OT History Part 1 – Judges 19-21

In those days Israel had no king.
Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.
On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.
Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.
When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”
His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.
That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”
He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me in for the night. We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”
“You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.
While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”
The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”
But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”

  • Judges 19:1-30

Here is a like for Judges 20:1-40, HERE.

The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.”
The people went to Bethel, where they sat before God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly. “Lord, God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?”
Early the next day the people built an altar and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
Then the Israelites asked, “Who from all the tribes of Israel has failed to assemble before the Lord?” For they had taken a solemn oath that anyone who failed to assemble before the Lord at Mizpah was to be put to death.
Now the Israelites grieved for the tribe of Benjamin, their fellow Israelites. “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel,” they said. “How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the Lord not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?” Then they asked, “Which one of the tribes of Israel failed to assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?” They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the camp for the assembly. For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.
So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.” They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.
Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon.  So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them.
The people grieved for Benjamin, because the Lord had made a gap in the tribes of Israel. And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left? The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’ But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”
So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’”
So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.
At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance.
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

  • Judges 21:1-25

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Judges 19-21 ‘the breakdown of justice and civil order: civil war’: “These chapters further describe the moral deterioration that accompanies covenant unfaithfulness. They also demonstrate that moral deterioration leads to political and civil disaster. The logical order between this and chapters 17-18 is significant. Chapters 17-18 relate the breakdown of religious life; chapters 19-21 show that the breakdown of religious life may bring further disastrous consequences, that the resulting immorality can threaten the very existence of a political unit. Society is a unity; its depravity cannot be contained within narrow, watertight compartments. Depravity and breakdown in one area of society, if uncorrected, will lead to deterioration and breakdown in other areas and, finally, even to the destruction of society itself.
“The writer of Judges maintains that these events occurred because there were no qualified leaders to effect God’s purposes. Though the judges could engineer brief periods of peace, there was no established godly leadership capable of permanently halting the evils described in these chapters. ‘Israel had no king’ expresses both the writer’s diagnosis of the disease in Israel and his indication of the cure.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Judges 19:1-21 ‘Delays in departure leads to many poor decisions’: “The series of events begins with the unfaithfulness (some versions read ‘anger’) of a Levite’s concubine (19:1-21), an offense which, in isolation, would hardly cause nationwide repercussions. But, when moral offenses are widespread and casually tolerated, their consequences may become devastating.
“Reconciliation is achieved after her husband visits her father’s house. Then, just as the Levite is preparing to return home with his wife, a seemingly harmless weakness appears, a lack of resolve in his determination to return to the necessary business of life. There is nothing overtly sinful in this feeling; this quality can even be a virtue in fostering warm human relations. But an excessive lack of resolve, as this account shows, may prove disastrous.
“The Levite, pressed by his father-in-law’s good cheer, repeatedly delays his departure until he finally feels compelled to leave. By the time the journey begins, it is too late to get home. Under normal conditions, this should have been nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
“It becomes necessary for the party to seek lodgings for the night. In light of later events, the Levite’s refusal to seek hospitality from the Gentile Jebusites is most ironic. The party decides to seek hospitality and shelter from the Benjamites of Gibeah instead.
“It is difficult to believe that the depravity of Gibeah is a complete secret. Certainly the Ephraimite host knows that something is wrong. Likely there have been hints all along; but the easy toleration of evil generally seen in these chapters causes any such hints to be disregarded. An entire community has chosen a congenial toleration of evil rather than confronting and judging it.
“By this time, a series of slight failures and bad judgments have, without their knowledge, put the Levite’s party in a precarious position. The first clear evidence of trouble is their slowness in finding hospitality for the night (v. 15). Finally, an Ephraimite living in Gibeah invites them in.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Judges 19:1 ‘concubine’: “Priests could marry (Lev. 21:7, 13, 14). Though a concubine wife (usually a slave) was culturally legal, the practice was not acceptable to God (Gen. 2:24).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:2 ‘played the harlot’: “She should have been killed as the law required and could have been, if there was a devotion to holiness and obedience to Scripture (cf. Lev. 20:10). A priest was not allowed to marry a harlot (Lev. 21:14), so his ministry was greatly tainted. Yet, he made little of her sin and separation and sought her back sympathetically (v. 3).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:10 ‘Jebus’: “An early title for Jerusalem because of Jebusite control (Judg. 1:21) until David wrested it away to become his capital (2 Sam. 5:6-9). Another early name for the city was Salem (Gen. 14:18; cf. Ps. 76:2).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:12-15 ‘Gibeah’: “Jerusalem was still partially out of the control of Israelites. Gibeah was under Israelite control and presumably safer.
