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It is the not yielding to him the supreme love and homage of our hearts. It is the love of something else in the place of God.
My young friend, has nothing usurped the place of God in your affections? Have you no idol, which, if you do not bow the knee before it, and offer it your prayers, you still make the object of your supreme regard ?
Treatment of the Levites' concubine at Gibeah. Determi.
nation of the Israelites to redress his wrongs.
Some other events which occurred about this time, and before the Judges began to exercise their authority, serve to cast additional light upon the state of society among the Israelites, and to show that immorality and crime, as well as idolatrous practices, were making rapid progress in the nation. We shall see in them, also, a striking illustration of what enormities will take place when men are left to act without the salutary restraints of government, both divine and human.
These events, it is true, are of the most odious and appalling kind. But God himself has made the recital of them, in the revelation of his will, a part of the instructions which he designs for our benefit; and with his fear before us, and invoking his Spirit to dispose our minds to suitable thoughts and feelings, we will proceed in the narrative.
There was a Levite, residing at Mount Ephraim, who had a wife of the second rank, (called in the Scriptures a concubine,) from Beth-lehem-judah. Her conduct was wholly inconsistent with the duty which she owed her husband, and of the most licentious kind. She.soon left his house, and went to that of her father, perhaps ashamed of the course that she had pursued, and intending to reform. This would seem to be the case, from the fact that, four months afterwards, her husband went to Beth-lehem-judah, to persuade her, in the kindest manner, to return, which she consented to do.
Her father was greatly rejoiced at the reconciliation, and it was not until the fifth day that the Levite and his wife could withdraw from his hospitality, and commence their homeward journey. He pressed his claims for their continuance at his house with so much urgency from day to day, that they had, at length, to force themselves away, and the evening was drawing nigh as they left his door.
When they reached Jebus, (afterwards called Jerusalem,) the servant who attended the Levite, and took care of the asses, advised his master to tarry there. But he declined, as the city was not under the control of the Israelites; the Jebusites still retaining the strong-hold of Zion, from which they were not entirely dislodged till the time of David. So they passed on six miles further, till they came to Gibeah, in the tribe of Benjamin, and entered the city about sunset.
Among the other bad traits of character which marked the place, was its want of kindness to strangers. This was indicative of the degeneracy of manners there, in a striking degree,-hospitality to such being then, as it is still in many eastern countries, generally regarded as a most sacred duty.
The Levite sat down in one of the streets; but among the numbers who passed him, no one offered him even a lodging for the night. At length, an old man, himself also of Mount Ephraim, who was returning from his work in the fields, seeing a stranger thus without a friend, stopped and kindly made inquiry of him about the course of his journey.
The Levite, after answering the inquiry, observed that no one had extended towards him the least hospitality, although he needed nothing but a shelter, having abundant supplies with him,
both for himself, his companions, and their beasts.
"Peace be with thee,” said the old man, and invited him to his house, where he provided water to wash the feet of his guests, and furnished them with all that was necessary for their comfort, and also provender for the asses. His generosity would not suffer them to encroach upon their own stores, of which he knew they would stand in need in the further prosecution of their journey.
While refreshing themselves with the bounty of their host, his house was beset by a rabble of vile, abandoned fellows, who, beating at the door, demanded of the old man that the stranger whom he was entertaining should be delivered up them. Fearing their fury, the Levite, in a manner wholly without excuse, and wicked in the highest degree, (after some fruitless attempts to satisfy them on the part of his host,) brought out his wife to them, thus meanly and shamefully screening himself from their violence.
The poor woman received from these sons of Belial the most gross and abominable abuse, to prevent which all her resistance was in vain. The morning light beheld her a corpse at the door of the house which furnished security to her husband, and whither she had but just been able to drag herself, that she might lie down
there and die. He arose in the morning to depart, when the first object that met his eyes was the body of his wife. "Up," said he, in the coarsest and most hard-hearted manner, not knowing that she was dead, "and let us be going." He soon perceived the appalling reality, and placing her lifeless remains on one of the beasts, pursued his journey.
Indignant at what had happened, the desire of revenge burned within his breast. His plan of procedure was soon formed,—a horrible one indeed, but adapted to produce among his countrymen a tremendous effect, and which shows the means which the spirit of the times could dictate, to rouse terribly to action the vindictive pas. sions of men.
On his arrival at home, the Levite divided the body of his wife into twelve parts, sending one to each of the tribes, and with it, doubtless, a circumstantial account of the treatment which she had received from the Gibeahites. There was no supreme magistrate to whom he could appeal for redress; and he resolved to enlist the indignant feelings of the whole nation in his behalf, imprecating upon them, as it were, by the course which he took, the vengeance of the Almighty in some similar, horrible form, if they did not inflict the severest punishment upon those who had committed the outrage.