Today: [Judges Chapter Twenty]: Be Careful What You Ask God For. In this chapter the tribes of Israel ask God for permission to go to war. He gives them leave to do so yet they are defeated just the same. Jesus said “ask what ye will…” Because most Christians presume God is reluctant to answer they pepper him with constant requests in the hopes that one will stick and they will get something they might want or think they need. The truth of the matter is that God is a covenant keeping God. He will give you EXACTLY what you ask for because He MADE A COVENANT to do so. In the end things may not work out as planned. We will see in this chapter that we should approach God will yieldedness and humility to find the plan that is pleasing to Him for our next step in the midst of a crisis.
[Jdg 20:1-48 KJV] 1 Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh. 2 And the chief of all the people, [even] of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. 3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell [us], how was this wickedness? 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that [belongeth] to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. 5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, [and] thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead. 6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. 7 Behold, ye [are] all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel. 8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any [of us] go to his tent, neither will we any [of us] turn into his house. 9 But now this [shall be] the thing which we will do to Gibeah; [we will go up] by lot against it; 10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man. 12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness [is] this that is done among you? 13 Now therefore deliver [us] the men, the children of Belial, which [are] in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel: 14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel. 15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. 16 Among all this people [there were] seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair [breadth], and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these [were] men of war. 18 And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah [shall go up] first. 19 And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah. 21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men.
In this chapter the tribes of Israel are incited over the conduct of the men of a city in the tribe of Benjamin. A Levite had traveled there with his sexual slave and she had consequently been raped and murdered. The Levite spreads the word and the tribes of Israel are incited to civil war and rise up against the tribe of Benjamin who refuses to turn over the accused men for justice to the army who comes out to confront them.
In reading this chapter we want to get something more than just history. In 1 Corinthians Paul made this statement about the Old Testament:
[1Co 10:11 KJV] 11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Therefore we can understand that this record is not handed down to us and mere history but as type, shadow and metaphor to speak to us about our place in God’s economy. When we read these passages we ask ourselves “what does this say in type and metaphor about who Jesus is to me and what my place is in God’s purposes?”
The people rose up as one man to avenge the injustice of this young woman’s death. What the Levite fails to recount is his rough treatment of the concubine and her consequent death when he dismembers her unconscious body and sends the pieces throughout Israel. What is also not questioned is the fact that the man held a sexual slave in the first place. In Matt. 19:3-19 Jesus plainly defines marriage as a monogamous relationship not including multiple sexual partners nor encouraging divorce. His disciples in this passage on hearing this remark that it is good not to marry. In other words they were denying the uses of a woman by a man but rather suggesting rather than get married and be under the demands of Jesus’ high standards it would be better simply to secure the services of a concubine. The only difference between a concubine and a prostitute is that a concubine had only one client in this case the Levite. So in Jesus’ day with his own disciples and in this time in Judges 20 the practice is not questioned. Even theologians and scholars will defend the practice by saying – it was the custom of the day. What about the morals and practices of our day which are widely and morally questionable and repugnant to people dedicated to chastity? Will religious scholars look back on our day and justify our practices by saying “that’s just how it was done back then”?
When we read the bible we should not read it as though every thing recorded was with God’s sanction or that every person in every narrative was a saint. We must learn and listen to the voice of the Spirit of God and filter what we read through the lens of the character of Jesus as demonstrated in the gospels.
So the eleven tribes come out to war against Benjamin and 22,000 men fall in the first skirmish. Remember that the tribes of Israel numbered 400,000 against only 26,000 Benjamites. Yet the Benjamites defeated them on the first day of battle. This is surprising because the eleven tribes outnumbered the Benjamites 16 to 1 AND they enquired of the Lord before going into battle. Here at the end of the book of Judges cover 400 years of history is recorded only the SECOND TIME that the people enquired of the Lord for ANYTHING. Yet even so they were defeated in battle.
The incitement of the eleven tribes is a questionable motive of indignation over a questionable situation with a corrupt and brutal Levite with an unchecked sexual proclivity. If you were going to go to war this would not be a battle that a thinking man would choose. Yet there was no thought with their superior numbers that they would ever be defeated. In other words they could afford to go to war because they thought they couldn’t possibly lose. Also they were righteously indignant at the Benjamites for allow the sin of Sodom in the city of Gibeah. These kind of issues incite people today. They march, they put bumper sticker and post diatribes on social media decrying the moral decay of our times and how could we let this happen? Remember however the words of Solomon and the words of Paul:
[Pro 27:19 KJV] 19 As in water face [answereth] to face, so the heart of man to man.
