Judges 20:1-48 (Part 2) – When We Think That We Own the Truth…

Posted: October 7, 2017 in 07-Judges
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Judges 20:1-48 (Part 2 of 2)
Israel’s War with Benjamin

One of the things that amazes me about this sequence of events chapters 19 and 20 of Judges is how the Levite man just demonstrates a complete lack of morality. Not only does he treat his concubine like she is property or a piece of meat but then, then, he conveniently leaves out the fact that he offers up the woman to the mob to save his own skin. He twists the truth to suit his own needs.

Reading this passage made me think about some of the experiences that happened to me while going through my first divorce. If you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that my first divorce was the divorce from hell. My ex-wife spun events during that divorce to portray herself as the victim and the heroine of the situation. It was highly effective at first. She portrayed me as a wife beater and a pedophile when I took her to court for contempt (she had been refusing to allow the children to come with me on my specified visitation dates – every other Wednesday evening and every other weekend – for about six months). Once we got to court, she claimed that I had molested by oldest daughter the last time that she allowed the girls to come with me on visitation. Well, bam, once that was said, what was a slam dunk contempt of a court order became entirely something else. DSS swooped into our lives and did not leave our lives for 3 years. During the early phases of the DSS and Guardian Ad Litem investigations, my ex-wife had these investigators believing that I was a sick, twisted pedophile who beat his wife for sport while drinking excessive amounts of alcohol every day and every night. You know, just an immoral redneck that beat his wife and abused his kids. She portrayed herself as the defender of the realm, the protector of the defenseless. It was so bad and pervasive a thought process about me that the first time the Guardian Ad Litem interviewed me at my home (my parent’s place on Lake Hartwell at that time) that she was afraid to be alone with me in my home. As a result, she brought her husband with her to the investigative interview (which of course violates privacy laws I am sure, or at least in the 2010’s it would). It was so bad that I had to go the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and talk to investigators and take a lie detector test, voluntarily. It was as if this simple contempt case of me just wanting the court to enforce the separation agreement had been spun into this major nightmare scenario when my freedom could have easily been taken away from me.

Not only was my now ex-wife (God rest her soul) portraying me as a pedophile but also as a wife-beater. She even went as far as to start attending battered women’s meetings and had battered women’s rights things posted on the refrigerator at her house, our former marital home. She bombarded my children with constant information about how I had been an abuser and a drunkard. It was all so very effective for a while. It was all to deflect away from the real facts of the case.

The real facts of the case were not as my ex-wife had portrayed them. She spun the stories to her advantage and it was all just to punish me and shame me into coming back to her. Now, I could think of better ways for reconciliation. Don’t try the punish route if you are trying to reconcile with your spouse. Punishing them into coming home just drives them further away. The facts of the case were that my ex-wife was the violent one and the one who played the harassment game constantly, and I left our marriage and my sweet girls (8 years and 3 years old at the time) to survive and to prevent literally someone from being killed or hurt badly. Ultimately, DSS had seen enough of the truth of the situation that they remove my daughters from my ex-wife’s care and I ultimately gained custody of them myself (after I had remarried). All those things have their own story that we got sit here for days and talk about, but for today, I wanted to concentrate on that early part of my divorce from my first wife.

When people today talk about how do country’s fall for socialism and even in our country how we fall for fake news and get all polarized against those who do not hold our same beliefs and wonder how it happens, I always reflect on that time period from 1993-1994 in my life, when my exwife made those claims about me. How people immediately and willingly believed these lies without first even getting to know me. I was branded with lies about me that were not true. How the spin machine flies into action without first investigating the facts and circumstances. People fall for what they WANT to believe about things these days because there is no longer a belief in weighing the facts. People fall what they WANT to believe today because there is no longer any consideration of what absolute truth is. People spin the truth to suit their own advantage today because they do not have God at the center of their lives. They perpetuate these elaborate spins on events to portray themselves as the one who holds the truth, the one who is the victim, the one who has their rights trampled.