“People of the Benjamite town of Gibeah failed to extend the expected courtesy of a lodging. This opened the door to immorality.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:18 ‘going to the house of the Lord’: “He was headed for Shiloh to return to priestly duty.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:20 ‘night in the open square’: “The old man knew the danger of such a place at night.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:22 ‘perverted men’: “Lit. ‘sons of Belial,’ i.e., worthless men, who desired to commit sodomy against the Levite. The phrase elsewhere is used for idolaters (Deut. 13:13), neglecters of the poor (Deut. 15:9), drunks (1 Sam. 1:16), immoral people (1 Sam. 2:12), and rebels against the civil authority (2 Sam. 20:1; Prov. 19:28). Belial can be traced to the false god Baal, and is also a term for yoke (they cast off the yoke of decency), and a term for entangling or injuring. It is used in the NT of Satan (2 Cor. 6:15).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:22-26 ‘Shades of Sodom and Gomorrah return’: “The full extent of the danger becomes clear when the men of the city demand the opportunity to assault the strangers homosexually. It is difficult for contemporary Westerners to understand the willingness of both the old Ephraimite and the Levite to turn their women over to the mob. The old Ephraimite, like Lot (Gen. 19:6-8), may have felt obligated to protect a guest at any cost whatsoever. However, it is difficult to identify with the Levite’s callous disregard for his concubine. He sends her out to the crowd; she is brutally raped and murdered (19:22-26).”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Judges 19:24 ‘let me bring them out’: “The host showed a disgraceful compromise in his exaggerated desire to extend hospitality to his male guest. He should have protected all in his house, and so should have the Levite, even at the risk of their own lives in guarding the women. His sad view of women was demonstrated by his willingness to hand his daughter or the guest concubine over to indecent men. Lot’s plunge from decency was similar (Gen. 19:8). Here, repeated rape and finally murder were the pitiful sequel.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:25 ‘the man took his concubine … to them’: “This is unthinkable weakness and cowardice for any man, especially a priest of God. Apparently, he even slept through the night, or stayed in bed out of fear, since he didn’t see her again until he awakened and prepared to leave (cf. v. 28).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 19:29 ‘divided her into twelve pieces’: “The Levite’s bizarre butchery to divide the woman’s body into twelve parts was his shocking summons for aroused Israelite redress. No doubt a message went with each part, and the fact that he ‘sent’ assumes messengers (cf. 1 Sam. 11:7). As he calculated, many Israelites were incensed and desired to avenge the atrocity (cf. 20:30). Nothing could have aroused universal indignation and horror more than this radical summons from the Levite.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 20:1 ‘all the children of Israel came out’: “As a result of this tragedy, a national assembly was convened with people coming from the north (Dan) and the south (Beersheba). as one man before the LORD. This indicated a humble attitude and desire to seek help from God for the nation.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 20:18 ‘the children of Benjamin would not listen’: “They hardened their hearts against the justice and decency of turning over the criminals. Even greatly outnumbered in war, they would not yield to what was right (cf. vv. 15-17), so civil war resulted.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 20:18, 22-25, 32 ‘to inquire of God’: “The Lord gave His counsel from the location of the ark at Shiloh, probably through the Urim and Thummim (vv. 27, 28). The tribe of Iudah was responsible to lead in battle since God had chosen a leadership role for that tribe (Gen. 49:8-12; 1 Chr. 5:1, 2). …
“The Lord twice allowed great defeat and death to Israel to bring them to their spiritual senses regarding the cost of tolerating apostasy. Also, while they sought counsel, they placed too much reliance on their own prowess and on satisfying their own outrage. Finally, when desperate enough, they fasted and offered sacrifices (v. 26). The Lord then gave victory with a strategy similar to that at Ai (Josh. 8).
“Here was a battle strategy that lured the Benjamite army into a disastrous ambush (cf. vv. 36-46).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 20:46-47 ‘twenty-five thousand’: “The text employs a rounded number for the more exact 25,100 (Cf. V. 35).
“The number of Benjamites adds up to the 26,700 (v. 15) in a reasonable way: 18,100 killed (rounded to 18,000 here, v. 44); 5,000 (v. 45); 2,000 (v. 45); 600 survived (v. 47); leaving an estimated 1,000 lost during the final days (v. 48).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 21:1-4 ‘Benjamin near extermination’: “Now that the Benjamites have been defeated and nearly exterminated, the Israelites have another change of heart. They had maintained an easy indulgence toward depravity, until a horrible sin shocked them into moral sensitivity. Then they turned to such a great commitment to judgment and vengeance that they had sworn that no man of Israel would let his daughter intermarry with the Benjamites. Now they regret that the Benjamites have been practically decimated (21:1-4). The situation is more acute since Israelite women, by oath, could not be given to the Benjamite survivors. Perhaps a prayerful release from a rash oath would have been better than the continued violence which actually occurs.
“Judges 21 well expresses the nation’s sense of wholeness. There were twelve tribes (actually thirteen, but with various well-known conventions to keep the official number at twelve). Something irreplaceable would have been lost if a tribe became extinct (cf. vv. 3, 6, 17). The Israelites know why the tragedy has occurred—because of sin. Their rhetorical question (v. 3) is a way of expressing grief at the course of events.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Judges 21:5-14 ‘obtain virgins by force’: “Two steps are taken to find wives for the Benjamites. The first involves a harsh reprisal against Jabesh-Gilead which had failed to join the anti-Benjamite campaign (21:5-14). The city is massacred and approximately four hundred virgins are brought back as wives for the Benjamites. However, there are still not enough wives for all the Benjamite survivors.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Judges 21:15-24 ‘How to get two hundred more virgins’: “The elders of the assembly address the problem of procuring two hundred additional wives. The tribal elders, obviously without the knowledge of the elders of Shiloh, decide upon the scheme recorded in Judges 21:15-24. The remaining Benjamites kidnap wives from among the young women of Shiloh at their great annual festival. This matter is then resolved with the people of Shiloh. The Benjamites return to their territories with their new wives to rebuild their tribal life and their cities.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Judges 21:25 ‘conclusion – no king?’: “The Book of Judges closes with an analysis as to why these terrible events occurred: there was no king in Israel (21:25). There was no king to embody the concept of the ideal, godly leader. There was no king to exemplify and enforce religious loyalty to the covenant. There was no king to expedite the conversion and assimilation of the Canaanites—or the annihilation of those who resisted. There was no king to maintain public order and to prevent outrages such as the one in Gibeah. There was no king to prevent these evil trends from culminating in a murderous civil war.
“Actually the consequences of the evils recorded in this book were more tragic than indicated. Even in the Old Testament.  God’s general purpose was to use Israel as his holy priest-nation (Exod. 19:6) to reach the entire world. Therefore, the breakdown in God’s purposes recorded in this book are not merely a setback for his plans for one nation. These failures represent a setback for God’s worldwide purposes for all mankind.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Judges 21:25 ‘Judges 17-12 – Summary’: “Judges 17-21 vividly demonstrates how bizarre and deep sin can become when people throw off the authority of God as mediated through the king (cf. 17:6). This was the expected but tragic conclusion to a bleak period of Israelite history (cf. Deut. 12:8).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)


