Judges 21 reveals the mistake that the Israelites had made in their vengeance against the tribe of Benjamin. At Mizpah, a curse is laid on anyone who gives their daughter as wives for the tribe of Benjamin. They had just wiped out 25,000 men and their women and children and now the light bulb goes on that this tribe is on the brink of extinction. So while they had just destroyed the majority of the tribe of Benjamin, now they are having remorse and want to find a way to help them remain alive.
So they have to find a way to try and fix the problem they have created, which was basically the reality there were no women left for the 600 or so Benjaminite men who had fled and were still alive. They decide to destroy the city of Jabesh Gilead and take their young women to become wives for these men. They sent 12,000 warriors to go and attack the city and they returned with 400 virgins which were given to the men of Benjamin. But there were not enough to go around, so they still had a problem.
“There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel”. You would think that it would have been wiser to consider that reality before they killed most of the tribe. But they didn’t, and now they continue to be focused on trying to fix the real issue they had created. They answered the problem of wives for the remaining Benjaminites by creating a little drama where the Benjaminites were allowed to “kidnap” women (who were not doubt willing), so that the marriages could be arranged without “official” approval from the daughters of Shiloh.
“And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off”. The plan worked, and each man now has a wife. The chapter ends with: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. Generally, the 400-year period of the Judges was marked by this radical individualism. They rejected the standard of God’s word and accepted the individual standard of what was right in their own eyes. It is the wrong approach, and God does not accept that as a lifestyle He will bless.
Judges 20 has the response to the ungodly acts committed in the city of Benjamin. “Then all the people of Israel came out….400,000 men on foot that drew the sword”. Each tribe had received a limb or part of the concubine of the Levite and they all gather and ask “Tell us, how did this evil happen”? There was unanimous agreement that it was unacceptable. “And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered” their question and gave them the details they needed to understand the atrocity that had occurred.
“The leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead”. He gives the background story and then says “I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel”. He admits to using uncommon means to get everyone’s attention. And it worked as “all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man”.
So they show up in force and ask the Benjaminites to “give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel….but the Benjaminites would not listen”. They stubbornly refuse and “came together out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the people of Israel”. They had 26,000 men plus 700 chosen men up against the 400,000 men who drew the sword for Israel. Not really fair numbers, but it was the way it went. The people of Israel inquired of God who should lead the attack and were told by God that “Judah shall go up first”. It was not a good day as 22,000 Israelite warriors died that day.
They seek God again and are told to go to battle but 18,000 fall the second time. “The whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept”. This is just not going according to plan. So they seek God yet a third time, after 40,000 of their comrades, 10% of the total, has perished in battle. God tells them that the third time will be the charm and they attack again and this time defeat the troops from Benjamin and kill 25,100 men that day. Some escape, but they take the city and burn the towns in victory. God tested their faithfulness to follow His direction, even when it didn’t go as expected the first two times. Obedience doesn’t end if it doesn’t go our way. Obedience never ends!
Judges 19 is a rather strange chapter. A “Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine….was unfaithful to him….went away from him to her father’s house….was there some four months”. So a Levite falls for a concubine who is unfaithful to him. But he doesn’t give up – her unfaithfulness does not drive him away. “Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back”. He desires to restore their relationship so he heads to her father’s house.
He arrives and his father-in-law is happy to see him. He invites him to stay for a few days, and then, day by day as the Levite plans to depart, his father-in-law convinces him to stay another night. This happens for a few more days before he finally decides to move on. “The man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed” and heads down the road toward home. “The day was nearly over” and his servant wants them to pull up for the night. After all, it is dangerous at night to be on the road. But the Levite doesn’t want to stop in a city that is not part of Israel, so he tells his servant “we will not turn aside into the city of foreigners”.
Instead they push on to Gibeah and they stop at the town square but “no one took them into his house to spend the night”. So they had pushed on to a friendly city, at least in theory, but no one invited them to stay. “An old man was coming from his work in the field at evening….he brought him into his house” and cared for them and their donkeys. “They washed their feet, and ate and drank….were making their hearts merry”. The plan was working as the Levite expected. But then….
“Worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door….bring out the man”. Sin is on the loose and they want to molest the man. The host says no and instead offers up his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine and puts the concubine out the door for their enjoyment. They take her and “they knew her and abused her all night until the morning”. Hard to explain how this is allowed to happen, but it is what scripture says. They drop her body off in the morning and lay her at the front door. The Levite prepares to leave and finds her dead, but carries her back home. Then scripture tells us “he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel”. We’ll see in the next chapter why he does it. It was a warning of sorts indeed.
Judges 18 is about the tribe of Dan. “The tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in”. They were a people without a home, so they “sent five able mens….to spy out the land and to explore it….and they came to the hill country of Ephraim….recognized the voice of the young Levite” who was living with Micah. So they come and ask him what he is doing there and what his business was. Of course the Levite recalled how Micah had invited him to stay and be his priest, which he has been happily doing.
“He has hired me, and I have become his priest”. The spies now want to know how their mission is going to go so they ask the priest to “Inquire of God” and find out what will happen. They get a good report and head off to explore coming to find a place near the Sidonians that is exactly what they are looking for. So they return to their leaders with that report and tell them to get on with the mission. “Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land….the land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth”.