It took me a long time to get over the events of 1993-1994 but eventually I came to see it as just a person with control issues doing whatever it took to regain control regardless of the truth. I came to pity my exwife for the way she spun everything to her advantage and she burned up pretty much every relationship in her life because of it. In the end, it was just her and her second husband that lived in their own little world with their spin on the world. Everybody else was crazy and they were the only two sane ones. Each of my girls has had to deprogram themselves from that mentality over the years. As they grew older they were able to see the truth about how life should be viewed. So, when people talk about how socialism and how people fall for, I think of ’93-’94 and how the real me was twisted into a monster to suit the needs of my exwife. I think of how my daughters were exposed as young girls to the propaganda over the years that I didn’t love them and how I was the sick and twisted one. Even in later years, after she had remarried, to love me or to love her was the choice she gave them. It was just so sad and such evidence of how opinion can become belief over time. Over time, the truth became a casualty. Over time, the truth became whatever reality was constructed in my exwife’s mind. It was just truly sad to watch over the years.

That is what I thought of this morning is how the Levite man spun this situation to his own advantage and even caused a civil war rather than reveal the truth of what he did. He did not reveal that he was a coward and threw his own mistress out to the wolves to save his own skin. And, how people can do that without flinching is what I thought this morning. My mind immediately drifted back to that time of my first divorce where truth got twisted and this whole scenario took over and how it did not seem that the truth mattered anymore. So with that in mind, let’s read this passage once more:

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, in the reporting of the events in Gibeah, the Levite man conveniently left out the fact that he had handed over his concubine or mistress to satisfy the mob’s demands. He wanted justice fo the threats made against him rather than placing any value on the woman’s life or holding himself partially responsible for her death. How easy it is for us sometimes to twist the truth of a situation to remove our own culpability when we are seeking to shift blame to someone else. The incident reveals the depths of perversion, violence, and lies that develop when a culture abandons God’s ways.

My exwife shifted blame to save her own skin as a modern example. What happened after her spin of the events to her own advantage is a script for made-for-TV movie (think The Betty Broderick Story that starred Meredith Baxter Birney and Stephen Collins from 1992 and you will get a taste for what it was like). I was not a saint for sure and I don’t want to give that impression. My life is a story of redemption from the depths of self-indulgence and worshiping things other than god for many, many years. I clung to the belief that I was basically a good person and all roads lead to heaven kind of thing until my Damascus Road-type experience in December 2001 when I accepted Christ as my Savior. Even now, I still struggle with pride and other sins that condemn me in the absence of Jesus Christ and that grieve that Holy Spirit that lives within me. The Holy Spirit still has a lot of work to do in me. So, please don’t read this as some angry tome against my exwife and making myself a saint in the process. Nothing could be farther from what I intend here. I use the experience from my own life, my first divorce, to demonstrate a point. I have long since forgiven my exwife and it pained me to see how her continuing hatred for me had consumed her life. It was just sad to watch.

The point that I am making with using that experience from 1993-1994 is that it is an example of how we spin the truth to our advantage regardless of what the subsequent consequences will be. When we start making the truth what we want it to be, it is the essence of pride. It is the essence of thumbing our nose at God and making ourselves the purveyor and definer of truth. It is an example of the society in which we live now. Truth is how you spin it. There is no absolute truth now because we have all degenerated into seeing the world through our own eyes instead of the eyes of God. We make the truth what we want it to be. Our nation has strayed from God just as Israel did here in the book of Judges. Israel did what was right in their own eyes. We are the same way today. Let us pray that it does not take a Babylonian exile of sorts for America to return to God.

As individuals, let us resolve to seek the truth even when it is going to make us look bad. If we have our value in God and not in the image that we want others to see, then, it really doesn’t matter if the truth makes us look bad. When we confess that we have made a mistake, committed a sin, we are showing people that as a Christian we would rather please God than preserve our self-image that we project to others. When we are honest about our faults and failures and shortcomings, that is the beginning of humility. In humility, we find that we need God more than ever. In humility, the Holy Spirit can change us. The Holy Spirit can mold us into greater and greater Christlikeness. When we are honest about who we are, we find greater and greater dependence on God. When we are honest about who we are, we can begin to change. When we subject ourselves to the absolute truths of God, we find rest and peace. When we are not trying to project an image to the world, it is a whole lot less work. When we are honest about ourselves, God has us where He wants us – a child of God who is ready to be obedient and ready to give Him glory rather than ourselves.

Amen and amen.

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