Judges 19 will serve as a pretext to this discussion. Here is a link so that you can review the passage, if need be. http://biblehub.com/niv/judges/19.htm
You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:21
Our weary traveler and his company find themselves in the city square.. They have bypassed Jebus arrive at Gibeah, a town inhabited by Benjamites. As a Levite, our traveler is well studied in the Torah. He is aware that the Lord has commanded over and over that the Israelites are to be kind to strangers. Yet he finds himself in the middle of town and no one will take them in for the night.
An old man sees this, and though the traveler and his company had enough to care for their own needs, the old man insists that he would provide for them. The only thing the old man knows about the traveler is that he was from Ephraim and he claims to be on his way to the house of the Lord.
Surely, this man is a shining example of being neighborly, but I most certainly want to issue a word of caution. While it is important to be kind to the stranger, our first duties are to our families. It is no longer safe to entertain strangers in your home…especially, if like this old man, you have innocent children. We must protect our children at all costs, and sometimes, that means casting the stranger (and/or family and friends) aside.
Secondly, just because someone says they are on their way to the house of the Lord, doesn’t mean they will not cause you harm. There are those who prey on the faithful. Please know that everyone in the church (local) is not of the Church (Universal).
That being said, the old man takes in this stranger and his company. He provides for them and they are actually enjoying each other’s company when there is a disturbance at the door. Certain perverted men of Gibeah are demanding that the stranger be brought out to them so they may abuse him.
Here’s where the passage gets difficult for me. Obviously, the greatest crime here is the abuse and murder of this woman. But there are also a few other sinful elements that cannot be ignored. (If you’re looking for hate-mongering and homophobia, feel free to look elsewhere. I assure you, you will not find it here!)
In my mind, the men of Gibeah are guilty, first, of neglect. The men of Gibeah were not ignorant of this man’s circumstances. They passed by him in the square. They saw that his feet were dusty, that his concubine and servant were lagging behind him. They saw that he had no place to go. But worse even than seeing, and not acting is watching! They watched him, perhaps from the comfort of their own homes, as he settled in for the night in an open square. How do I know they watched him? How else would they have known where they ended up lodging for the night?
What a shame it is to see a person in need! What a sin it is to watch while your brother falls!
Speaking of watching, I have a feeling this is not the first time the perverted men of Gibeah preyed on a stranger. I sense that the reason the old man invited the stranger to his home was to protect him from the band of marauders, who wound up knocking at his door. The old man calls them brethren, implying that he knew who they were. If this is the case, then the whole town of Gibeah is guilty. Their silence, their refusal to banish such men from their midst, makes them complicit in their crimes.
Today, we call it a “No snitch” policy. We should call it what it is…being an accessory to the crime.
Next, let’s deal with the men at the door. Rape is as much about power, as it is about sex. These men have come to make the stranger subject to themselves. Despite his position as a Levite, the men of Gibeah want him to feel powerless in their presence. The man came to town with a concubine, a servant, and provisions for his entire company. Yet they want him to leave feeling as if he were an object. He is to leave knowing that he is beneath them. This is a cold-blooded crime, the effects of which could have had a lasting impact on the victim.
The people of Gibeah teach us that there are personal sins and community sins. They also teach us that the consequences of sin can be communal. In this case, the nation of Israel went to war against Gibeah, and nearly destroyed the entire tribe of Benjamin. The actions of a few men cost many men their lives.
Let us then be mindful that the danger we have come to expect from strangers may very well come from people within our own tribe. Let us also acknowledge that our personal sins may impact people we’ve never even met. Finally, let us remember to show mercy to the stranger, because we each desire mercy for ourselves.