Shades of Sodom!
There are a number of correspondences between the story of Judges 19 (which begins the final narrative of the book) and the Sodom story of Genesis. It may well be the most atrocious story up to its time in the Old Testament narrative.
A Levite took a concubine. Not a wife mind you, but a concubine. They had a falling out. Some versions say she was unfaithful to him, others that she was simply angry with him (perhaps because he wouldn’t marry her?), but in any case, she went back home to Bethlehem. Theses details are sordid enough for God’s people, but it gets worse.
After a four month interval, the Levite went to coax her to return. On the way back, beginning late in the day, they’d made the four mile trek to Jerusalem. The Levite’s servant, perhaps fearful of bandits or wild animals, wanted to stay the night there, but the Levite did not think it safe to stay among the pagans. He preferred to travel another four miles to Gibeah. Arriving in the late afternoon. Normally, the conventions of hospitality decreed that someone offer him protection for the night. It wasn’t like it was going to cost anyone anything. The Levite traveled with plenty of money and provisions (2 laden donkeys). The Benjaminites offered no hospitality. An elderly Ephraimite did offer hospitality, but late that evening, sordid men of Gibeah stormed his house looking to have sex with the Levite. The Levite threw them his concubine and they abused her all night. The next morning, he found her at the doorway. As if nothing had happened, he told her to get up and go. She, however, was dead.
The Levite, incensed, took her body home and cut it up into twelve pieces, sending it to all parts of Israel with his story.
As I said, this story begins the final narrative, but you can’t read it without saying “yuck!” The thing is, the story is dated at the same period as the beginning of Judges – the days of Phinehas, grandson of Aaron (compare Joshua 24:33 and Judges 20:28). So, what’s the point? The point is that the entire story of the judges takes place in the framework of a culture among God’s people, even the Levites, that is corrupt to its core. Something must be done. A king is needed to bring order and revival.
Or is he?
If Judges was written at the same time as Samuel and Kings, the point is that while the people may think their spiritual problems can be solved with better earthly leadership, the testimony of history is that they cannot. Only when the people of God submit to the will of God and make Him their king can their lives be changed and their problems solved.