My Thoughts

The Serendipity Bible, quoted below in the reflection questions, refers to Judges 19 as the “Sewer of the Scriptures.”  In research, which by using search engines gets you redirected in most cases, I finally found a sermon title for the Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas with that title.  I could find no origin of the epithet.

But Judges 19 is, on the surface, a carbon copy of Genesis 19.  The ruffians of Sodom, who rule the town by their terror at night, want to have homosexual sex with the guests of Lot, just as the men of Gibeah wanted to do the same with the Levite.  Just as Lot offered his daughters, the only one to show hospitality to the Levite, an Ephraimite living in Gibeah, offered his daughter, a virgin, and the concubine.  That part of the story is eerily similar.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God.  Lot’s family was spared, except for Lot’s wife.

But before we get to the Judges 18 rape and murder and what happened to Gibeah and by whose hand, how did we get there?

The chapter starts, after the first verse, with a concubine running away from a Levite.  She went home to Bethlehem.  Her father, known as a father-in-law to the Levite (mentioned as “husband” once), was a gracious host, probably not wanting his daughter to leave.  The Levite was willing to stay for three days, but by the fifth day, the Levite was tired of his father-in-law’s excuses.  Stay until noon, stay longer, but no, the Levite, the concubine, his donkey, provisions, servants, etc. all left late in the day.  Jebus (Jerusalem) was not controlled by the Israelites, so the Levite went to what should have been a safer town, Gibeah in the tribe of Benjamin.

