Judges 19-21
(A World Without God - continued)
March 19th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

It was an era when there was no king in Israel.

- Judges 19:1a (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

The last three chapters in Judges provide another illustration of what life would be like without God and the rules he has given us. The time period of the story may not have been after the story of Micah in the previous chapters, but the themes belong together.

The tale begins by describing a Levite with an unfaithful concubine. A concubine is a woman who lives with a man, but is not his wife. The concubine may bear children and provide additional comfort. This relationship is forbidden by the Ten Commandments, so the idea that the concubine can be accused of unfaithfulness gives the reader an idea of the mixed up morals that provide a background for the story. But we see that it gets much, much worse. One wrong is followed with another and another. Even at the end, when the Israelites try to facilitate some type of restoration, they go about it in the wrong way.

The acts committed in these chapters are so horrendous that it’s difficult to think about, much less summarize. When you read the chapters you can see that the Levite and his host did nothing to protect the concubine in a threatening situation. Meanwhile, the people of Gibeah took no restraint in what they did to her. The Levite’s method of communicating this story to the other tribes was attention-getting, but gruesome. His communication method was in contrast with so many Levitical laws that we won’t go into all of them. Remember that just touching a dead body was forbidden for the Levites so that they could remain ceremonially clean, but this guy wasn’t clean to begin with anyway.

For their part, the Benjaminites refused to bring to justice the members of their tribe who were the perpetrators of this crime in Gibeah. As a result, an all-out civil war followed. It was so devastating that the tribe was nearly extinguished. In a peace offering the other tribes came up with a plan to help the survivors re-populate, but this was not a worthy idea either.

    So they told the Benjaminites, “Go and hide in the vineyards. Stay alert—when you see the Shiloh girls come out to dance the dances, run out of the vineyards, grab one of the Shiloh girls for your wife, and then hightail it back to the country of Benjamin. When their fathers or brothers come to lay charges against us, we’ll tell them, ‘We did them a favor. After all we didn’t go to war and kill to get wives for men. And it wasn’t as if you were in on it by giving consent. But if you keep this up, you will incur blame.’”

    - Judges 21:20-22 (NIV)

This statement was a classic case of rationalization without any concern for the rights or dignity of others - which in this case was their own daughters. This was truly a depraved generation. So, this is how the story ends and this is how the book of Judges ends, except for the last verse, which succinctly summarizes the situation:

    In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

    - Judges 21:25 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

This story is another example of what happens when there is no fear of God and no observation of the law from God. The people wanted freedom from God so they could do want they wanted, and they got their wish. Illicit relationships, rape, murder, war – they had it all. The actions described in this story were a benchmark for evil, as referenced by future prophets, including Hosea:

    They have sunk deep into corruption,
        as in the days of Gibeah.
    God will remember their wickedness
       and punish them for their sins.

    -Hosea 9:9 (NIV)

    “Since the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, Israel,
        and there you have remained
    Will not war again overtake
        the evildoers in Gibeah?"

    - Hosea 10:9 (NIV)

The consequences in these stories remind us that God provided us with a set of laws to protect us from ourselves. Sometimes it’s tempting to think that all of God’s laws are designed to make him happy – this may be true to a certain extent, but the main purpose is to guide us to live peacefully with each other. We can create our own heaven on earth if we all follow all the laws. Imagine the inverse of what we have read over the last two days. What if all the people followed every one of God’s laws? We would have stable families, we wouldn’t have to lock our doors at night (locksmiths would have to be re-trained, but someone would provide work for them), and there would be no wars, nothing to fight for. Imagine that.

These last five chapters provide a sad and perhaps disappointing ending to the book of Judges. It has been a roller-coaster ride where the high points featured Judges with worthy attributes, such as the resourcefulness of Ehud the lefty, the vision and fortitude of Deborah, the faithfulness and leadership of Gideon, and the awesome power of Samson. Then the ride ends with the trolley car approaching a cinder block wall. There is no king, there is no judge. Instead, lawlessness rules the land. The Israelites believed they have survived a crisis at the end of chapter 21, but if they continue down their current path of moral ambiguity then they will have more crises.

The book of Judges ends on a gloomy note, but it’s not the end of God’s story. Far from it. From the decimated and guilty tribe of Benjamin will arise Israel’s first king, Saul, who binds the tribes together. Also this tribe produces Israel’s most prolific Biblical writer, also with the birth name of Saul, but later known as Paul, the Apostle.

God calls us to give up our own desires for earthly treasures and follow the laws and standards of his word as we seek the treasures of heaven. Let us commit to follow those laws and create a little bit of heaven on the plot of earth where we reside.

What are the words that resonate in your memory from the book of Judges? Check out the word cloud from the 66 Clouds website to review the most often mentioned words in the NIV translation (a word cloud is an illustration of word counts in which the words with larger counts are represented by larger fonts): Judges word cloud

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. When was the last time you felt like taking revenge for a wrong done against you?
    2. How can clans, tribes, and nations end the cycle of violence when there has been crimes and murders committed by both sides?
    3. What can you do today to create a moment of heaven for the people around you?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven help us to forgive each other and end cycles of revenge.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    People suffering today in civil wars in the Mideast and Africa

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Overview of the Book of Ruth and study of Ruth 1-4 (Greatest Trade Ever)

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