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Today’s Reading

Devotional

Judges 19; Acts 23; Jeremiah 33; Psalms 3-4

BY THE TIME WE REACH Judges 19, the law of the jungle has triumphed in the fledging nation of Israel.

The Levite introduced to us at this point takes on a concubine. (Levites were supposed to marry only virgins; see Lev. 21:7, 13-15.) She sleeps around and moves out, returning to her father’s home. In due course the Levite wants her back, so he travels to Bethlehem and finds her. Owing to a late start on the return trip, they can’t make the journey home in one day. Owing to a late start on the return trip, they can’t make the journey home in one day. Preferring not to stop in one of the Canaanite towns, they press on to Gibeah, a Benjamite settlement. A local homeowner warns the Levite and his concubine not to stay in the town square overnight — it is far too dangerous. And he takes them in.

During the night, a mob of lusty hooligans want the homeowner to send out the Levite so they can sodomize him. That is stunning. In the first place, by the social standards of the ancient Near East, it was unthinkable not to show hospitality — and they want to gang rape a visitor. And as the account progresses, it is very clear that they will happily rape males or females — they don’t really care.

But perhaps the ugliest moment in the narrative occurs when the homeowner, remembering the rules of hospitality and doubtless frightened for himself as well, offers them his daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The account is crisp and brief, but it does not take much imagination to conjure up their terror — two women not defended by their men but abandoned and betrayed by them and offered to a howling mob insists that even that isn’t enough, so the Levite shoves his concubine out the door, alone. So began her last night on earth in a small town belonging to the people of God.

The morning dawns to find the Levite ordering this woman to get up; it’s time to go. Only then does he discover she is dead. He hauls her corpse back home, cuts her up into twelve pieces, and sends one piece to each part of Israel, saying, in effect: When does the violence stop? At what point do we put our collective foot down and reverse these horrible trends?

“In those days Israel had no king” (Judg. 19:1).

Yet what about his own profound complicity and cowardice? The sheer horror of the dismembered body parts was bound to stir up a reaction, but by this time it could not be the righteous reaction of biblically thoughtful and restrained people. Only the naive could imagine that the outcome would be anything other than a descent into a maelstrom of evil and violence.

Judges 19

A Levite and His Concubine

19:1 In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. And his concubine was unfaithful to1 him, and she went away from him to her father's house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father's house. And when the girl's father saw him, he came with joy to meet him. And his father-in-law, the girl's father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there. And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl's father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.” So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl's father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.” And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again. And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl's father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them. And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl's father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”

10 But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12 And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” 13 And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” 14 So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, 15 and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.

16 And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. 17 And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?” 18 And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the LORD,2 but no one has taken me into his house. 19 We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.” 20 And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.” 21 So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.

Gibeah's Crime

22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light.

27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

Footnotes

[1] 19:2 Septuagint, Old Latin became angry with
[2] 19:18 Septuagint my home; compare verse 29

(ESV)

Acts 23

23:1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God's high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

A Plot to Kill Paul

12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

16 Now the son of Paul's sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”

Paul Sent to Felix the Governor

23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night.1 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:

26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”

31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod's praetorium.

Footnotes

[1] 23:23 That is, 9 p.m.

(ESV)

Jeremiah 33

The Lord Promises Peace

33:1 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the LORD who made the earth,1 the LORD who formed it to establish it—the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them2 with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. And this city3 shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

10 “Thus says the LORD: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again 11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD:

  “‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts,
    for the LORD is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!’

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.

12 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. 13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the LORD.

The Lord's Eternal Covenant with David

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

17 “For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”

19 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 20 “Thus says the LORD: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, 21 then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.”

23 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 24 “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The LORD has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, 26 then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”

Footnotes

[1] 33:2 Septuagint; Hebrew it
[2] 33:5 That is, the torn-down houses
[3] 33:9 Hebrew And it

(ESV)

Psalms 3-4

Save Me, O My God

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

3:1   O LORD, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
  many are saying of my soul,
    “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah1
  But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
  I cried aloud to the LORD,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
  I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
  I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.
  Arise, O LORD!
    Save me, O my God!
  For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.
  Salvation belongs to the LORD;
    your blessing be on your people! Selah

Answer Me When I Call

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

4:1   Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
    You have given me relief when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
  O men,2 how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
    How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
  But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
    the LORD hears when I call to him.
  Be angry,3 and do not sin;
    ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
  Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the LORD.
  There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
    Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
  You have put more joy in my heart
    than they have when their grain and wine abound.
  In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Footnotes

[1] 3:2 The meaning of the Hebrew word Selah, used frequently in the Psalms, is uncertain. It may be a musical or liturgical direction
[2] 4:2 Or O men of rank
[3] 4:4 Or Be agitated

(ESV)