This background is strange.  The Levite bought this girl rather than marry her.  This raises moral issues on his part.  Thus, you get a mixed bag of “titles.”  She is a concubine, a slave, but her father is the Levite’s father-in-law, and the Levite is mentioned as the husband of the concubine.  She is never mentioned as “wife.”  This arrangement, according to Rev. MacArthur was legal, but not acceptable before God.

Now, I have sympathy for the father-in-law, who unwittingly caused this calamity, complicit in the result in that they might have made the entire journey in one day.  He did not wish for his daughter to leave, but the Levite was about to be late in getting to Shiloh, some thinking that he had duties as a priest.  So, the Levite left, unadvisedly, late in the day and they hardly got anywhere before the sun was getting low.  Bethlehem to Shiloh might be possible in one day, but not leaving late in the day.

My sympathy?  Since my wife has been on kidney dialysis, two-day trips are hard and only available when she has a two-day gap in dialysis, for us, Sunday-Monday.  When we go west to visit the grandchildren, we get there in one day, with one hour gained by going from one time zone to the next.  But we leave about dawn or long before dawn to accomplish the feat.  On the return, it is always a two-day trip.  My wife cannot leave without saying good-bye to her babies.  That is the whole reason for the trip.  It is the same route as before, but we lose an hour crossing from one time zone to the next traveling east.  Even then, it is possible, but we leave several hours later so that she can say good-bye to the grandchildren.  Then, getting halfway home, we stop at a hotel and she snores all night, something she rarely does when she is at home in her bed, probably due to not having the right pillows or the right number of pillows, and I do not sleep more than about an hour or two, even though I do all the driving.  Her reason for insisting on sleeping is that I have a tendency to fall asleep at the wheel, so she must be alert.  I only fall asleep at the wheel when she keeps me up all night.  She does not worry about me falling asleep when going to the grandchildren, only when we are going home after visiting the grandchildren and only after the night in the hotel.

So, did the father-in-law have a premonition about what was about to happen?  Or, with his daughter running away from the Levite (reason unknown), was the father-in-law concerned for her well-being simply being with the Levite?  After all, the Levite accepted her as concubine and not as wife.

This requires some supposition, but we already have a moral dilemma before they leave Bethlehem.

Now, with the mob pounding on the door, the concubine is thrown to the crowd.  They rape her through the night.  Her hand reaches the threshold of the door, but she is too physically abused to knock.  She dies there.  Now, the Levite’s moral dilemma is even more pronounced.  To save his own skin, he throws her to the wolves.  And then, with seemingly no conscience whatsoever, he sleeps through the night.

Yes, what the mob did was much worse than the indifference of the Levite, but no one is the good guy in this story.  Could the concubine’s father have anticipated this character flaw?

But then, the body is cut into twelve pieces and sent to the twelve tribes.  This is odd in that there were twelve brothers.  Levi did not get a portion of the land, but rather several cities throughout, and Joseph’s sons each received a portion of land to bring the total back to twelve.  But which city of the Levites gets their portion, and the Levite sent a portion to Benjamin.

Now, this causes the other tribes to feel sick over how depraved the tribe of Benjamin has become.  The Levite tells the counsel of the tribes that the mob wanted to kill him.  This is a stretch of the truth in that they wanted to rape him, but seeing what happened to the concubine, he drew the conclusion that the rape would only end in death.  Yet, this slight change in the telling of the events made the matter seem worse.

They muster an army against Benjamin.  Their lust for revenge, or “seal for purity,” would probably have stopped if the tribe of Benjamin had allowed the other tribes to erase Gibeah from the map.  The tribe of Benjamin defended Gibeah instead.  Could it be possible that the other tribes were just as corrupt, but the Levite’s concubines simply got caught in Gibeah?  None of the tribes seem to be able to take the moral high ground.  As the Israelites attack the first time, after inquiring of God, they are repelled with 22,000 killed.  They think that they should have done more praying, so they weep until evening.  Their second attack is repelled with 18,000 killed.  They have already lost more men than all the Benjamite army.  But then the go back and weep more.  But this time, they fast and make offerings before the Lord.  The Lord says that they will be successful, and they use the same ruse that Joshua used against the city of Ai, on the second attack of Ai.  They lure the army from the city and then lay an ambush.  When the tribe of Benjamin see the smoke of Gibeah being burned, the Benjamites try to escape, but they are surrounded.

