The Book of JUDGES
James J. Barker
CIVIL WAR IN ISRAEL
- Judges chapter 19 is one of the saddest chapters in the Bible.
- A certain Levite was traveling with his concubine and decided to stop one night in a city called Gibeah, which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin (19:14).
- There they met an old man who invited them into his home, warning them that it was not safe to be out in the streets at night (19:20, 21).
- Soon they were disturbed by a wild gang of lascivious sodomites, who demanded that the old man send out the Levite so that they could engage in perverted relations with him (19:22, 23).
- Like Lot in the terrible story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), the old man offered them his virgin daughter, as well as the Levite's concubine (19:24).
- The sodomites would not hearken to the old man so the Levite gave them his concubine. They then abused her and gang-raped her to death (19:25, 26).
- There is no happy ending to this terrible story (19:27-30), and this wicked sin sets the stage for the remaining two chapters of the book of Judges (cf. Judges 21:25).
- CIVIL WAR IS DECLARED
- THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN IS DEFEATED
- WIVES ARE PROVIDED FOR THE MEN OF BENJAMIN
CIVIL WAR IS DECLARED
- Judges 19:29 and 30 gives us the response to the horrible crime that took place in Gibeah. By sending those cut-up pieces of human flesh to the twelve tribes of Israel, the Levite was saying that they could expect more crimes like this (and perhaps even worse) unless action were taken.
- Action did result. Four hundred thousand men assembled at Mizpeh, which was located in the area belonging to Benjamin (20:1-7).
- The men were ready to act, and they said they would not return to their homes without taking decisive action (20:8). They chose their soldiers "by lot" (20:9). In other words, they chose an army out of 400,000 assembled at Mizpeh.
- They also decided that one-tenth of the population would be asked to supply food for the army (20:10).
- There was unity. They were resolved to deal with sin. This happened 3,400 years ago, and it should be an example for us today. Oftentimes when there is sin in the church some members prefer to look the other way and not deal with it.
- By the way, this story reminds us that the so-called "sexual revolution" and "gay movement" is nothing new! This story also reminds us that there are consequences to sin. The horrible sin at Gibeah resulted in a bloody civil war with high casualties on both sides.
- First, messengers were sent to the tribe of Benjamin to ask that those responsible for the crime be delivered to be punished by death (20:12, 13). This terrible crime certainly called for the death penalty (cf. Genesis 9:6; Deuteronomy 22:25).
- On occasion I am asked my opinion on capital punishment. It is clearly taught in both the OT and the NT (Romans 13:1-4).
- The Benjaminites should have turned the rapist over, but instead they decided to go to battle (20:13, 14). Being loyal to your fellow tribesmen is good. But not in a case like this where they were protecting violent criminals and perverts.
- But that's often the way it is when sinners are confronted. Rather than get things right, they go looking for a fight.
- Sin must be exposed, confessed, and punished. Otherwise it pollutes and corrupts and defiles. Nine times in the book of Deuteronomy, God told the people of Israel to "put away evil out of the land."
- If the Israelites would not punish the wicked men of Gibeah, then God would punish Israel. The wicked men of Gibeah were like a cancerous sore that had to be cut out. We see a NT example of this in I Corinthians 5.
- The spiritual life of a church is badly affected when sin is not dealt with and sinning members are not disciplined.
THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN IS DEFEATED
- The men of Benjamin quickly assembled an army of 26,000 men, besides 700 men from Gibeah (20:15). Among this number were 700 left-handed men who were skillful with the slingshot (20:16).
- The other tribes put together an army of 400,000 men (20:17). They outnumbered Benjamin, and they were clearly in the right, but nevertheless they wisely sought God's counsel (20:18, 19).
- The term "house of God" in verse 18 is literally, Bethel. Some Bible teachers believe that the tabernacle had been moved from Shiloh to Bethel at this time. Or perhaps just the ark of the covenant had been moved (cf. 20:27).
- The battle was joined at Gibeah, the scene of the crime (20:20). Apparently the Benjaminites led the attack and won a decisive victory. Verse 21 tells us that 22,000 Israelites were killed in battle.
- Undaunted, the Israelites prepared to attack a second time, but first they went to God in prayer. This time they wept (20:22-24).
- Again they were defeated, this time losing 18,000 men (20:25).
- Israel's cause was just and they greatly outnumbered the men of Benjamin. The reason Israel was defeated was they were not walking with God. One can pray and weep and still not be right with God.
- After their two defeats, the eleven tribes again sought the Lord in prayers and weeping, this time with fasting and sacrifices (20:26). Perhaps they were now more humble and contrite.
- This time the Lord assured them they would win (20:27, 28).
- Over-confident after two days of victories, the Benjaminites were drawn away from the city of Gibeah and caught in an ambush (20:29-35).
- Gibeah was taken, its inhabitants (including women and children – cf. 21:16) were all slain, and the city was burned to the ground. Along the way, the Israelites wiped out several other Benjaminite cities in a mopping-up operation (20:36-44).
- According to Numbers 26:41, there were 45,600 men of war in the tribe of Benjamin at that time. Now less than 50 years later, they were left with only 600 men stranded on the rock of Rimmon (20:45-48).
- This whole catastrophe could have been avoided, had they not stubbornly refused to hand over the perverted rapists. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
WIVES ARE PROVIDED FOR THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN
- Once the battle was over, the Israelites realized that they had had just about eliminated one of the twelve tribes of Israel. There was a feeling of sadness and 21:2 tells us they "lifted up their voices, and wept sore" (cf. 21:15).
- Earlier they had made a careless vow (21:1, 7, 18). Now there was no possibility of children being born. They realized they had gone too far in their zeal to defeat the Benjaminites (21:3, 6).
- Their first solution was to take wives for the men of Benjamin from Jabesh-gilead (21:4-12). Jabesh-geliad was located east of the Jordan River.
- The 400 virgins were not enough for the 600 remaining Bejaminites, so they had to come up with another idea (21:12-14).
- A plan was suggested whereby the men of Benjamin would go to Shiloh and seize some of the women as they danced at their annual feast (21:15-21).
- It was explained that if the girls' fathers or brothers came to complain, the Israelite leaders would defend the Benjaminites (21:22-25).
- Both this ways of procuring wives for Benjamin were unscriptural (21:25).
- If it was justifiable to kill some men of Jabesh-gilead for not coming to Mizpeh to fight, it was not right to kill innocent women and children, and then to arbitrarily save a group of young virgins for the men of Benjamin.
- Note that the Bible says they prayed and offered sacrifices to God (21:3, 4), but nowhere does it say that the Lord instructed them in either scheme.
- There is no evidence of genuine repentance and brokenness over their sin. Also, there is no indication that the men of Benjamin ever repented over their grievous sins.
- The second plan was not violent like the first, but it still was not right to go and kidnap women at a feast and then force marriage on them (without their parents' consent – 21:22).
- We are reminded of James 3:15 – "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish."
- We see in the book of Judges a time of serious declension – religious apostasy, wicked immorality and violence, anarchy, and unrest.
- America today is not much better. As we study the book of Judges tonight a young lady down in Florida is being starved to death by her wicked husband and our corrupt court system.
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