They head toward the land and come again to the house of Micah with the 600 warriors they have to take their new homeland. The Levite priest meets them and they ask him to come with them and be their priest. It was a pretty good offer, so they take all of Micah’s idols and items of worship and the priest and head off toward the Sidonian land. Micah figures it out and comes after them and calls out asking what they think they are doing. The people of Dan tell him to go home.
“Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household”. They tell Micah to go home and he does because they are too strong and there are far too many for him to overtake. So they return home and the people of Dan continue their journey and conquest to take the land. They rebuild the city and name it Dan and Jonathan and his sons became priests there. “They set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh”.
Judges 17 transitions to the story of Micah, a man from the hill country of Ephraim. He told his mother “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it”. Confession time indeed. Micah not only admits he took her silver, but “he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother” after she blessed her son before the Lord. Then she dedicates the silver to the Lord as well.
But strangely enough, “his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image”. Not a good move considering God’s dislike of idols and idolatry. But it certainly fits the actions of the day. Samson was gone as judge and “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. That sure sound familiar, doesn’ it. No one felt obligated to follow God’s truth in His Word – it was up to every person to determine what they should do and how they should live.
God causes a Levite from Bethlehem to head out to find a place to live. And he came to Ephraim and ran into Micah, who invites him to come stay with him once he discovers he is a Levite. Micah invites him to “be to me a father and a priest”. He offered to pay him and provide him some clothing, so the Levite decides to take him up on the offer and stays. Micah ordains the Levite and he became a priest. Micah says “now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest”.
There were no defined leaders in Israel at this time. The judges were all dead and no king was in place. So having a priest live in your home was a pretty big coup for Micah. He took action to make God part of his home. We need to consider how we do that in our society today. Odds are we won’t have a pastor or priest living with us. But there are lots of things we can do to make God center and keep Him in His rightful place in our life. What is your plan to do that? Hiring a full time pastor may be your strategy. But we just need to define one!
Judges 16 has the fall and death of Samson. He has a weakness for beautiful women. This time Samson “saw a prostitute, and he went in to her”. He is one of the strongest men to ever live, yet he has a weakness that will eventually cause him to die. The people saw him come and “the Gazites were told….surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city”. They were going to get rid of him once and for all, but decided to wait “till the light of the morning”. That was a bad plan. “Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron”
Pretty impressive show of strength. But Samson falls again, this time for “a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah”. He really doesn’t have much self control. Not only is he obsessed with beautiful women, he tends to select those from the enemy as well. The Philistines came and asked Delilah to “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies”. The leadership wants to use his weakness to identify the source of his strength and they offer her 1,100 pieces of silver from each of them. They bought her off and she takes the bait.
“Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you” Delilah asks. Not too subtle at all – just a direct question knowing that he is enamored with her beauty. Samson gave her three wrong answers: “seven fresh bowstrings….new ropes that have not been used….weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin”. All sounded possible but each time Delilah tested the answer and each time Samson broke free. It just wasn’t true. But finally, Delilah pulls his heart strings and he tells her it is that “a razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man”.
She played the ‘if you love me card’ and he fell hook line and sinker. Samson went to sleep, she had his head shaved and how he is without his strength. “The Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles”. He is put to hard labor and they celebrated his capture. But when they brought him out to entertain them so they could celebrate their victory, they failed to realize that his hair was regrowing and his strength returning. He got one last chance to even the score.
“Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests….Samson grasped the two middle pillars….leaned his weight against them….the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it”. The Philistines may have won the battle but they didn’t win the war. Samson killed many that day as he died himself as well. “So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life”. This is certainly a lesson on being careful about controlling desires that lead one away from God. Samson had it all and gave it up for his passion and desire
Judges 15 reveals that as Samson was frustrated in the prior chapter, and the woman he had just married betrayed him, it was her father in law that gave her to Samson’s companion. “After some days….Samson went to visit his wife….I will go in to my wife in the chamber….But her father would not allow him to go in”. Samson had been extremely bitter that she had given away the answer to his riddle and her father decided he no longer wanted her. So he tells Samson “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion”.
Based on Samson’s actions, it was an understandable response. After all she had manipulated him and Samson was obviously very angry. But the mistake here was there was no communication. That is so often the root of all misunderstandings and conflict. We simply don’t talk about things that matter. We make assumptions and decide what someone else thinks without ever uttering a word to get clarification. If we all just worked on this one simple area – to understand and be understood – we would change the world overnight. But Samson just acted with determination to get even with the Philistines and his new father in law interpreted that as no longer wanting his daughter as his wife, so he gave her to someone else.
It didn’t sit well with Samson. He may have flew off in a rage of anger, but after some time and cooling down he came back to claim his wife. But it was too late. So he decides to get event. “Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails”. Pretty creative way to cause mayhem and destruction. They find out it was Samson’s doing and the root of the reason why – and they take revenge on his wife and family – “came up and burned her and her father with fire”
So the Philistines come to the tribe of Judah looking for Samson. They aren’t done yet. He has hidden himself away. But his people come and tell him they have to bring him to their captors. “We will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you”. Samson agrees to go as he doesn’t want his people to be punished for his actions. So they took him to the Philistines, but as he approached them and they were yelling at him, “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him….he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey….he struck 1,000 men”. God empowered him and he destroyed a number of the enemy. At that point “he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years”.