The Craziest Story in the Bible

Today’s Passage – Judges 20 – 21 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Revelation 4 – 6;  Proverbs 27Psalms 131 – 135)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song –  Psalm 89:1

Read the “0327 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from today’s passage – “Right in Their Own Eyes.

Judges 19 – 21 is really one very long and very strange story, a saga really, involving a civil war within Israel. All of Israel set out to destroy the tribe of Benjamin, all because of a bizarre event that was described in chapter 19. The root cause of the problems within these chapters is the same as what caused the problems in the previous chapters. The first verse of the story and the last verse say it all.

“…there was no king in Israel…” (Judges 19:1)

“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

Not having an earthly king in Israel was not the problem. The problem was that God had been dethroned, and his Word was not being used as the ruling principles to govern life. People were doing what they wanted, instead of what God in His word said was right to do. There was no king, but there was no godly leadership in the land pointing people in the right direction. The result was that the nation divided and drifted further and further away from the will of God.

Practical Point – Whenever a nation drifts away from the principles found in the Word of God, it will devolve into a selfish, immoral, and idolatrous disaster.

“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12)

Whenever a family, or even an individual Christian, drifts away from the Bible, he will wander on a sea of uncertainty, and will find himself far away from the blessings of God.

In chapter nineteen, we saw the bizarre provocation that instigated the civil war that breaks out. A woman from Israel had been brutally gang raped left to die by the men of Gibeah, a city that belonged to the Tribe of Benjamin. This took place only after the woman’s husband had refused to allow the men to have sex with him, which was what they really wanted.

The man sent word to all of Israel about what had happened in Gibeah by sending to each of the tribes a part of the body of his concubine.

In chapter twenty, we will read about the problem that was caused in Israel because of what took place in Gibeah – a civil war, and a bloody and brutal civil war at that.

All of this happened because Israel is operating outside of the teachings of God. They are doing their own thing. They are making it up as they go.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Here in chapter twenty, we will see Israel wake up and realize how sinful their nation had become, and they come out against Gibeah and Benjamin to purge out this heinous sin from within her borders.

I        Israel Combines Forces to Confront Benjamin (vs. 1 – 17)

Verse 1 – Notice that Israel was finally unified again. (“all”, “as one man”) Instead of everyone doing their own thing, now Israel is doing one thing together. (See also vs. 8 and 11)

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;” (Philippians 1:27)

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Notice the phrase, “from Dan even to Beerheeba.” Dan was the northernmost part of Israel and Beersheba was geographically the furthest south. You may remember that Dan was formerly called Laish but was conquered by the tribe of Dan in Judges 18.

Notice also that all of Israel is gathered in Mizpah, which was only about five miles to the north of Gibeah.

Verse 2 – Notice there were nearly a half-million soldiers from all the tribes, which is a large army. It took this heinous act from chapter nineteen to wake the nation out of their slumber and move them into unified action.

Verse 3 – Notice that the Benjamites were aware of the impending attack. I am certain that the Levite whose concubine was killed sent out a piece of her body to Benjamin as well. Besides that, an army of 400,000 could not possibly be gathered 5 miles away from Gibeah without the Benjamites being aware of what was going on. Mizpah itself was a city within the borders of the territory of Benjamin.

The leaders of the tribes that were assembled all investigate further the crime that had taken place in Gibeah.

In vs. 4 – 7, the Levite rehashes the story, but does not embellish. It states concisely what had been done.

Notice in v. 7 that he asks the same question that was asked in the last verse of chapter nineteen: “consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.” Apparently, Israel had considered what had happened and was still considering it here and were now counseling among themselves as to what they should do.

There were many violations of the Law within Gibeah in this case, and each was punishable by death:

  1. The Men of Gibeah were guilty of Sodomy.

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

  1. They were also guilty of adultery. Even if adultery was consensual, it was punishable by death.

“If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 22:22)

  1. They were also guilty of rape.

“But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.” (Deuteronomy 22:25-27)

  1. They were guilty of being “sons of Belial.” (Judges 19:22 – see Deuteronomy 13:12 – 18) Belial means “worthless, good for nothing, or wicked.” Basically, it means that they have completely abandoned God.

