Today: [Judges Chapter Twenty-One]: Is God to Blame? The conclusion of the book of Judges. In this chapter we find the tribe of Benjamin wiped out down to 600 remaining men. Unless wives are provided Benjamin will become extinct. The nation of Israel laments “Why did God let this happen” when in fact it was their own doing. There are times we will look to God and question why circumstances are as they are in our lives. In truth if we listened with greater care and humility we will find perhaps we as the people of Israel created our own problem. A sobering and thoughtful study as we conclude our inquiry into the book of Judges.
[Jdg 21:1-25 KJV] 1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife. 2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore; 3 And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?
Thus we come to the conclusion of the book of Judges. It begins with battle and ends with battle. In chapter one the people are fighting the Amorites and in this last chapter they are fighting each other almost to the point of extinction of the tribe of Benjamin. Through the book is the complaint “in those days there was no king in Israel and every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. This book was written during the reign of Saul who was the king after the heart of the people. He was chosen because he was a man “head and shoulders” above the rest in stature and ego. In 1 Sam. 12:8 God tells Samuel that in choosing a king the people had rejected God Himself. So in blaming the dark period of the Judges on the lack of a king the nation (for 400 years) blamed the difficulty of the time on God Himself. In effect they were saying “if God would give us a king like other nations things would be different…”
In Duet. 28:6 God implies through the Prophet Moses that the persistence of the people to have a king to rule over them would eventually be the cause of the nation going into captivity. What does this speak to us in our lives today. Remember the 1 Cor. 10:11 principle. These passages are not given to us primarily as history but as object lessons, types and metaphors. They speak to us of who Jesus is in our lives and our place in the kingdom. God intended the nation to be ruled over by the priesthood, the prophets and occasional deliverers that He would raise up. These deliverers would rule only insofar as they were anointed by God to benefit the people. The principle is to FOLLOW THE ANOINTING. Leadership in the body of Christ is not intended to flow through legacy, succession, or tradition. Neither is leadership intended to be of a populist character dominated by charismatic leaders who titillate the people with their talent or giftings. God’s chosen leadership is often transitory and often in a state of flux while the people learn to anchor themselves in personal dependence upon God and not outward religious infrastructure. If there is any lesson in Judges this is an important one.
In the previous two chapters we see that the tribe of Benjamin is completely wiped out by their brothers. The men, women and children were put to the sword and only 600 men remain. Without something being done to give them wives they will die out and there will only be the eleven tribes of Israel. Note the capability that the army of Israel had. They could eliminate an enemy if they wanted to. However the tribes of Ephraim, Gad, Dan, Benjamin, and Manasseh particularly never came fully into their inheritances and quite often instead of destroying the Canaanite tribes they incorporated them into their culture. Their complaint would be that God didn’t give them victory. The fact was they weren’t trying hard enough and weren’t actually interested in annihilating God’s enemies. They could however be motivated to war on each other quite ferociously. How true it is today. It is easy to sit back and lament the social ills of the day and complain that the enemy has gotten the upper hand and what is there to be done about it – but when it comes to rising up against a fellow believer for some pretense or justification there is no lack of motivation to do so. You must prepare yourself to refrain from these campaigns of strife and contention among God’s people. Refuse to get involved in destroying your brother no matter what the level of self-righteous indignation might be.
Now the people are sorrowful over the prospect of losing the tribe of Benjamin and are seeking an answer. Notice who they are blaming: “Oh Lord why has this come to pass in Israel?” This is the fist that often is shook in God’s face: “Why God?” There were answers but the people would never accept them because their hearts were set in their own self-interest. They had no desire to face the idolatry of their longing for a king. They had no intention of dealing with the sex trafficking that was the underlying issue that led to this situation. They were not inclined to accept that fact that even the most conservative and pious among them had greatly erred from the plain instructions of God through Moses when the nation came into Canaan in the first place.
4 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. 5 And the children of Israel said, Who [is there] among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death. 6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. 7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them of our daughters to wives? 8 And they said, What one [is there] of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead to the assembly. 9 For the people were numbered, and, behold, [there were] none of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead there. 10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children. 11 And this [is] the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.
The people are grieved at the loss of the tribe of Benjamin (which they themselves slaughtered) and they call a convocation to solve the problem. The inhabitants of Jabeshgilead don’t show up for the gathering and the response is to continue killing. It is easy to get people to rebel and to war with one another it is quite another thing to get them to stop. So they wipe out all the inhabitants their own brothers of Jabeshgilead down to the last man, woman and child. In doing this however they come up with a solution to give wives to the 600 remaining Benjamites:
12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which [is] in the land of Canaan. 13 And the whole congregation sent [some] to speak to the children of Benjamin that [were] in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them. 14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: and yet so they sufficed them not. 15 And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. 16 Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?
Notice that the people are repenting because GOD made a breach in the tribes of Israel. GOD didn’t do anything other than tell them what they wanted to hear when they went to war against Benjamin in the first place. In other words the people were saying “God why did you let us do this? You KNEW what was going to happen….” This is true today. We make our choices whether personally or nationally and when it doesn’t work out we question God before we question ourselves. The psalmist said “be still and know that I am God…” We have to get quiet in ourselves and refuse to live our lives reeling from one reaction to another. Only then can we be delivered from the threat that our own immature and selfish nature represents.
17 And they said, [There must be] an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel. 18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed [be] he that giveth a wife to Benjamin. 19 Then they said, Behold, [there is] a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly [in a place] which [is] on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah. 20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; 21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, [that] ye should be guilty. 23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took [them] wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. 24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance. 25 In those days [there was] no king in Israel: every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes.
When the nation sees the problem of no women for the 600 remaining Benjamites they choose one of their own cities to wipe out in order to force 400 virgins found there to marry them. Notice that this is very similar to the practice of concubinage that got this problem going in the first place. Realize that the men who made this decision (blaming it all upon God) they all had daughters that they could have given to the Benjamites. They claimed to be repentant but their repentances was of a nature that they weren’t willing to accept any personal cost or responsibility for what had happened. It was God’s fault and they engineered the slaughter of Jabeshgilead in order to get wives to replace the woman and children they eliminated. Now they are still coming up short 200 wives. Rather that stop the sham and admit their pride they come up with a plan to look the other way while the 200 Benjamites kidnap random women from among them to be their wives. Where were the women in all of this? Even among theologians today when these passages are studied the only observation is that these practices were common at the time and thereby not questioned.
Finally the chapter and the book conclude with the repeated accusation against God that if they were allowed to have a king things may have been different. While the ink was yet damp on these words the king they chose was King Saul who was in the process of becoming the disappointment that God had warned the people concerning. What is the lesson for us? Be careful what you ask for. Judge yourself before you judge others. Refuse to live in reaction, reeling from one crisis to the next. Ask God before you get in trouble. Realize that the cause of most of our problems are not the difficulties we can easily identify but the things in our lives we take for granted as acceptable that nonetheless are far from God’s will for our lives.
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