Judges 19-21 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine. And we want you to experience the life change that comes from knowing God's word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
Well, good evening. Good evening. Good evening. How are you tonight? Good.
What a crazy day. Another crazy day we've seen on our landscape played out on the news. Interesting that as the news events are unfolding today, I'm starting the Book of Judges, which is about a nation filled with anarchy.
And here's just a reminder. This is the time to pray. I know everybody wants to share an opinion of who's really behind it, and what the facts really are. And nobody really knows completely yet.
But keep in mind this. No matter whose side or what side is responsible, our hope is not in a person or a political party. It is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus stood before Pilate. And he said, my kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would rise up and fight. But my kingdom is not of this world.
Pilate said, so you're a king then? He said, for this cause, I was born. For this reason, I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.
That's what we're about. We're warriors of truth. And there's no greater truth than people need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to get to Heaven.
You can be a staunch Republican, or a staunch Democrat, or a libertarian, or an independent, like I am, and not go to Heaven, or you can go to Heaven. That is really the issue at hand. Is the person right with God and going to Heaven? That's what the church should be about. And I hope that's what you will devote yourselves to in the days ahead.
OK. Enough said. Let's turn in our Bibles to Judges chapter 19 as we hopefully, by God's grace, finish out this book. The Book of Judges is a section of history in Israel that lasted 350 years approximately. It was during that period that the nation declined in an unprecedented manner.
It took place almost immediately after the death of Joshua. Joshua was a strong leader. He filled Moses's shoes. Moses died. Joshua took over, brought the people across the Jordan River, set up tribal allotments. They never fully occupied the land God gave them. Nonetheless, Joshua was a strong, god-fearing leader.
But we are told in the very beginning of this book that when Joshua died, problems began to develop. I'll just read one of the opening sections of the Book of Judges. This is chapter 2 and verse 7.
"So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua. And all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, which he had done for Israel. Now, Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was 110 years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord, nor the work which he had done for Israel."
So the Book of Judges begins. And the Book of Judges goes from conquest to compromise. They had conquered the land, but not fully occupied the land. They entered into a series of compromises with the people around them. And we discovered in the early section of this book the sin cycle. This repeated cycle of behavior that every generation for 350 years after the death of Joshua had.
There was, first of all, a rejection of the Lord, followed by a rebellion from the Lord, followed by a retribution of the Lord, followed by a repentance toward the Lord, followed by a restitution by the Lord. So they rebelled against God. God let them go into captivity, or be oppressed. They cried out. God sent a deliverer, a judge. They were restored back to stability, but the cycle happened all over again.
So they go from conquest to compromise. But then as we keep reading the book, they go from compromise to chaos, utter chaos.
Now, last week when we were beginning chapter 17, we noted that beginning in chapter 17 all the way to chapter 21, the last chapter of the book, those five chapters form an appendix. They're not in chronological order. They don't advance the narrative of this book at all. They're simply little insights, soap operas, to let you know how bad life was morally and spiritually for the nation.
So it could have happened earlier in the book. It's not necessarily in chronological order. It's just little examples under the moniker that is used a few times in these last chapters. There was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. That is a repeated phrase. So to show you that, we have these examples.
The first example was idolatry in a family, the family of Micah. Micah lived with his mom, stole money from his mom, set up idols in the house, set up a priesthood in the house. It was idolatry in a family. That was chapter 17.
In chapter 18, there was idolatry in an entire tribe, the tribe of Dan. The Danites moved from one place to another place. And on the way, they stopped at the house of Micah, saw that there was a priesthood and idols, and thought, we need a chaplain for our tribe, and said to the priest, the errant Levite who was there, come and be the head, be the spiritual leader. So they took the idols all the way up to Dan and set up an entire idolatrous worship system.
Now we get to chapter 19, 20, and 21. And again, by God's grace, I want to move through it rapidly, because honestly I want to be done with this book. It's a depressing book. And it's in the Word of God. The Bible is honest about this period of history. And I'm glad that it is. But it'll be great to move on past this into the Book of Ruth. It's a refreshing book after this.
But chapter 19, 20, and 21 is pure anarchy in the nation. It just will leave you scratching your head going, gosh, I don't know which part of this story is the worst part of this story. But it's all bad stuff.
Chapter 19 of Judges is almost the equivalent of the 19th chapter of the Book of Genesis. When two angels, who came in human form-- they had met with Abraham. They went into the city of Sodom and stayed in the house of Lot.
