From Judges 19-21
Jdg 19.1-21; Story; A Levite and His Concubine
Jdg 19.22-30; Story; Gibeah’s Crime
Jdg 20.1-48; Story; Israel’s War with the Tribe of Benjamin
Jdg 21.1-25; Story; Wives Provided for the Tribe of Benjamin
Passage and Comments
Todays chapter readings cover a gruesome story. A levite and his concubine come to stay at Gibeah (Jdg 19.1-21).
Some of the local residents find out and they wanted his host to give him up so they could have sex with him. The host refuses and instead forces the levite’s concubine and his virgin daughter outside. The concubine was abused all night and killed. The levite becomes so enraged at the injustice he cuts his concubine up into pieces and sets these pieces all over Israel in protest (Jdg 19.22-30).
All the people of Israel come out, ready for war. Gibeah belongs to the tribe of Benjamin. The tribe will not give them up for punishment. So Israel engages in her first civil war to purge the evil from the land. Eventually the LORD allows the tribe of Benjamin to be defeated and the people of Israel swear never to give their daughters to them in marriage (Jdg 20.1-48).
But this causes another problem. This is where our reading picks up.
21 Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” 2 And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. 3 And they said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?” 4 And the next day the people rose early and built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. (Jdg 21:1–4)
If they cannot be married they cannot have rightful heirs. The tribe will eventually die out. If this happens the twelve tribes of Israel will be reduced to eleven. The people of Israel take this problem to the LORD and worship.
5 And the people of Israel said, “Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” 6 And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. 7 What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?” (Jdg 21:5-7)
Israel asks if everyone came to join the assembly and fight the evil. Those who didnt should be punished as well. Perhaps their punishment could be used to the advantage of Benjamin? Israel has compassion for Benjamin.
As the LORD has shown us compassion. Have compassion for those who have been punished.
They don’t want the tribe of Benjamin to die out. So they seek a solution in the punishment of those who did not stand with Israel as they swore..
8 And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly. 9 For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. 10 So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. 11 This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.” 12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan. (Jdg 21:8-12)
They devote the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead to destruction. Killing men, women and children. Only 400 young virgins remain. These they intend to give to the tribe of Benjamin. The punishment of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead is used to preserve the tribe of Benjamin.
The death of some results in the salvation of others.
13 Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them. 14 And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them. 15 And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. (Jdg 21:13-15)
The remaining people of Benjamin fled. Israel finds them and proclaims peace. Their punishment is over. Now they seek to help continue their line. They give them the virgins, the survivors of Jabesh-gilead. But they need more.
16 Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” 17 And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. 18 Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” (Jdg 21:16-18)
The problem still remains. Benjamin will die out because the remaining tribes refuse to give them wives. So they come up with an unusual plan.
19 So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” 20 And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards 21 and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. (Jdg 21:19-21)
When some Christian conversations about dating come up sometimes people joke about this as a valid means of getting a wife. Perhaps this is how dancing is discouraged by some because it leads to sex. Or worse, sex leads to dancing.
Shiloh is “located 10 miles northeast of Bethel, 12 miles southeast of Shechem, and 3 miles east of the road between Shechem and Jerusalem” (Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.) Its within Israel. Therefore the Benjaminites will probably be kidnapping these women from the people of Israel.
Obviously the people of Shiloh will complain.
22 And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’ ” 23 And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. 24 And the people 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. (Jdg 21:22-24)
During the battle, no one thought to preserve enough women to be wives for the remainder of Benjaminites. Because they all share this guilt, they argue the people of Shiloh should allow these ‘dancers’ to be taken. They accept this.
25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Jdg 21:25)
This statement ends the book of Judges. Its an apt ending because it describes the state of Israel. The people no longer seek the LORD or his direction. People live as they want. The sheep of Israel are without a shepherd.
Story of Israel
In the next book – Samuel. Israel will receive a king. But they ask in a manner which communicates they still do not regard the LORD as their King.
In today’s passage we saw the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin and went to reasonable lengths to gain wives for them. The battle however, is a foretaste of growing hostility between the tribes of Israel. Judah and Benjamin side against the remaining tribes of Israel. The hostility will continue to Jesus day.
Story of Jesus
Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. Normally Jews would shun the people of Samaria. These people were descended from the tribes of Israel, but their blood lines had been mixed with other nations. When Jesus came he had compassion. In one instance he spoke with a Samarian woman.
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (Jn 4:19–26)
The people of Israel had compassion on the Benjaminites and provided wives for them. They did this when there was no king over Israel. Now there is a king over Israel. Even more, a King over this whole world.
He also has compassion on people and tribes different from his own.
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