[Rom 2:1 KJV] 1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. 23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.) 24 And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword. 26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 27 And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God [was] there in those days, 28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand. 29 And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah. 30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, [and] were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, [and] kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the children of Benjamin said, They [are] smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways. 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, [even] out of the meadows of Gibeah. 34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil [was] near them. 35 And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword. 36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah. 37 And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew [themselves] along, and smote all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city. 39 And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite [and] kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as [in] the first battle. 40 But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven. 41 And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them. 42 Therefore they turned [their backs] before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which [came] out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them. 43 [Thus] they inclosed the Benjamites round about, [and] chased them, [and] trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising. 44 And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these [were] men of valour. 45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them. 46 So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these [were] men of valour. 47 But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of [every] city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.
The eleven tribes outnumbered the 26,000 Benjamites and they inquired of the Lord before going into battle. Nonetheless they were defeated in the first day of battle. They return and lament before the Lord. No doubt they asked “God were did we go wrong? What could we have done differently?” They subsequently go out on additional days inquiring of God each time and are likewise defeated by this inferior force who in their eyes did not have the moral high ground because they were defending a morally despicable city guilty of high crimes against God and society. How could God let this happen? The answers lie not in the questions they are asking of God but in the things they are taking for granted. They took for granted that their superior forces would overwhelm the Benjamites – so they were standing in their own strength.
The only reason they asked of God is because they wanted Him to sign off on the planned slaughter before it began. Remember that the universal sentiment in Israel at this time was “if we had a king none of this would be happening…” Yet God told Samuel in 1 Sam. 8:12 that the desire of the people for a king was equivalent to rejecting God himself as their Lord. So the tribes see this debacle in Gibeah and go to God with this in their hearts. In effect they were saying “God if you had allowed us to have a king (or to reject you) this wouldn’t have happened – so now we want you to give your approval to go clean up the mess that you are responsible for because you wouldn’t give us what we wanted.
So we see that their inquiry of God’s permission to go to war could not have been sincere. You have to learn to pick your battles. You cannot presume God’s stamp of approval on every situation you wade into. You must be very conservative about going before the Lord with a made up mind regarding who is in the right and what the plan is for fixing the problem. He may just tell you to go ahead and do what he knows is in your heart and the end result will be disappointment. The eleven tribes were SO CONVINCED they were right that the go before God multiple times and never asked for further counsel to explain why they were being defeated.
Finally God delivers the Benjamites into their hands. Remember that Benjamin wasn’t in the right in this situation either. The Levite was a murderer and a sex trafficker. The men of Gibeah practiced gang rape for sport. The Benjamites refused to defend the innocent against the rape gangs in Gibeah and went to war rather than repent of their sin. The eleven tribes were spoiling for a fight to defend the Levite who had lied and murdered. In all of this the overlying sentiment of all concerned was ultimately it was all God’s fault because He hadn’t given them a king. Thus they turn on each other – all equally in the wrong and one of the twelve tribes is brought to the brink of extinction with only 600 men left of 26,000 and apparently as we shall see in the next chapter not only the men but all of the women and children of Benjamin were also slain in an act of genocide perpetrated by the eleven tribes against Benjamin.
This chapter could have been scripted in today’s newscast. No one who goes to war does so with the thought that it isn’t justified. This must give us pause when we see what is happening on the world scene and should make us think twice when we are bound up in strife and contention in our own personal lives. God is allowing the people to bear the brunt of the law of sowing and reaping. They have sown strife and independence and defiance of God. Now they KNOW they were the voice of God leading them into what turns into disaster. When you are not operating in yieldedness to God in your life the voice of God you hear will be filter through the sovereignty of the law of sowing and reaping. You will KNOW God led you and told you what to do but you won’t understand why it didn’t work out like you planned. God is calling you to ascend into the law of love where you then MASTER the law of sowing and reaping and can call for a failed harvest of the bitter decisions and compromised choices that would bring you to the brink of disaster in your life or nation.
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