And the men of the city of Sodom gathered around the house of Lot, banged on the door, demanded that the men be delivered to the men outside, that the men outside might have homosexual relations with the visitors of Lot. And they were angels of God. You don't mess with an angel, they found out. The city was destroyed.
There were no angels present here. But it is an equivalent. It's very reminiscent of Genesis 19, but here in the Book of Judges.
The story in chapter 19 begins with a Levite. Don't get this Levite confused with the Levite in the previous chapter. Even though that Levite is also from Bethlehem in Judah, two entirely different people altogether. That Levite previously moved up north to Dan. So this is a whole different story.
This is a Levite in chapter 19 who is disobeying the Law of God. As God's people, especially the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, the priest were to be monogamous. This Levite is not. This Levite has a concubine.
And the concubine in the story becomes unfaithful. And so you have a Levite with a concubine, a concubine who goes and has an affair, and then eventually the Levite throwing the concubine out to the perverted men of Gibeah to do whatever they wanted to do to her all night. Now you'll know by the time you get just through this chapter why I want to move on from this section of history.
"And it came to pass"-- I'm glad it's going to pass. "It came to pass in those days when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning in the remote mountains of Ephraim. He took for himself a concubine from Bethlehem of Judah."
So this was sort of like a hillbilly Levite. The previous Levite was up in the rolling hills of Ephraim, up by Shiloh, and up by Bethel. But this guy chose the remote mountains of Ephraim. He left Bethlehem-Judah. He is not serving in the tabernacle in Shiloh.
He's just sort of wandering the remote mountains. He's like a hippie Levite. He's out there wandering around. And he took for himself a concubine.
So we know a little bit about him. He's not faithful to the covenant that God gave to the Levites. Levites, as I mentioned, were to be monogamous. For that matter, all of God's people were to be monogamous. God said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, singular. Not to as many wives and concubines.
Now, a concubine was, in effect, in those days a female servant, a second status wife. Though, it was a legal setup, and though she had some rights, she could bear children for that husband, along with his legitimate wife. That was OK in Canaanite custom. But that is not what God intended. It was against God's original design.
Now, something that you might find helpful-- I did. We don't know if it's true or not. But Flavius Josephus, who was a Jewish historian-- I've quoted him a lot over the years. He wrote around the time of Christ, but he talks a lot about Israel's wars and Israel's history-- does make a comment on this concubine and the Levite.
And according to Josephus, Josephus says she was a beautiful girl. Her husband, the Levite, was taken by her beauty, but she was not one to return the affection to her husband. Her husband was affectionate toward her, loved her, found her very beautiful, and though they were married, she didn't obviously take a liking to him.
And according to Josephus, they argued a lot. And after one argument she went out, left him, had an affair, goes back home to Bethlehem-Judah. That's where we pick up the story.
"But his concubine played the harlot against him and went away from him to her father's house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there for four whole months. Then her husband arose and went after her to speak kindly to her and to bring her back, having his servant and a couple of donkeys with him. And so she brought him into her father's house, and when the father of the young man saw him, he was glad to meet him.
"Now, his father-in-law"-- the young woman's father-- "detained him. And he stayed with them three days. So they ate and drank and lodged there." So it looks like the Levite wants to reconcile with his estranged second status wife concubine. So he goes to Bethlehem and speaks kindly to her.
Now, mark that. Because you keep reading the story, and though he has spoken kindly to her, he's not going to treat her kindly. He's going to throw her out in the street to let her be ravaged by all the men of Gibeah.
But here he turns it on, turns on the speech. Baby, honey, you're so awesome. You're so pretty. And just buttering her up, just sweet talking her. Gals, beware of men who have a talk, but don't have a walk, who say all the right things, but-- and oh, honey, I love you. And if you really love me, you'll do what I want.
And you'll have sexual relations with me if you really love me. He doesn't love you. He loves himself, and he wants you. That's all that-- I'll translate that for you when he says I love you. So he's sweet talking her, but he is not going to treat her with any kind of chivalry or respect whatsoever.
It's interesting that the father-in-law is so happy to see him. Probably the father-in-law is a bit embarrassed, because it was embarrassing to have your daughter come home after a failed marriage and come back to live within the home in those days. So she's back. He's probably feeling embarrassed, but also hospitality was and still is to this day huge in that part of the country, in that part of the world.
So we've seen this a few times in the Bible, where you're invited to come in, and to not just spend one day, but two days, then three days, then four days. Then if you can, five days. This happened with Jacob and Laban in a very similar fashion.
