As you read these last three chapters of Judges, keep in mind that the book is really NOT about the characters and the stories; although, it has been very easy to get swept up with them. WHO KNEW the OT had so much excitement in it?? We read about “E-who’d” (my phonetic spelling) the left handed dude from the right handed tribe of Benjamin who was able to get in to kill the ginormous king because of his handicap (no one would have checked his left side for a weapon!!) I loved seeing Deborah, a woman with a good head on her shoulders, among the judges. We witnessed Gideon and his merry band of misfits. Of course we watched Samson making wrong choices lead by his lusts, but His final choice to ask God to give him strength one last time which began the destruction of the Philistines.
THE major theme in our reading of Judges has been God’s patience, compassion, grace, and mercy HE showed to HIS people when they cried out to Him and repented of their wicked ways. God NEVER failed to open HIS arms in love to HIS people when they cried out. He did not stop the consequences of their sin NOR did HE make their choices for them… but HE never left them. He has always honored HIS promise to Abraham which includes all of us.
The book of Joshua ended with a powerful scripture of choice for all people (in the OT, the NT, and TODAY.) My husband and I have this scripture framed and hanging in our breakfast nook so we are reminded daily of our CHOICE to serve our God. It states: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua chronicled the blessings God placed on the Israelites for their obedience in conquering the PROMISED LAND. He also reminded them of the importance of CHOOSING GOD and putting away ALL their gods, idols, and rebellion. In Judges we witnessed that HIS people CHOSE to be disobedient, idolatrous, disrespectful, rebellious, self-righteous (I could go on) and their CHOICES led them into MANY defeats and moral destruction. We are also reminded in Judges that His patience will have a limit. Our God is an awesome God. He sent HIS one and ONLY son to deliver us. He delivers all who choose Him today as well as delivering HIS children from our repeated bad human choices when we cry out to him in repentance. He sent temporary, human judges in the OT….as deliverers! He heard when the people cried out to HIM, time and time again.
Judges is huge for us to consider in our life right now. If we were living in the time of the book of Judges, what would our character be? Would each of be able to say that we: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up?”
These Judges were not perfect; they were human … plain and simple. But one was finally raised up hundreds of years later to once and for all deliver us so we can fall right into His arms! He is our greatest Judge, our final Deliverer, our Redeemer, our Defender, our Warrior. Jesus!! Not ONLY did He come to redeem us and deliver us so we may live the abundant life here on earth and spend eternity with HIM…but HE also LIVES INSIDE OF US so we can hear HIM guiding us each step of the way.
Chapter 19 – HEAVENS TO BETSY!!! SO… EVERY one was doing “what was right in their OWN eyes.” WE all KNOW how well THAT idea works!!! I have to admit .. I was a little confused as if the Levite’s concubine was just a concubine or his wife or both. This Levite has gone soooo far from the Lord and His commands. The Levite chose Hospitality OVER God in the land of the Benjaminites. Did ANY bells go off in your head as you were reading this? I felt as if I was reading about Lot and the angels who came to rescue him and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah (look at Genesis 19)…. the men of the town came POUNDING on his door demanding to have sex with the VISITNG LEVITE!!! The man of the house offered his virgin daughter and the Levite offered his concubine/wife for these men to “use them and do to them WHATEVER you wish, but as for the man don’t do such an outrageous thing.” The Levite gave up his concubine/wife for the hospitality the Benjaminite offered and found her the next morning raped, abused, and dead lying at the front door. “Back in the day”…. HOSPITALITY was a HUGE part of their tradition and it was part of who the man was to make sure the visiting man was taken care of.
Needless to say… the Levite was not a happy camper. He placed “her” on his donkey and set out for home. Now.. this next part sounds like something from a Stephen King movie…. Or from the movie “Fargo” …. The Levite cuts her up in 12 pieces … one piece for EACH tribe of the Israelites. He wanted to be SURE the Benjaminites got the message and that the other tribes ALL KNEW what the tribe of Benjamin had done …. To THEIR OWN PEOPLE. There was NO war. There was NO reason to attack the woman, abuse her, and kill her. Unfortunately, the Levite was as responsible as the Benjaminites were in this entire story because if he had been living FOR the LORD… he would not have been traveling around.. he would have been doing the work the Lord called him to for the Tabernacle in the city he was ASSIGNED!!!
Civil war broke out.
Chapter 20 – The tribes of Israel TRIED to approach the Benjamites to ask that they turn over the wicked men of Gibeah (Benjamites) to them so they could put them to death and purge the evil from Israel. The Benjamites REFUSE.
Just a little interesting note …. In verse 16 – we see that “E-who’d” was not the ONLY left handed dude in the tribe of the right hand!! “Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were LEFT-HANDED, each of who could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.” This reminded me that in dealing with our own “handicaps” we often feel alone … there is no one else like me…I’m a reject. Yet, this “handicap” was all around “E-who’d” and it appeared each of these men were quite skilled.
Verse 18 – this is the first time we have seen this in AWHILE – “The Israelites went up to Bethel and INQUIRED of GOD.” We will see the Israelites “INQUIRING of God” throughout this civil war, which is SUCH AN AWESOME THING TO SEE AGAIN!!! Even if it doesn’t last long.
Verse 46 – The Lord gave the Benjaminites over to the Israelites.. 25,000 Benjaminites fell that day but 600 of them fled. The Israelites then killed all the women, children, and animals that belonged to the Benjaminites (although the Lord did not tell them to do this!) (I KNOW.. SHOCKER!!)
Chapter 21 – a WHOLE NEW problem … The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.” This was a rash vow for them to make and remember in the eyes of the Lord a vow could not be broken. We saw Jephthah (Judges 11:29-40) make a rash vow when he vowed to the Lord if he gave the Ammonites into his hands then he would sacrifice WHATEVER came out of the door of his house to meet him when he returned in triumph… little did he know his sacrifice would end up being his ONLY daughter.
The Israelites approached the LORD again, they even build HIM an altar and made burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. They grieved their brothers, the Benjamites having been cut off from all the Israelites. They asked how they could provide them wives (without breaking the vow they had made.) So THEY decide the way to fix the wife situation is to “steal others’ wives!! OH YEAH… stealing is such a remarkably wise decision!! WHAT A MESS!!! The Israelites put tribal loyalties above God’s commands and justified wrong actions to correct past mistakes.
We end the book of Judges in verse 25 with: “In those days Israel had no king; EVERYONE did as HE SAW FIT.”
The Israelites had lost their way because they refused to OBEY God by CONQUERING the land and getting rid of all the people who had chosen a life of complete sin and had NO regard for the ONE TRUE God. God did not want Israel to be influenced by their sin…sin they were unwilling to get rid of.
The ultimate heroic act is to submit ALL of our plans, desires, and motives to God. God sent men and a woman as delivers to deliver the Israelites, but the Israelites didn’t get “it.” They did not understand that God was calling EACH of them to be “heros”. He was calling each of them to submit ALL of themselves to HIM … just as HE calls each of us to do today. HE never said it would be easy… but HE did PROMISE to be with us each step of the way.
Philippians 4:13 “I can do ALL things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.”
Sharing HIS love,