Sefer Shoftim-Chapter 19: Pilegesh Begivah-The rape and death of a concubine

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Chapter 19: Pilegesh Begivah-The rape and death of a concubine

1. A Levite man attempts to retrieve his concubine who left him:

  • In those days there was no king amongst Israel.
  • Taking the concubine: A Levite man who lived in the end of the border of the land of Efraim took for himself a concubine from the city of Beis Lechem Yehuda.
  • The concubine leaves him: [After a quarrel over an incident[1] or commitment of adultery[2]] the concubine left him and returned to her father’s home, to Beis Lechem yehuda, and she remained there for four months.
  • The man travels to retrieve her: The man got up and traveled to her to attempt to persuade her to return to him. He had with him a lad, and a group of donkeys.

2. The man arrives and remains several days with her family:

  • The man arrives and is warmly greeted: The man was welcomed to her father’s home, and upon the father of the concubine seeing him, he rejoiced in his coming. The father in-law pressed upon him to remain there for three days, which they used for feasting and merry making. They slept in that home.
  • The man attempts to return home on the fourth day: On the fourth day, they woke up early with intent to travel, although the father of the concubine once again pressed upon his son in-law to remain to eat a meal and then leave. So, the two ate together, and drank. The father in-law then told his son in-law to sleep the night and enjoy the stay. The son in-law got up to leave and his father in-law implored him to the point that he agreed to remain the night.
  • The man leaves on the fifth day: On the fifth day, they woke up early with intent to travel, although the father of the concubine once again pressed upon his son in-law to remain to eat a meal and then leave towards the afternoon. So, the two ate together. The son in-law, his Pilegesh and lad, got up to leave and his father in-law again asked him to remain the night saying that it is almost nighttime already [and it is not good to begin travel]. He offered them to sleep the night there and enjoy their stay, and the next morning to get up and go on their journey home. The man however refused the request to sleep there again for the night, and he thus began his travels.

3. The man and his concubine become stranded for the night in the land of Binyamin:

  • Finding a place to sleep the night: He arrived close to dark to a Yevusi town, named Yerushalayim, together with his concubine and line of camels, laden [with food, and luggage full of merchandise[3]]. The lad said to his master that they should enter the Yevusi town and sleep there. However, the man replied that they will not sleep in a gentile village and they thus continued traveling until Givah Binyamin.
  • Arriving in Givas Binyamin: The master told his lad that they should travel to one of the places and sleep in the Givah or Rama. So, they traveled until sunset towards the Givah which was in the lands of Binyamin, with plans to sleep there. They arrived to the streets of the city but no one would invite them to their home for them to spend the night.

4. A man of Efraim invites them to spend the night:

  • Arrives from work: In the evening, an elderly man originally from the mountains of Efraim arrived from his work in the field to his home, which was in the Givah. The people of the Givah were from the tribe of Benjamin.
  • The meeting: The man raised his eyes and saw the traveler in the streets of the city, not knowing where to stay. He asked him: Where are you going and from where do you come? He replied: We have come from Beis Lechem Yehuda, and need to reach the border of the mountains of Efraim, which is from where I am from. On the way we will stop by the house of G-d [i.e. Shiloh[4], to offer sacrifices[5]]. However, no one has invited me to stay in their home. We have enough straw and fodder for our donkeys, and have enough of our own bread and wine for myself, my woman and the lad. We lack nothing [but a place to sleep].
  • The invitation: The elderly man replied: Peace onto you, whatever you need is upon me, and please do not sleep in the streets. So, he brought them into his home, and prepared the food for the donkeys. They washed their feet and ate and drank.

5. A gang of Benjamites demand to rape the guests and rape the concubine:

  • The demand: While they were eating and drinking and making merry to their hearts content, members of the city, who were thugs and ruthless men, surrounded the home and banged on the door demanding from the elderly man that he hand them over the guest that he took in. They desired to rape the man [i.e. have homosexual relations with him[6], and then murder him[7]].
  • The negotiations: The elderly man came out and replied to the gang: My brothers, please do not harm my guest, and do not perform this atrocity. I will hand you my virgin daughter, and his concubine in his stead, and you can oppress them [i.e. rape] and do to them as you see fit, however, to this man do not do this great abomination. The gang however did not wish to agree to the offer.
  • The rape: The man who was the guest [in an attempt to save himself[8]] proceeded to forcibly take his concubine outside [and when they saw her beauty, they became satisfied with oppressing her alone[9]]. So, they raped her and sexually oppressed her [i.e. anal intercourse[10]] throughout the night, until morning. When daybreak arrived, they sent her back home.

6. The concubine dies as a result of the rape and her body parts are sent to all Israel:

  • She collapses in exhaustion: The woman arrived towards the morning to the home of her host, and she fell in exhaustion [from all the sexual intercourse[11]] by the door of the home, and remained there until the full morning arrived.
  • She is discovered dead: Her husband woke up in the morning ready to travel and behold upon opening the door of the home he saw his concubine lying in a fallen position by the threshold of the door, with her hand by its edge. He told her to get up as they are traveling, however there was no reply [as she was dead[12], from the injuries that she incurred in the violent sexual rape, or from the cold she experienced after the exhaustive rape[13]].
  • She is dismembered and her body parts are sent to all Israel: The man took her on his donkey, and he returned to his home. Upon arriving home, he took his knife and held on tight to his concubine while dismembering her limbs into twelve quarters. He sent them to all the states in Israel.

7. The reaction to the death:

  • When the people saw the dismembered parts of her body they bemoaned saying: Since we left Egypt, we have never seen something so evil of this caliber. We must gather together and advise what to do.


[1] See Gittin 6b

[2] See Ramban Al Hatorah Parshas Vayeira who learns she committed adultery

[3] See Radak 19:10; Malbim ibid

[4] Rashi 19:18

[5] Metzudos David 19:18

[6] Rashi 19:22

[7] See Radak 19:22

[8] Metzudos David 19:25

[9] Radak and Metzudos David 19:25

[10] Malbim 19:25

[11] Metzudos David 19:26

[12] Rashi 19:28

[13] See Ramban Vayeira 19:8

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