"It came to pass on the fourth day, they arose early in the morning. And he stood to depart. But the young woman's father said to his son-in-law, refresh your heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way. So they sat down, the two of them, and drank together. The young woman's father said to him, please, be content to stay all night. Let your heart be merry." Here, have another cold one.
"And when the man stood to depart, his father-in-law urged him, so he lodged there again. And he rose up early in the morning on the fifth day to depart. But the young woman's father said, please, refresh your heart. So they delayed till the afternoon. And both of them ate.
"When the man stood to depart, he and his concubine, and his servant, his father-in-law, the young woman's father said to him, look, the day is now drawing toward evening. Please, spend the night. See the day is coming to an end. Lodge here. Let your heart be merry. Tomorrow you shall go your way so that you may get home.
"But the man was not willing to spend the night. So he arose and departed and came to a place opposite Jebus." That is Jerusalem. "With him were saddled two donkeys. His concubine was also with him."
Now, evidently, just from looking at this verse, the Book of Judges was written by an author during the monarchy, during the time of the monarchy-- monarchy being Saul, David, et cetera-- because the town in reference here, Jebus, becomes Jerusalem in around 2 Samuel chapter 5. That's when David conquers it. It is a fascinating story, but until it becomes Jerusalem, it is occupied by an Amorite tribe known as the Jebusites in their town called Jebus.
So they're on that ridge that is from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, but they have not fully occupied the land. That is the failure of after Joshua. Joshua brought them in, but they didn't fully occupy what God gave them. So it's still inhabited by the Jebus, and will be until the time of the monarchy, until the time of David.
So verse 11, "They were near Jebus, and the day was far spent." So it's evening. "And the servant said to his master, come. Please, let us turn into this city of the Jebusites and lodge in it."
Now notice the reaction of the Levite. "But his master said to him, we will not turn aside into a city of foreigners who are not of the children of Israel. We will go on to Gibeah."
Now, he's thinking Gibeah belongs to the Benjamites. It's Israelite territory. Hence, why stay in a foreign city of pagan worshippers? However, the pagans of Jebus would have no doubt treated them better than the Israelites in Gibeah. But the Levite is just swearing that isn't the way it is.
"So he said to his servant, come, let us draw near to one of these places, and spend the night in Gibeah or in Ramah. And they passed by and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin. They turned aside to go on to lodge in Gibeah. And when he went in, he sat down in the open square of the city, for no one would take them into his house to spend the night."
"Just then"-- oh, stop here for a minute. The end of verse 15, that last little phrase, would be a shock statement for somebody reading that in ancient times. The fact that it says, "No one would take them into his house to spend the night." That's shocking.
In the Middle East, hospitality is considered one of the most important virtues, even above many others, as you'll see here, even above, unfortunately, protecting the vulnerable, the weak. But hospitality was huge. People would welcome you into their home, especially this guy, because he has all of his own supplies, we will hear. Nobody has to give him anything, just a place to stay.
So he's out in the open square, but nobody's budging. Nobody's inviting him in. Now, perhaps, I can't be certain-- but perhaps the author of this-- and I believe it was Samuel who wrote the Book of Judges. That's just my opinion.
But perhaps the author wants to draw a contrast between the people of Bethlehem-- remember the man who was the father of the concubine, the father-in-law of the Levite. He was so hospitable as if to say, the people from Bethlehem are so hospitable. But the people from Gibeah in Benjamin, they're not so hospitable, which is true in this case in this story.
Now, why would the author want to do that? Because, perhaps, he wants to delegitimize Saul's reign as king. David will come from Bethlehem in Judah, the town of hospitality. Saul is a Benjamite from Gibeah. So that could be in the author's mind. Certainly it was in the author's mind. Whether he was using that as a motivation, I can't be certain.
But verse 16, "Just then an old man came in from his work." Now, I don't know what they mean by old man. I don't know what age that would be, but I could guess.
"Just then an old man came in from his work in the field at evening who also was from the mountains of Ephraim. He was sojourning, or he was temporarily staying in Gibeah, whereas the men of the place were Benjamites. And when he raised his eye as he saw the traveler in the open square of the city, and the old man said, where are you going? Where do you come from?"
So this old guy's a farm laborer. He has left Ephraim for a job in the fields of Gibeah. So he said to him, "We're passing from Bethlehem in Judah toward the remote mountains of Ephraim. I am from there. I went to Bethlehem in Judah. And now I am going to the house of the Lord, or going to Bethel.
