A Levite and his slave wife
1 At that time, Israel had no king to rule over them. There was a Levite who was living in the hill country of Ephraim, far away from any towns. He took a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his slave wife. 2 But she became angry with him. She left him and she returned to her father's house in Bethlehem. After she had been there four months, 3 her husband went to find her. He wanted to ask her to return home with him. He took his servant and two donkeys with him. When he arrived, she took him into her father's house. Her father was happy to see him. 4 He asked the Levite to stay there with them, and he stayed for three days. They ate food and they drank wine together. The Levite slept there.
5 On the fourth day they got up early. The Levite was ready to leave with his wife. But the woman's father said to the Levite, ‘Eat some food so that you are strong for your journey. Then you may go.’ 6 So the two men sat down and they ate a meal together. Then the woman's father said to the Levite, ‘Stay here one more night. Then we can continue to be happy together.’ 7 The Levite got up to go, but his wife's father made him stay. 8 The Levite got up early in the morning of the fifth day. He was ready to leave. But the woman's father said, ‘Make yourself strong with some food. Wait until this afternoon and then you can go.’ So the two of them ate a meal together.
9 The Levite prepared to leave with his wife and his male servant. Then her father said, ‘Look! It is nearly evening already. Sleep here tonight. The day is almost over. Stay one more night and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can leave on your journey to go home.’ 10 But the Levite did not want to stay there for another night. So he left with his two donkeys and his wife. They travelled as far as Jebus, which is now called Jerusalem.
11 When they arrived near to Jebus, it was getting dark. The servant said to his master, ‘Let us stay in this city of the Jebusites. We can sleep here for the night.’
12 The Levite replied, ‘No, we should not stay in a foreign city. The people who live here are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.’ 13 He said to his servant, ‘Let us try to reach Gibeah or Ramah. Then we can stay in one of those places for the night.’
14 So they continued on their journey. It was sunset when they came near to Gibeah, in Benjamin's land. 15 They decided to stay there for the night. They went into the city. They sat down in the public place in the middle of the city. But no one took them in to their home to sleep for the night.
16 That evening, there was an old man who was returning home from his work in the fields. He was from the hill country of Ephraim but he was living in Gibeah at that time. 17 He saw the Levite traveller in the public place. He asked, ‘Where are you travelling to? Where have you come from?’
18 The Levite answered, ‘We are travelling from Bethlehem in Judah to the hill country of Ephraim, far from other towns. That is where I live. I needed to go to Bethlehem and now I am returning home. But no one has taken me into his house to sleep. 19 We have straw and food for our donkeys. We have food and wine for myself, my wife and my servant. We have everything that we need.’ 20 The old man said, ‘Do not worry. I will take care of you. Please come into my house, but do not stay for the night in this public place.’
19:18‘home’ or ‘to the Lord's house’
21 So the old man took the Levite into his house, and he fed the donkeys. When they had washed their feet, they ate a meal.
22 They were enjoying their time together. Suddenly, some wicked men who lived in the city came to the house. They stood all around it and they hit the door hard. They shouted to the old man who lived there, ‘Bring out the man who came to visit you. We want to have sex with him.’
23 The old man went outside to them. He said to them, ‘Friends, do not try to do this very evil thing! This man is a visitor in my house. Do not do such a wicked thing. 24 Look! Here is my daughter. She has never had sex with anyone before. Here is my visitor's slave wife too. I will bring them outside to you. Then you can do whatever cruel things you want to do to them. But do not do such a terrible thing to this man.’
25 But the men would not agree to this. So the Levite took hold of his slave wife and he pushed her outside. They made her have sex with them all night and they were very cruel to her. At dawn, they let her go. 26 She went back to the house where her master was staying. She fell down at the door and she lay there until it became light.
27 When her master got up in the morning, he opened the door. He was ready to continue his journey. He saw the woman who was his wife lying on the ground outside the door. She was trying to reach the door with her hands.
28 He said to her, ‘Get up. It is time to go!’ But she did not answer. Then he put her on his donkey and he started on his way home.
29 When he arrived home, he picked up a knife. He cut his slave wife's body into 12 pieces. Then he sent them to each of Israel's 12 tribes. 30 Everyone who saw what he had done said, ‘In all the time since the Israelites left Egypt, nothing as bad as this has ever happened before. We have never seen anything like it. Think carefully about it. We must decide what to do!’