Judges 20:1-48 (Part 1) – We Have Looked In the Mirror & We See Ourselves

Posted: October 1, 2017 in 07-Judges
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Judges 20:1-48 (Part 1 of 2)
Israel’s War with Benjamin

Wow! Israel has sunk to a new low in this passage. They have a bloody civil war on their hands and nobody seems to care. At that point, a foreign power could have swooped in and destroyed them while they were busy seeking vengeance against their one of their own tribes or being that tribe defending itself against the rest of their own countrymen. It is a sad day for the people of God’s history.

The thing that struck me is that how similar to our own nation right now this whole episode is. We were once a nation (where simply by the nature of the way our government was constructed by the founding fathers) of reasoned compromise. Nobody ever got what they wanted in their own perfect ideal of things. However, in the interest of getting most of what they wanted, they would give up on certain points to get the majority of what they wanted. The founding fathers believed that the conflict of ideals and sometimes of extremely opposite ideas would produce the conflict of those ideas in the congress and drive everything toward the center and toward what in general was the best for the country. It was a grand idea that worked well for our country all the way up until the turn of the 20th century. From the grand compromise that was our form of government, competing ideas generating friction to the point of creating a compromise that was by far the best thing in general for our country. In other countries, we have seen over just the past 241 years of our countries existence where one group takes the government by force and then forces their ideology on the rest of the country. This extremism has produced violence, civil wars, and international wars time and again just in the 241 our nation has been a player on the stage. Our centrist government with checks and balances has survived it all and continued to thrive. There has been in the past no one ideology that has been able to dominate over another and that is why our country has been so internally stable. Everybody’s idealogy getting enough of what it needs but not all of what it wants. That’s how our government is supposed to work and had worked all the way up to recent history.

However, with the last two Presidents our country has become polarized. Obama will his extremely liberal agenda polarized America into conservatives against the liberals, blacks against whites (again!), and the government ground to a halt. Now, we have similarity with Trump. Contrary to Trump’s own egoism, he was not elected by conservatives because he was a man of great substance and vision but rather because he was the only choice other than Hillary Clinton. We didn’t elect Trump as much we defeated Hillary. But because of Trump’s own inability to get his own ego out of the way, the chasm between conservatives and liberals has widened from a gulf to an ocean. Just as conservatives used to whine and complain about Obama being the anti-Christ so too now do the liberals play the part of Chicken Little where the sky is falling (with every word that Trump speaks or any idea he tries to espouse). And would somebody declare it illegal for the sitting president to have a social media account!?!?.

Instead of us conservatives admitting that we have made a mistake by making Trump the candidate from our party, we have circled around and defend everything he says even if it completely idiotic. Meanwhile, the liberals think Trump is the anti-Christ and refuse to compromise on anything coming out of the White House. The vitriol that the liberals have now for the conservative ideology is bordering of fanaticism. I truly fear for the future of our country, not because of Trump or Obama directly but we have become a nation that no longer compromises – the very thing that made our country great and powerful and an economic giant was the stability of our government.

But now we no longer compromise. We are of extreme ideologies and refuse to give in. We are a nation where we never admit our mistakes. We are a nation that would rather take our ideologies to the grave than compromise for what is best for our country. We simply want what we want and will go to our rooms and pout rather than compromise with our brother. Maybe it is because my generation and the generation after it have become so me-centered in our own lives. We are a self-centered people in our personal lives. Could the present generations do what our grandparent’s generation (the greatest generation) did? Come together and lift a country out of a economic collapse and then band together and sacrifice to end tyranny in two hemispheres. Can we be a generation that hunkers down together to defeat a world threat like they did? I am not so sure.

That is what I thought of this morning is how Israel had degenerated into a divided country where a civil war was the result. It reminds me of how our country is right at the moment. Let’s keep that in mind as we read through this passage for the first of two times:

20 Then all the Israelites were united as one man, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, including those from across the Jordan in the land of Gilead. The entire community assembled in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the people and all the tribes of Israel—400,000 warriors armed with swords—took their positions in the assembly of the people of God. 3 (Word soon reached the land of Benjamin that the other tribes had gone up to Mizpah.) The Israelites then asked how this terrible crime had happened.

4 The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, “My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. 5 That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead. 6 So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime. 7 Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!”

8 And all the people rose to their feet in unison and declared, “None of us will return home! No, not even one of us! 9 Instead, this is what we will do to Gibeah; we will draw lots to decide who will attack it. 10 One-tenth of the men[a] from each tribe will be chosen to supply the warriors with food, and the rest of us will take revenge on Gibeah[b] of Benjamin for this shameful thing they have done in Israel.” 11 So all the Israelites were completely united, and they gathered together to attack the town.

12 The Israelites sent messengers to the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What a terrible thing has been done among you! 13 Give up those evil men, those troublemakers from Gibeah, so we can execute them and purge Israel of this evil.”

But the people of Benjamin would not listen. 14 Instead, they came from their towns and gathered at Gibeah to fight the Israelites. 15 In all, 26,000 of their warriors armed with swords arrived in Gibeah to join the 700 elite troops who lived there. 16 Among Benjamin’s elite troops, 700 were left-handed, and each of them could sling a rock and hit a target within a hairsbreadth without missing. 17 Israel had 400,000 experienced soldiers armed with swords, not counting Benjamin’s warriors.