"But there is no one who will take me into his house. Although, we both have straw and fodder for our donkeys, bread and wine for myself, for your maid servant, for the young man who is with your servant. There is no lack of anything.
"And the old man said, peace be with you. However, let all your needs be my responsibility. Only do not spend the night in the open square." That is Mid-Eastern hospitality.
"So he brought him into his house, gave him fodder for the donkeys, washed their feet, ate, and drank. Now, as they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men,"-- literally sons of Belial. That's the Hebrew, sons of Belial. Belial means worthless, so sons of no value, sons of worthlessness.
Belial will become in the New Testament a proper name for Satan himself. "What accord," Paul asks in 2 Corinthians, "has Christ with Belial?" But here they're just called in this translation perverted men, sons of Belial.
"So these perverted men surrounded the house and beat on the door." Now, what makes them perverted? We'll find out.
"They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, bring out the man who came to your house that we may know him carnally." They don't want the concubine. They want the young man. These men want to have homosexual relations with that man, with that visitor. That's why I say it is the Genesis 19 of the Book of Judges. They're very, very similar.
"But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, no, my brethren, I beg you. Do not act so wickedly."
So the old man knew. This is-- what you're saying is wicked. It's wrong. It's not normal. It's a wicked act.
"Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage." Now watch this. "Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man's concubine. Let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please. But to this man, do not do such a vile thing."
Now, first of all, I noted to you the similarity between Sodom and Gibeah, between Genesis 19 and Judges 19. But here's the connection you need to make. The sin that once characterized a Canaanite stronghold now marks an Israelite city.
These are the people of God. These are not Canaanites. These are God's people. They're supposedly in the covenant allotment, and they're acting like the vilest of unbeliever. So that value system has rubbed off even on God's own people.
Verse 24 has a very sad phrase when the Old man says, "Here's my virgin daughter. Here's the man's concubine. Humble them." But look at this, "Do with them as you please." Literally, it reads this, do with them as is right in your own eyes.
Now, that's the phrase that is repeated in these chapters. There was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. So now you have a venerable man, an aged man. You have a Levite, both of whom should be leaders of the people saying, do what is right in your own eyes. Do whatever you want to do. Encouraging the very behavior that is spoken against in the Book of Judges.
"But the men would not heed him," verse 25, "so the man took his concubine, brought her out to them, and they knew her and abused her all night until morning. And when the day began to break, they let her go. Then the woman came as the day was dawning and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was till it was light."
Unfortunately, in that era and in that part of the world, at that time, women were considered objects. There was no liberating movement. There was no consideration. There was no chivalry in many of these Canaanite cultures, and sadly in an Israelite culture that should have been different, because Judaism does elevate the position of women. And certainly as you keep reading your Bible, you get into the New Testament, Jesus is responsible singularly in the ancient cultures of setting women free, and elevating them.
Many of Jesus's own followers were women. He extolled them. He forgave them. There's the story of Jesus at the House of a Pharisee. And a woman comes in and weeps on his feet. And Jesus extends love and forgiveness. And the Pharisee is bent out of shape, first, because it's a woman, and second, because, does he know who this woman is? She's a sinner. And Jesus just showed great love and respect, as he often did.
And then in the Epistles, Paul said, for in Christ, there's neither male nor female. City and bond are free. We're all one in Christ, extolling women and the position, elevating them.
But in that culture, in that ancient culture, and even in some modern culture-- there's reform happening in the Muslim world, but there are still many pockets in Islamic countries where women are treated as property with no rights whatsoever. That's the old mindset. In some Buddhist areas as well. Jesus is the great liberator of women.
So verse 26, we continue this horrible, tragic story. "The woman came as the day was dawning, fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was till it was light. When her master arose in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine fallen at the door of his house with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, get up! Let's be going." Remember how kindly he spoke to her.
"Get up!" This isn't very kind. "But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey, and the man got up and went to his place. When he entered the house, he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and dismembered her into 12 pieces limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel."
You'll never forget this. I was about to say keep this in mind, but I don't have to say that, because you'll never forget this. But I was going to say keep this in mind, because Saul, who was from Gibeah, King Saul, will do the same thing with an animal. He'll dismember it and send it to the tribes of Israel to make a statement, but this is a human being.
Now, there's no response, this young girl. Get up! No response. He puts her on the donkey. There's not a record that she's dead.
