shamefulness of the matter (Bonfrerius).

Here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine, etc.: He offers this to avoid a greater and more unnatural sin, which he thought they designed; but it seems they did not, their abuse being confined to the woman, and not extended to the man, who also was in their power, if they had lusted after him. But this offer was sinful, because he offered that which was not in his nor in the man’s power to dispose of, even the chastity of his daughter, and the man’s wife; and because no man must do any evil, though never so small, for the prevention of any evil of sin or misery, or for the procuring of the greatest good, Romans 3:8; though his sin was much mitigated by his ignorance, by his honest and generous intention of protecting a stranger, by the force which was in some sort put upon him, and by the suddenness and violence of the temptation.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֲלֵיהֶ֗ם הָאִישׁ֙ בַּ֣עַל הַבַּ֔יִת וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֔ם אַל־אַחַ֖י אַל־תָּרֵ֣עוּ נָ֑א אַ֠חֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֞א הָאִ֤ישׁ הַזֶּה֙ אַל־בֵּיתִ֔י אַֽל־תַּעֲשׂ֖וּ אֶת־הַנְּבָלָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃

[2] Hebrew: הִנֵּה֩ בִתִּ֙י הַבְּתוּלָ֜ה וּפִֽילַגְשֵׁ֗הוּ אוֹצִֽיאָה־נָּ֤א אוֹתָם֙ וְעַנּ֣וּ אוֹתָ֔ם וַעֲשׂ֣וּ לָהֶ֔ם הַטּ֖וֹב בְּעֵינֵיכֶ֑ם וְלָאִ֤ישׁ הַזֶּה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ דְּבַ֖ר הַנְּבָלָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃

[3] Hebrew: דְּבַ֖ר הַנְּבָלָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃.

[4] In the feminine gender.

[5] The ם is associated with the masculine; the ן, the feminine.

[6] Ruth 1:9: “The Lord grant you (לָכֶם, masculine) that ye may find rest (וּמְצֶאןָ, feminine), each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them (לָהֶן, feminine); and they lifted up their voice, and wept.”

[7] עָנָה in the Piel signifies to humble, to afflict, or to mishandle.

[8] Genesis 19:8.

[9] Gregory the Great (c. 550-604) was elected Pope in 590. He was a monk, scholar, prolific author, and, having been made pope, instrumental in reinvigorating the missionary work of the Church.

[10] Romans 3:8.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Matthew Henry: 'Let us see what the wickedness of these Benjamites was....

They had a particular spite at the strangers that were within their gates, that only desired a night's lodging among them, contrary to the laws of hospitality, which all civilized nations have accounted sacred, and which the master of the house pleaded with them (Judges 19:23): Seeing that this man has come into my house. Those are base and abject spirits indeed that will trample upon the helpless, and use a man the worse for his being a stranger, whom they know no ill of....

They designed in the most filthy and abominable manner (not to be thought of without horror and detestation) to abuse the Levite, whom…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Hebrew Highlights: Note the enallage of number in verse 24.

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