Judges 21:1-25 – The Ending of the Book of Judges Says It All – Just One Big Fat Mess!

Posted: October 15, 2017 in Book of Judges
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Judges 21:1-25
Israel Provides for the Wives of Benjamin

As we conclude the book of Judges, the thing that is so often repeated in this book is exactly how the book is wrapped up in its final verse, “in those days Israel had no king; all of the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” This passage is no different. The compound mistakes already made with more mistakes. The mistakes of the tribe of Benjamin were followed by a civil war that practically wiped out the tribe of Benjamin. The civil war was concluded with the mistake of killing off of the people who did not participate in the civil war. That was followed up by the remnants of the tribe of Benjamin stealing women from other tribes. What a messed up mess this was! What a fitting way for the book to end. A flurry on messed up actions undertaken by men who did not consult God but went through the motions of consulting God. They took actions into their own hands though they built an altar and made sacrifices. They did not wait for God to tell them what to do. They just went off on their own way. There were great heroic men in the book of Judges known for their heroism in battle but their personal lives were far from being men seeking after God. Each one of the great heroes of this book, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, were morally bankrupt in some way. They were indicative of the society in which they lived. Each seeking to please himself was the name of the game in ancient Israel at this point in its history.

How much like modern day society does this sound like? We live in a culture that may give credence to the existence of God (if they do that much) but yet act as those He does not exist. We exist in a society that does what it thinks is right and places its faith in itself. What is right for me is right for me and what is right for you is right for you! My truth, my reality is mine and yours is yours. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then multiple sex partners outside of marriage is OK. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then multiple wives over the course of a life is OK. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then homosexuality is no longer a forbidden practice. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then if I feel like a woman today though I am obviously and genetically male then it is OK for me to identify myself as a woman and have the world defend that right and vilify those who do not buy into it. If you define that God just wants you to be happy then lying to get what you want is OK. If you define that God just wants you to be happy, then, selfish ambition is OK. If you define that God just wants you to be happy, then, you go to church to feel good and then live as you desire the rest of the week. We are a nation that believes that seeking one’s own desires is nirvana. We have become a nation that believes that I define for myself what is right and what is wrong. There is no universal truth because we each define for ourselves what truth is. Since truth is relative to one’s own desires, then, we produce leaders that are just as morally bankrupt as we are as a nation. We bemoan the fact that in the last presidential election that our choices were between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – two people who are known to have situational ethics and develop spin machines to justify their actions as OK. What do you expect? We glorify such power players as Donald and Hillary. The morality of a politician does not matter. The policies and political stances no longer matter. It is all about persona and who can tear down the other the fastest. Why did we not have better choices? We have no one to blame but ourselves. We are so like the nation of ancient Israel at the time of the judges that it’s not even funny. When we read the Book of Judges, we see ourselves. Let us read now the final chapter of this book:

 

21 The Israelites had vowed at Mizpah, “We will never give our daughters in marriage to a man from the tribe of Benjamin.” 2 Now the people went to Bethel and sat in the presence of God until evening, weeping loudly and bitterly. 3 “O Lord, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened in Israel? Now one of our tribes is missing from Israel!”

4 Early the next morning the people built an altar and presented their burnt offerings and peace offerings on it. 5 Then they said, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we held our assembly in the presence of the Lord?” At that time they had taken a solemn oath in the Lord’s presence, vowing that anyone who refused to come would be put to death.

6 The Israelites felt sorry for their brother Benjamin and said, “Today one of the tribes of Israel has been cut off. 7 How can we find wives for the few who remain, since we have sworn by the Lord not to give them our daughters in marriage?”

8 So they asked, “Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we assembled in the presence of the Lord?” And they discovered that no one from Jabesh-gilead had attended the assembly. 9 For after they counted all the people, no one from Jabesh-gilead was present.

10 So the assembly sent 12,000 of their best warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. 11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Completely destroy[a] all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.” 12 Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found 400 young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.

13 The Israelite assembly sent a peace delegation to the remaining people of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon. 14 Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the 400 women of Jabesh-gilead who had been spared were given to them as wives. But there were not enough women for all of them.

15 The people felt sorry for Benjamin because the Lord had made this gap among the tribes of Israel. 16 So the elders of the assembly asked, “How can we find wives for the few who remain, since the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead? 17 There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel is not wiped out. 18 But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God’s curse.”

19 Then they thought of the annual festival of the Lord held in Shiloh, south of Lebonah and north of Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. 20 They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, “Go and hide in the vineyards. 21 When you see the young women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to the land of Benjamin to be your wife! 22 And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be sympathetic. Let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find wives for all of them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not actually give your daughters to them in marriage.’”

23 So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. Each man caught one of the women as she danced in the celebration and carried her off to be his wife. They returned to their own land, and they rebuilt their towns and lived in them.

24 Then the people of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes.

25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

In this final passage of the book, we see that, during the time of the judges, the people of Israel experienced trouble because they became their own authority and acted on their individual opinions of right and wrong. This condition produced horrendous results. The Israelites moved from one messed up situation to another. Because of a rash vow made in the heat of emotion, they destroyed another town. They put tribal loyalties above God’s commands and they justified wrong actions to correct past mistakes. It was just a big old mess. Nowhere in this passage do you hear of the Israelites receiving a word from God. Their solutions were of their own opinions rather than a word from God. Even though they went through the function of building an altar (21:4) and offering sacrifices. They did not wait for a word from God. They went on to their own solution. They wept aloud to God as to why this happened but yet they did not look to themselves as the cause of the problems.

We wonder why our nation seems to be degenerating into a fractured mess. All we have to do is look at the final verse of the book of Judges. We have no king and we do what we think is right in our own eyes. We seek after our own desires. We are fractured into our own individual kingdoms and we define reality and truth for ourselves and refuse to believe that there needs to be a greater good. We may claim that God exists but we act as if He does not. We have made ourselves our own gods. The desires of our own hearts are what we have made god. We are ancient Israel in the modern day. We are the book of Judges. We must as a nation repent and return to God. We will suffer the same fate as the nation of ancient Israel if we do not. We must put God as our king. We must return to Him. He will speak to us again when we put His will above our own. He will speak to us again when truly act as if He exists. We must repent. We must put in God we trust back at the forefront of our lives as individuals and as a nation.

Amen and Amen.

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