Later on he'll say to the people of Israel, to the tribe, say, we've got to go to war against the Benjamites because-- and he tells the story and says, I found her dead. But I'm not trusting a Levite who had a concubine, who thrust the concubine out in the court. I don't believe his testimony as being valid necessarily. It could be that she was alive, and he killed her, and then dismembered her. I could hear a pin drop in this room right now.
"And so it was that all who saw it said, no such deed has been done, or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it. Take counsel. And speak up."
I'm troubled by the Levite. I'm troubled that he looks down at this gal on the threshold. There's no outrage that is recorded until she's dead. Now he's outraged. They killed her!
He threw her out in the streets, the old man and him. And now he's outraged. He tells the children, you've got to do something.
Now, the idea of dismembering and sending it out to the 12 tribes was to create a shocking response, which it did. It was like their September 11. This just happened in our country? It was meant to shock them and to summon them.
It was Nietzsche who said-- and he was right-- if God is dead, then everything is permitted. If there is no God, then there's no moral restraints. Every man can do what is right in his own eyes. You just sort of decide in what culture, and what era, and you get enough people together. And you decide the majority is always right. And you can make up your own rules. If God is dead, then everything is permitted.
By and large, God was gone from the landscape of Israel. And this has been permitted.
Now, we get into chapter 20. And here's what we discover. One man's sin in chapter 19 causes the death of 65,000 men in chapter 20 because the nation goes to war. "Then all the children of Israel," verse 1, chapter 20 "of Israel, came out from Dan to Beersheba, as well as from the land of Gilead."
That's a phrase, from Dan to Beersheba. From North to South, Dan way, way up North, now that they have moved. Beersheba, all the way down South. So you find in scripture from Dan to Beersheba is from North to South, and even the Transjordan, or those tribes on the east side of the Jordan, mentioned here as Gilead, all of them get riled up.
And it says, "They gathered. The congregation gathered as one man before the Lord at Mizpah."
That's noteworthy, you see, because this is the first time recorded in the Book of Judges where the nation is unified. They're scattered. They're tribal. They're fighting each other. They're fighting little petty wars here and there, territorial wars. We never read of all the tribes together until now. Now they're unified.
But they're unified not to fight outsiders, but to fight against their own people, a tribe, the tribe of Benjamin. And they will almost exterminate the tribe, and realize, man, we almost exterminated this tribe.
Now, it's bad so far. It gets wonkier as we go. It's just a weird period of history. It's just like, wah, wah, wah, the whole section here.
"So they gathered together at Mizpah." Mizpah is about eight miles north of Jerusalem, about four to five miles north of Gibeah, where they were. So they gather at Mizpah.
"And the leaders of all the people, all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in an assembly of the people of God, 400,000 foot soldiers who drew the sword." So they have an army of 400,000 men, the tribes of Israel, together.
"Now, the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel had gone to Mizpah. Then the children of Israel said, tell us. How did this wicked deed happen?"
Now the Levite gives this testimony. "The Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, my concubine and I went into Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, to spend the night. And the men of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house at night because of me. They intended to kill me, but instead they ravished my concubine so that she died." Of course, he left out the part that I chucked her outside, me and the old man, so we could sit down and have a brewski together.
"So I took hold of my concubine, cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of the inheritance of Israel because they committed lewdness and outrage in Israel. Look! All of you are children of Israel. Give your advice and counsel here and now. Then all the people rose as one man"-- there's that unanimity-- "saying, none of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us turn back to his house. "But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah. We will go up against it by lot."
So the chapter goes on. And the people of Israel first try to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Benjamites, saying, look, hand over the perverted people, and will mete justice out upon them. The people of Benjamin go, no way. They dig their heels in. They don't turn over the perpetrators.
Go down to verse 15, telling now about the Benjamites. "And from their cities"-- that is the Benjamites-- "from their cities at that time, the children of Benjamin numbered 26,000 men who drew the sword beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, who numbered 700 select men."
So 400,000 soldiers against 26,700. They're outnumbered, right? But watch this.
Verse 16, "Among all this people there were 700 select men who were left-handed. Everyone could sling a stone at a hair's breadth and not miss. Besides Benjamin, the men of Israel numbered 400,000 men who drew the sword. All of these men were men of war."
So the text wants you to know, the author wants you to know that Benjamin had a small army. And they're pointing that out because Benjamin is going to win the first two battles. The small group is going to win the big group at first.
But that there's these 700 southpaw sling warriors. They're left-handed. And they can throw a sling and get it so close down to a hair's breadth. That's just so minuscule.