In vs. 8 – 17, the people of Israel are determined to go up against Benjamin. They first attempt to get Benjamin to turn over the guilty men, but Benjamin refuses to do so. Though Benjamin is grossly outnumbered (16 to 1), they are dug in and determined to fight. Note – it is hard to believe that there were not at least some people who would want to do the right thing and turn over the guilty parties. Yet, it seems that they are just as unified in their defense of the wicked, and the Israelites were to condemn them.  

Notice that among the soldiers of Benjamin there were seven hundred left-handed stone slingers that could hit “at an hair breath, and not miss.” This would be an extremely powerful force. David took down a nine-foot giant with a sling and a stone.

II        Israel is Crushed Twice Even After Consulting with the Lord (vs. 18 – 25)

This part of the story is very difficult for me to wrap my head around. Twice, the Lord is consulted by the Israelites, and twice the Lord answers in the affirmative, but still the Israelites lose two big battles, and thousands of men are killed.

Perhaps they did not consult with God soon enough. Maybe they should have sought God before they made their plans. Perhaps they didn’t ask God the right questions.

Verse 18 – the house of God is likely a reference to the Tabernacle, which was in Shiloh. (Judges 18:31; 1 Samuel 1:9 – See Map) Some say, the reference here is to Bethel, and claim that the Tabernacle was located there at this time. The phrase, “house of God” is translated from the Hebrew words, “bayith ‘elohiym.”

First, they ask God which tribe should go up first. The answer is Judah. The Levite was originally from Bethlehem, which is within Judah.

Verses 19 – 21 – The Israelite’s lose the battle and 22,000 men.

In verses 22 – 25, the Israelites ask, “shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin, my brother?” The Lord tells them to go, but they lose again – this time eighteen thousand men.

The Israelites lose 40,000 men in the first two battles, where the Benjamites only lose 1,000.

Why would God allow them to lose, especially after consulting with Him?

  1. He wanted them to remember just how bitter the consequences of sin are. Remember, the Israelites were just as much to blame as the Benjamites were. They had gotten away from God also.
  2. He wanted them to feel the pain and experience the terribleness of a civil war.
  3. It took several hard steps for sin to get into Israel, and it will take several hard, costly, and painful steps to get the sin purged out.

III       Israel Finally Conquers Benjamin After Conferring with the Lord a Third Time (vs. 26 – 48)

This time, Phinehas consults God at Shiloh, and asks: “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?” (v. 28) This not likely the same Phinehas as is mentioned in Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua, unless this story is chronologically out of order, and occurs very early in the time period of the Judges. There were probably many men named Phinehas that descended from the line of Eliazar. Remember, the period of the Judges was a period of approximately 330 years from 1380 BC. To 1050 BC.

This time, the Lord tells them to go, and promises victory, which He did not do previously.

The Israelites use the same battle plan that they used in their final battle against Ai. They draw the men of Gibeah out of the city, and when they are out of the city, another army enters the city and sets it on fire. When the men of Gibeah see the fire, they turn around to help the city, but now they have attacker in front of them and behind them.

Illustration – Colonel Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, at the Battle of Little Round Top. He had to hold the flank, because if the enemy broke the flank, they would have gotten behind the Union Lines.

The Men of Gibeah lose 25,000 in this battle, and with the 1,000 that they lost in the first two battles, they were down to 600 men, who hid up in the rock Rimmon for four months.

All the men (and apparently, the women) of Benjamin, besides these 600 will be killed.

In chapter 21, we will see how the people will rebuild the tribe of Benjamin. The story in chapter 21 is almost as bizarre as the story so far in chapters 19 and 20.

However, the people are still doing their own thing – they are following that which is right in their own eyes. You see, there was no king in Israel – not even God.

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Bob Fenton
Bob Fenton
18 days ago

Amen Pastor We live in world of godliest leaders and they are leading us to a path of total destruction because they are doing it their way which is the wrong the post.

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