But at some point, the bloodlust of the other tribes got the idea that only eleven tribes was not a good idea.  Even then they continued to fight until six hundred young men of Benjamin were left at the rocks of Rimmon.

Then, making matters worse, they call for another tribal gathering.  The men of Israel had sworn an oath that they would not allow their daughters to marry a Benjamite, but how could the tribe of Benjamin go on?  Jabesh-Gilead had not contributed, so they attacked them, killed all but the virgin daughters.  That only yielded 400 virgins.  The other two hundred came by the two hundred unattached Benjamites kidnapping their brides when going to the annual festivals at Shiloh.  As I discussed in Judges 11, swearing an ill-advised oath seems to be a serious offense in that so many people died in these two cases (Judges 11 and 21) and in the second case, throw in kidnapping.  We do not have any problem with going against our oaths and promises these days, but is there any faithfulness anymore and honor?

The overall summary, according to the author of Judges is that without a king, there was no moral compass to redirect the people back to God.  Yet, the kings that would follow, with a few exceptions, contributed to the depravity.  It was not the lack of a king, but the lack of faithfulness toward God.  Just in their worldly handling of obtaining wives for the tribe of Benjamin showed how something worldly, a stupidly made oath, was more important than God’s law of Thou shalt not kill or steal.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

The Levite and his concubine, Judges 19: 1. This chapter has been called the ‘Sewer of Scripture.’ Do you agree or disagree? What would have cleaned it up? For example, what has Hosea done with this same motif of redeeming a faithless woman (typifying God’s faithful love for Israel)?
“2. What evil or inhumane situation in the world especially galls you? What might God be calling you to do about that?
“3. Judging from last year’s social calendar, how would you rate in terms of showing hospitality? Are you a ‘Welcoming Waldo’? ‘Tolerant Tess’? ‘Reluctant Rhoda’? Or ‘Resentful Ralph’? Give one example. What next step do you and your group want to take in this regard?
“4. What can you do about the homeless, the sexual perverts, or the violent crimes in the ‘Times Square’ near where you live? Write a graphic letter about this. Send it to the appropriate people. What visual aids or other dramatic effects will you enclose?
civil war, Judges 20: 1. What intra-family, in-house, or inter-church battles have you have fought recently? What are you still battling today?
“2. Where in your life does God seem to be less than willing to answer a prayer in the way you want it answered? When God says, ‘Wait,’ ‘Maybe,’ or ‘No,’ how do you handle that? What change on your part is called for?
“3. When in the past five years have you experienced the power of unity, of being ‘one’ with a group of people? Would you say such unity characterizes your small group? Your church’? What does your unity enable you to do?
Virgins for Benjamin, Judges 21: 1. With 20-20 hindsight, how do you view some of the reckless things you’ve said and done in the past? Do you ‘shoot-first-ask-questions-later’? Or do you have ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease? What did Israel have?
“2. Israel felt like one of its own members had been ‘cut off’ (see Rev 7:4-8, where Benjamin is still missing). Where are you feeling ‘cut off’ these days from your past roots? From your future inheritance? From your current family?
“3. Where do you go to ask God, ‘Why is this happening to me’? How can your small group be a forum for the situations you grieve over? How would you like God to intervene?
“4. What correctives would you give your child who says, ‘l want to grow up to be like Deborah’? …or ‘Gideon’? …or ‘Jephthah’? …or ‘Samson’?
“5. What bottom-line slogan sums up your understanding of the book of Judges? What light has this sobering account of Israel‘s dark history brought to bear on you and your small group? Where do you feel judged by the object lessons? Where do you feel encouraged by the Judge who delivers his people every time?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions for each chapter.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

Note that these reflection questions come from a Serendipity Bible written in the late 1980s.  The “perversion” that is mentioned is not only now called normal behavior, but calling it perversion is “hate speech.”  Thus are we not much worse today than the “Sewer of Scripture”?

And the second question 2 has a note that is in error – just flat out wrong. In Rev. 7, the 144,000 is mentioned, 12,000 from each “tribe.” But of the sons of Israel, it is Dan that is not mentioned. Benjamin is mentioned last. Oddly Manasseh is mentioned instead of Dan, even though Manasseh was a son of Joseph who is also mentioned. Thus, of the tribes who settled the Promised Land, Ephraim and Dan are not listed, while Levi (given cities instead) and Joseph are listed. It is possible that the elimination of Dan is from Judges 18, where they rejected their inheritance from God to attack a defenseless city in the north, Laish?

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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