Now, we know this. Ancient slings could project a stone up to 90 miles per hour. And if you combine that speed with accuracy, you have a lethal weapon. Think of David and Goliath. But they want to know these are all left-handed dudes.
And we know that the Gibeahnites-- or excuse me-- the Benjamites had some pretty good warriors. Saul was a Benjamite. He was a pretty skilled warrior.
Ehud-- remember the judge in chapter 3 of Judges? Ehud, the left-handed swordsman, and he came in and stabbed King Eglon in the gut, this big fat man. And the fat folded over the knife. And the knife got lost in the fat folds of the obese man.
That's the text of scripture. I love how it tells that story. I love that story. I don't know why, but it's humorous.
So Ehud was a left-handed Benjamite swordsmen. But why does the author want us to know it? I can't again be certain. Here's just another little speculation, a fun little thing to look at. It could be the use of irony. It's ironic that you have 700 skilled lefties, southpaws, because the name Benjamin means son of my right hand.
And in antiquity, left-handed people were considered to have a handicap in a war. They didn't have an advantage. Right-handed people had an advantage in one-on-one combat. They took something that was seen as disadvantageous and turned it around to be an advantage. So in the tribe of the son of my right hand are these left-handed warriors.
So they go out and they fight. And verse 18, "The children of Israel arose and went up to the House of God to ask counsel of God. They said, which of us shall go first to battle against the children of Benjamin?"
Actually, they should have said, should we go to battle against Benjamin? That should have been their first question. They just assumed it was OK to do so. They had already resolved to do so. They're using God sort of as like, this is a lottery system. Which of the tribes should go first?
Now, I imagine they consulted the priest who used-- do you know what they would have used? The urim and the thummim, the white and black stones that were used to discern a yes or a no vote from God. So they probably did that.
"And the Lord said, Judah shall go up first. So the children of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah."
Now, on the first day of the battle, the first incursion against the Benjamites, the Israelite army, the other tribes lose the battle. They will lose 22,000 men to the Benjamites at Gibeah. Gibeah is in the hill country. It's easy to defend. You have to know the area to be able to fight in that area.
So that was the first battle. They lost the first battle. They regrouped. They fought the next day. They did slightly better. They lost only 18,000 men on the second day. The Benjamites won both battles.
So Israel is defeated. They didn't ask God, should we go? They just said, which should go first? Send Judah first. Got wiped out two days in a row.
Verse 26, "All the children of Israel, that is all the people, went up and came to the House of God and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted all that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. So the children of Israel inquired of the Lord. The Ark of the Covenant of God was there in those days."
This is the only mention of the Ark of the Covenant in the entire book. This is the only instance of them sacrificing to the Lord God, as prescribed by the Torah. This is the only time they gather together to fast and weep.
It's as if God was letting them be defeated in order to get their attention, to get them humbled, to have them come back to the place of that first love. Oh, God, I've sinned. We've sinned. And offer up the sacrifices.
I wonder if the Lord doesn't allow certain things in our lives to get our attention. And we say, oh, God. We start crying out to God. And it's as if God smiles and goes, hey, I haven't heard from you in a while. Great to hear from you today. How can I serve you and bless you? Why didn't you come to me before?
They hadn't come to him before like this. So they're seeking the Lord here. It's the only mention of it.
Now, as the chapter goes down, verses 29 to 46, Benjamin is defeated in battle, finally, on that third day. And the way they get defeated is by an ambush. They employ a tactic much like Joshua the general did back in the Book of Joshua of the city of Ai-- A-I it is spelled-- into the city of Ai in Joshua chapter 8.
He drew the men of the city away from the city. There was an ambush against them. That's what happens here. They draw the people away from Gibeah. There's an ambush. The men attack them in the ambush.
Once they're drawn away from the city, other men go into the city and light it afire, burn it to the ground. So the soldiers look back disheartened at their city being wiped out, and the tribe of Benjamin is nearly decimated. They lose that day, the Benjamites, 25,000 men. Now, remember how many men they started with, 26,700. When you have 26,700 and you lose 25,000 men, you've lost.
So go down to verse 46. "All who fell at Benjamin that day were 25,000 men, who drew the sword. All these were men of valor. But 600 men"-- now mark the 600. This becomes important to the rest as we conclude the book.
"The 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the Rock of Rimmon. And they stayed at the Rock of Rimmon for four months. And the men of Israel turned back against the children of Benjamin and struck them down with the edge of the sword, from every city, men and beasts, all who were found. They also set fire to all the cities"-- that is all the Benjamite cities-- "that they came to."
