We meet another new character in the saga of the judges. This one is not a judge but a Levite. His story is SHOCKING! But it starts out unassuming today.
It seems like the phrase “In those days, when there was no king in Israel” (verse 1a) or anything near those words is a clear indication that something BAD is about to happen. We saw this phrase in the story of Micah, the story of Dan and now today’s story. We will see it one more time before we close out the book of Judges. It is an ominous statement. It signifies that there was no law the people followed. The people did what was right in their own eyes.
I have news for the people who ‘did what was right in their own eyes.’ GOD had given them a set of rules and standards. Saying it was ok because there was no king didn’t absolve them of any guilt. God was their King, even if they chose to ignore that fact.
On to our story. I was looking up the difference between a wife and a concubine. I know Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable source but it gave the most succinct answer. “Wives brought a dowry to the relationship but concubines did not.” This makes sense as other websites I found relate a concubine status to those in need of money or as slaves.
The dowry was the finances the bride brought from her family into the relationship to help get it off to a good start. It was also protection for the wife if she were widowed or divorced early on. Concubines don’t bring monetary resources to the marriage.
The groom is still require to pay the bride price for concubines. This can be the price the father sells his daughter for or the price of the slave. Both wives and concubines adhere to this portion of the marriage contract.
In our story the Levite we meet has a concubine. She functions the same as a wife, in regard to sexual relations. She is to be faithful to her husband and NOT have relations with any other man. The concubine in our story failed in that requirement. The Levite thus had every right to divorce her send her away. In a concubine relationship, there isn’t necessarily a marriage ceremony so divorce isn’t always a requirement either.
Our Levite sent her to her father’s home as consequences for her behavior. But he changed his mind later and wanted her back. It took her being gone for four months before our Levite came to get her. I wonder what he was missing about having her around that prompted his desire to have her back. Was there any communication between them during this four months? Did the Levite check up on her? How did he know that her father hadn’t sold her to someone else? Was that a possibility?
The Levite apparently wasn’t poor because when he came down to get her he had servants and donkeys. The girl’s father was VERY happy to see him. The father pressed the Levite to stay with them for the full hospitality period. This seems to be the traditional period that a polite guest should stay with family or friends. It didn’t overtax the host nor did it imply rudeness on the part of the guest by leaving too soon.
Even after the required three days, our host doesn’t want his guests and his daughter to leave. He keeps finding excuses to keep them there longer. I wonder why he wanted a longer visit. Was he trying to keep his daughter near him? Did he miss her company when she was away? Was he ‘made richer’ by the visit, maybe by using the provisions the Levite had brought with him? Was he simply lonely? We don’t know but our host was able to delay his guest’s departure by two more days. Who knows how much longer he would have tried for if our guest hadn’t refused one more night of hospitality.
Our Levite and his band got a late start on their journey home, due to the reluctance of the father to let them go. They would have made much more distance on their journey that first day if they had been able to leave when they intended to. They hadn’t made it very far at all because their whole day had been spent satisfying their host.
Night is approaching and it isn’t safe to remain on the road. One of the servants suggests the closest place as an option; Jerusalem. This is long before David conquers it and makes it the capitol city of Israel. It was under the rule of the Jebusites. Our Levite didn’t want to trust their safety to those who weren’t Hebrews. He held out for a city of his own people. “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah” (verse 12).
The hospitality of the city he chose was sorely lacking! Hospitality was commanded of the Hebrews but no one offered them any as they made their way to the center of the city. I don’t know if it was because it was already late and people were in their homes for the night or they were inhospitable people. Our would be guests had plenty enough supplies to care for their own needs. They wouldn’t have been a burden on anyone. Yet no one invited them in.
One man was willing to help out. He offered them all the amenities of a good host. And they were actually enjoying their visit. Unfortunately that was not the end of the story.
So what can we learn from our characters so far. First of all, I see a forgiving man. Our Levite separated himself from his concubine but was eventually able to move beyond her betrayal. He went after her. Next we see that same man exercising patience. His father-in-law was able to convince him to stay two and a half extra days before our Levite finally said ‘no’ and headed home. Third, we see our Levite believing the best of his own people. He waited in the square with patience and without anger until his faith in his fellow Hebrews was confirmed. Finally, we see that our Levite was more than willing to give of what he had. He made sure his host knew he wouldn’t be a burden to him but had brought enough provisions for his own care. I believe he shared these freely with his host.
Overall, I have to say that I like our Levite. I’m glad his story shows us a good man to follow along. I only wish the rest of the story was so rosy, but we will get into that the next time. A good man in a bad time.
That’s what I want to be known as. A good woman in a troubled time. Our world is in trouble right now but that doesn’t mean we have to behave badly. In fact, we are called to be a light in the darkness. How will the world know there is hope unless we shine that light?
Father God, help me shine Your light in the world. I don’t have a huge influence like others do but I want to do what I can to encourage kindness. Show me ways to share Your love in this turbulent time. I have no way of stopping all that is going on now but I can at the very least not contribute to it. Open my heart to those who are hurting and give me wisdom in how to help/approach them.