Civil War, Kidnapping, and A Convoluted Concept of Justice (Judges 20:1-21:25)
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? In response to the inhumane treatment of the young concubine, the tribes of Israel united in a civil war against the tribe of Benjamin. Ironically, the Israelites unite “as one man” (20:1) only to tear themselves apart through civil war. After two failed attempts to defeat the Benjaminites, the union of Israelite tribes killed all but 600 men. The heinous actions of the citizens of Gibeah (Judges 19) are quickly overshadowed by the near-annihilation of an entire tribe and the subsequent plan to provide the survivors with wives. Their convoluted plan is to murder the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead and force the female virgins to be wives of the remaining Benjaminite men. This wicked action produces only enough wives for two-thirds of the men, thus, an even more diabolical plan is hatched. The Benjaminites would kidnap unsuspecting women who are attending a religious festival. Far from the amiable stories one may have heard in Sunday school, this entire narrative is both sickening and disturbing; yet, it reveals the depths of the societal depravity of the era of Judges.
SO WHAT? The absence of a coherent justice system is the byproduct of a people who ignore the Law-giver and reject His Law. When an equitable system of laws and consequences is replaced by a relative and amoral system, then murder, abuse, sexual assault, and genocide can become commonplace. The people of Israel had become numb to the effects of their sin and not only tolerated but also celebrated the most heinous acts. The primary purpose of this account, therefore, is to illustrate how far people will fall when they have abandoned the LORD as their king. This narrative provides a warning that when God is not honored and recognized as king everyone will eventually do whatever is right in his own eyes (19:1; 21:25).
1. United for destruction.
2. A monstrous plan.
3. When depraved men rule.
4. A perverse concept of Justice.
5. When humanity determines morality.
NOW WHAT? The closing chapters are a brutal reminder of how far the Israelites had wandered in their rebellion, thus, the theme of the book is demonstrated in some of the worst atrocities recorded in the Bible. There was no king in Israel, and everyone did whatever he felt was right, pursued whatever lust or desire captured his attention, and inflicted inhumane suffering on anyone in his way. Amid this darkness, however, the reader is reminded that the LORD never ceased to be sovereign. Although He is ignored, rejected, and despised by the masses, the book of Judges provides a few glimmers of hope in people who were serving the LORD such as Othniel, Deborah, Samson’s parents, and Phinehas. Revealing that, even in the darkest of times, God has a remnant of people. We can place our complete trust in the holiness, justice, and mercy of God because He is sovereign through the chaos.
Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the Lord at Mizpah. 2 And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword. 3 (Now the people of Benjamin heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?” 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came to Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night. 5 And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead. 6 So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel. 7 Behold, you people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here” (Judges 20:1-7). In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25).
Study Questions (Judges 20:1-21:25)
1. For what purpose does Israel unite (20:1)?
2. What is different about Israel’s approach to the conflict prior to the third battle with the Benjaminites (20:26-28)?
3. Describe your response to the following actions:
A. Nearly wiping out an entire tribe, including women and (possibly) children?
B. Wiping out an entire city (Jabesh-gilead) to acquire 400 virgins?
C. Abducting 200 young women at a religious festival?
D. How do you reconcile these heinous accounts with the larger story of the Bible?
4. Where was God amid this wickedness?