So the entire tribe of Benjamin is wiped out except 600 soldiers who managed to find a stronghold about four miles away from Bethel. That's where it was located in the central area of the land. And it was a defensible stronghold. They managed to stay there for four months, to live there for four months.
You've got 600 Benjamites. Now, in chapter 21, there's a realization among the tribes of Israel. Hey, wait a minute. This may have been overkill. I mean, literally overkill. We have almost made an entire tribe extinct.
So it's almost like in this chapter there's a reverse thrust of the engines. They've been going forward. And then it's like, put on reverse. Slow it down. Slow it down. Back it up. Back it up.
Whereas in chapter 20, they were trying to just wipe them out, exterminate them. It was a salvo of extermination. Chapter 21, it's to save them from extinction. They realize if there's only 600 men-- there's no women-- we have a problem. This tribe may not be able to reproduce.
And here's why. The Israelites had also made a vow among themselves that they would not allow any of their daughters to marry a Benjamite. We have a problem, a reproductive problem. Verse 1, chapter 21, "The men of Israel had sworn an oath that Mizpah saying, none of us shall give his daughters to Benjamin as a wife."
Ooh, so we have a problem. We made this crazy vow. Now there's only 600 men left. How do we get wives for these guys so the tribe can stay? Because it's one of the tribes of God.
So get this. They remember another oath. They made another oath. This other oath could come in handy right about now.
"Now, the men of Israel"-- oh, I read that.
Verse 2, "Then the people came to the House of God and remained there before God until evening. They lifted up their voices and wept bitterly," as they should, for a number of reasons, "and said, oh, Lord God of Israel, why has this come to pass in Israel that today there should be one tribe missing in Israel?"
Boy, I appreciate their prayer, but the previous chapter they were working hard, really hard to wipe them all out. But now they go, oh, Lord, why would you let this happen? If I were God, I'd go, I don't know. Why did you let it happen?
"So it was on the next morning that the people rose early and built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings, and peace offerings. The children of Israel said, who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up with the assembly to the Lord? For they had made an oath"-- here's the other oath they made. "They had made a great oath concerning anyone who had not come up to the Lord at Mizpah, saying, he shall surely be put to death. And the children of Israel grieve for Benjamin, their brother, and said, one tribe is cut off from Israel today. What shall we do for wives for those who remain, seeing that we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them our daughters as wives?
"And they said, what one is there from the tribe of Israel who did not come to Mizpah to the Lord? And in fact, no one had come from the camp of Jabesh-Gilead to the assembly." Jabesh-Gilead is on the eastern side, north and eastern side of the Jordan River.
Now, this isn't going to help anyone or everyone, but it will help those who have been to Israel. If you've been with us to Israel, and you've been in Beit She'an-- remember Beit She'an? Those beautiful ruins where that city is built.
If you're at Beit She'an, especially the roundabout in Beit She'an, the main roundabout that takes you into town, as you look to the left and you look to the eastern side of there, you see the mountains right there. That's Jabesh-Gilead. That's the area. You're right across from Beit She'an. Sorry. It's a footnote for those who have been, nonetheless.
None of those people came to help in the battle. So they go, OK, we made an oath. We can't give our daughters, but let's kill that city. But they took 400 virgin gals from that city to give to the Benjamites. You see how wonky this is getting? I mean, there's not a good part of these chapters. It's just all way out there, because every man does what is right in his own eyes. This is what happens.
So they're all worried about their oath. They kill the people of Jabesh-Gilead, take 400 young girls, and then they go to the Benjamites in the rest of this chapter. They make peace with them, and give them 400 girls so they have wives.
Go over to verse 13. We're bringing the book to a close. "Then the whole congregation sent word to the children of Benjamin who were at the Rock of Rimmon and announced peace to them. So Benjamin came back at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-Gilead, and yet, had not found enough for them. And the people grieved for Benjamin, because the Lord had made a void in the tribes of Israel.
"Then the elders of the congregation said, what shall we do for wives for those who remain since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?" Well, there's 600 men. We've given them 400 wives. There's 200 left that don't have wives.
Now, I don't know. You just think, I don't know. 400 probably will be OK, right? I mean, that'll keep the tribe going. But they feel really bad about these 200 guys who don't have women.
Let's just keep reading. This is interesting. And you who have a legal background, especially will find this fascinating.