18 Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?”

The Lord answered, “Judah is to go first.”

19 So the Israelites left early the next morning and camped near Gibeah. 20 Then they advanced toward Gibeah to attack the men of Benjamin. 21 But Benjamin’s warriors, who were defending the town, came out and killed 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day.

22 But the Israelites encouraged each other and took their positions again at the same place they had fought the previous day. 23 For they had gone up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord until evening. They had asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?”

And the Lord had said, “Go out and fight against them.”

24 So the next day they went out again to fight against the men of Benjamin, 25 but the men of Benjamin killed another 18,000 Israelites, all of whom were experienced with the sword.

26 Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord and fasted until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. 27 The Israelites went up seeking direction from the Lord. (In those days the Ark of the Covenant of God was in Bethel, 28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron was the priest.) The Israelites asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again, or should we stop?”

The Lord said, “Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.”

29 So the Israelites set an ambush all around Gibeah. 30 They went out on the third day and took their positions at the same place as before. 31 When the men of Benjamin came out to attack, they were drawn away from the town. And as they had done before, they began to kill the Israelites. About thirty Israelites died in the open fields and along the roads, one leading to Bethel and the other leading back to Gibeah.

32 Then the warriors of Benjamin shouted, “We’re defeating them as we did before!” But the Israelites had planned in advance to run away so that the men of Benjamin would chase them along the roads and be drawn away from the town.

33 When the main group of Israelite warriors reached Baal-tamar, they turned and took up their positions. Meanwhile, the Israelites hiding in ambush to the west[c] of Gibeah jumped up to fight. 34 There were 10,000 elite Israelite troops who advanced against Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that Benjamin didn’t realize the impending disaster. 35 So the Lord helped Israel defeat Benjamin, and that day the Israelites killed 25,100 of Benjamin’s warriors, all of whom were experienced swordsmen. 36 Then the men of Benjamin saw that they were beaten.

The Israelites had retreated from Benjamin’s warriors in order to give those hiding in ambush more room to maneuver against Gibeah. 37 Then those who were hiding rushed in from all sides and killed everyone in the town. 38 They had arranged to send up a large cloud of smoke from the town as a signal. 39 When the Israelites saw the smoke, they turned and attacked Benjamin’s warriors.

By that time Benjamin’s warriors had killed about thirty Israelites, and they shouted, “We’re defeating them as we did in the first battle!” 40 But when the warriors of Benjamin looked behind them and saw the smoke rising into the sky from every part of the town, 41 the men of Israel turned and attacked. At this point the men of Benjamin became terrified, because they realized disaster was close at hand. 42 So they turned around and fled before the Israelites toward the wilderness. But they couldn’t escape the battle, and the people who came out of the nearby towns were also killed.[d] 43 The Israelites surrounded the men of Benjamin and chased them relentlessly, finally overtaking them east of Gibeah.[e] 44 That day 18,000 of Benjamin’s strongest warriors died in battle. 45 The survivors fled into the wilderness toward the rock of Rimmon, but Israel killed 5,000 of them along the road. They continued the chase until they had killed another 2,000 near Gidom.

46 So that day the tribe of Benjamin lost 25,000 strong warriors armed with swords, 47 leaving only 600 men who escaped to the rock of Rimmon, where they lived for four months. 48 And the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns—the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.

Here in this passage, we see that perhaps the tribe of Benjamin had been possibly given distorted facts about the crime that had been committed or perhaps they were just too proud to admit that some of their people had stooped so low. In either case, they would not listen to the rest of Israel and hand over the accused criminals. They were more loyal to their ideals than they were to the good of the nation. They were more loyal to their tribe than the were to moral laws of God. By covering for their kinsmen, the entire tribe was defending an immoral act than now made them as low as the criminals themselves. Through this act, we get a glimpse of how thoroughly the nation’s moral fabric had unraveled. The time period of the judges is drawing to a close with a bloody civil war. The effects of this horrible rape and murder should have never been felt outside of the community in which it occurred. Those local people should have brought the criminals to justice and corrected the lawlessness that allowed the crime to happen. Instead the town and then the whole tribe/region defended the wickedness – even going to war over it.

Do you not see the path that our country is on in this story? We are just the same. We do not care if we are wrong. We just defend our position even if it is wrong. Why does this play out on the national stage? Because that is the way our nation is, in general, on an individual level. We are a nation that has grown up getting whatever we want handed to us. We are now generations of people that never had to sacrifice for anything. We are a nation of spoiled little rich kids by comparison to previous generations. We want what we want and we want it now. My ideas are better than yours and I will refuse to participate if you don’t see things my way. Just look at how we change wives and husbands when we don’t get our way. Look at how we no longer make things that improve society. We make toys that entertain ME now. While our nation’s infrasturture crumbles around us, we have more thought about the next iPhone than we do about the crumbling bridges we drive over in our self-contained entertainment devices that we call cars.

May we as a nation learn to compromise again. May we become a nation that respects each other’s idea. May we become a nation that no longer worships itself. May we be a nation that worships God! May we see the evil in ourselves and turn from it and return to the Lord. May we see ourselves in ancient Israel and be disgusted by it and return to God.

Amen and Amen.

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