"Then the elders of the congregation said, what shall we do for wives for Benjamin? We've been destroyed. They said there must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin that a tribe may not be destroyed from Israel. However, we cannot give them wives from our daughters for the children of Israel have sworn an oath saying, cursed be the one who gives a wife to Benjamin."
That's the oath they made. Their oath is you can't give one of your daughters to a Benjamite. That's the oath. You swear? I swear, man. I swear. OK. Can't break the oath. Can't give a daughter to a Benjamite. Got it.
But there could be a loophole in our oath. Now, if you're in the legal profession, you know about loopholes. You know the way it's stated is very important. One of the famous sayings of WC Fields-- we were remarking on it this week. WC Fields was reading the Bible one time in a film. Somebody said, what are you doing reading a Bible? And he goes, looking for loopholes.
Well, they're looking for loopholes. "They said, in fact, there is a yearly feast of the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel on the east side of the highway that goes from Bethel to Shechem and south of Lebonah." It's probably the Passover feast.
"Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin saying, go lie in wait in the vineyards." So these 200 young men who don't have wives, hey, you guys, go hide in the bushes. "And watch. And just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out of the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh. And then go to the land of Benjamin."
Ah, that's the loophole. We can't give our daughters to them, but those men can take wives that they find. So they had a wife catching celebration.
"It shall be when their fathers or their brothers come to us," verse 22, "to complain that we will say to them, be kind to them for our sakes, because we did not take a wife of any of them in the war, for it is not as though you have given the young women to them at this time. You didn't break your oath. You didn't give your daughter away. They stole them. They kidnapped." Isn't kidnapping wonderful? "Making yourselves guilty of the oath.
"And the children of Benjamin did so. They took themselves enough wives for their number from those who danced whom they caught. Then they went and returned to their inheritance. And they rebuilt the cities and dwelt in them. The children of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family. And they went out from there, every man to his inheritance."
And then there's that summary statement. "In those days there was no king in Israel. And everyone did what was right in his own eyes." You think? I mean that is the understatement. That is the summary statement.
We have just read chapter after chapter after chapter of people doing what is right in their own eyes, a moral and social, spiritual existentialism and degradation. So the men of Gibeah did what was right in their own eyes, ravishing the young girl all night long. That's what they wanted to do. They did what was right in their own eyes. The old man and Levite did what was right in their own eyes. They threw the girls outside.
The children of Israel did what was right in their own eyes. Let's just destroy the Benjamites. And then, oh, they need wives. We can't be out of a tribe, so let's just steal a few wives. Let's kill a few people and give those girls to them. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes.
Now, mark this. Because it's written in the Bible, it's not like an example all the time of good behavior. This isn't like, OK, so I'm supposed to obey what the Bible-- I'm supposed to do this. No, this is a bad example in the Bible. That is, to me, another mark of the veracity of scripture. The Bible doesn't hide the truth from us. It tells us exactly what happened and how bad people were living at that time, and why they were living that way.
Now, Judges is a contrast to the book before the Book of Judges, the Book of Joshua, and the book after the Book of Judges, the Book of Ruth. The Book of Joshua is all about victory through faith. The Book of Judges is all about defeat through faithlessness, defeat through compromise. The Book of Ruth is a beautiful, beautiful book. It's about providence during a time of perversion, God's providence.
Now, we're going to wait till next week. But go into Ruth chapter 1. I just want you to see what setting this is. Because as bad as things were, you need to know that there were exceptions. And Ruth is one of them.
Versus 1 of Ruth 1. "Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled." Stop there. That's where we're going to pick it up next week. We wanted to go through Ruth right after Judges and not go into a New Testament book, because it is the same time period.
And after all the muck and weirdness and wah, wah, wah in the Book of Judges, we wanted to have this beautiful refreshing refrain of God's providence in the midst of a very horrible time. And I think we need that kind of example, especially in the days in which we are living in, that it is possible to live above the fray, and to live lives of faith, and to see God at work even when the nation seems to be crumbling around us.
In Psalm 11, the psalm, it says, when the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? And when you look around at your nation, it looks like the foundations are being destroyed.
What can the righteous do? The righteous can stay righteous. Be righteous. Live righteously. Pray. Evangelize.
Be filled with joy. Be filled with hope. Be filled with peace. Jesus's kingdom is not of this world.
His kingdom is coming. It's far better than this.
Nobody's going to vote him into office or vote him out of office. He's taking over as king of kings, and Lord of Lords. Lord, hasten the day. We pray in Jesus's name. Amen. Maranatha.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us during this teaching in our Expound series.