The last chapters of Judges record the story of a civil war that almost destroyed one of the tribes of Israel. The lessons from this terrible time in Israel’s history are important for Christians today in how we are to respond to God.
[Gary Petty] Well good evening, everyone. It’s nice to see everybody made it out this evening. If you’ll stand we’ll ask God’s blessing on the Bible study.
Father, we come before You and we just thank You, we praise You, we praise Jesus Christ who sits at Your right hand. And we ask You to guide us here this evening Father, those who are here at the Bible study and the people who are joining us on the webcast, that we can learn about Your way. That You’ll open our hearts and minds that, You know, the book of Judges just isn’t some information about history, Father. It is more important than that. It is something You want us to know about, a time in Israel’s history where we learn about You. This is part of how You reveal yourself to us, and about the people too of that time, whom You had called the nation of Israel. So, Father, we ask for Your guidance, and Your direction, we praise You, we ask all this in Christ Jesus’ name, amen.
We are going to cover a period tonight, or a little bit of a period tonight, in Israel’s history that is a time when they had slipped into remarkable depravity. And in that depravity, they still believed and saw themselves, and we’ll learn a lot as we go through this part of the book about how human beings tend to see themselves. They still saw themselves very much as righteous people. They were God’s people, called by God, chosen personally by God, and yet they did not recognize the depravity that they had fallen into.
The last five chapters of the book of Judges doesn’t tell who the judge is. There’s a couple of chapters about a priest named Micah, and then it goes into a great civil war that happened in the book of Judges, now… or during the time of the judges. There’s some internal proof inside those last three chapters that this possibly actually took place at the beginning of the book of Judges, that is the appendix that was attached at the end of the book. So that’s quite possible.
Either that or it took place between Samson and Samuel, but it doesn’t seem to be that there’s much time period between Samson and Samuel, when you put it all together. But whenever it happened, it happened at a time when there really doesn’t seem to be a judge. And there’s a number of times you could try to put this, but it either has to be sort of the end of this time of judges, Samuel being the last judge, or it has to be at the beginning, somewhere after the time of Joshua, and it is a very bad time in Israel.
I will say this, if you have children at home, this may not be one of the Bible studies you want them to listen to. It is very R-rated information. God does not hide the depravity that we’re going deal with. It’s there, it’s violent, it’s ugly, it’s shocking at times. So I’ll just mention that this isn’t for the small children. But it’s here for a reason. God put this in here for a reason. And what we do is we go to Judges 19 and start here in verse 1.
“And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote mountains of Ephraim. And he took for himself a concubine from Bethlehem and Judah.” Now a concubine is an interesting institution in the ancient world, and Israel had created this idea that you could have a concubine. A concubine had all the jobs and duties of a wife but didn’t have the privileges that came with being a wife.
She is very much a secondary person in a family with the wife being the primary female. But they existed to serve basically the husband, the wife, and to be there sexually for the husband to produce children. Now that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be sometimes an emotional relationship between a man and a concubine. But it is a different… it’s a legal relationship that has to do with as much as producing children as actually more than marriage. By the way, the idea of having concubines not only was in the ancient world, it was in the… up into the early Middle Ages in Europe in Christianity, sometimes they would have concubines. It changed after the fall of the Roman Empire.
So here we have this concubine. She’s in a relationship, she’s legally bound to this man, she could have children through this man, but she doesn’t have really the privileges of being a wife. And this concubine, it says she “played the harlot.” It probably means she had an affair, okay. She broke the legal agreement. Now to have an affair as a concubine was the same as committing adultery in accordance, you know, that’s how it was judged by law, even though she didn’t have the privileges necessarily of being a wife.
So she flees away, she runs away from her husband who was a Levite. Now, remember, he’s a priest. This is very important in the story. This man is a man of God. He is one of those who was in Israel to teach the law. Their system of government during the time of the judges is not like anything that we’re used to. I think I talked about this some when I gave the first Bible study on this that I gave when we talked about Gideon.
What we have is a system where there is no central government, there is all standing army, there is no capital, there’s no collection of taxes. There are tribal governments and there’s these 13 tribes that each have their own separate tribal government. And basically, there is no legislature, there’s not even a police force. Everything is judicial. It is the only time in history you can practically find any civilization or attempted civilization in which you are basically ruled by, literally, rule of law.
You have the laws of God. You have Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and that is the Constitution. And the Levites study it, they know it. And when there’s ever an issue of law, you brought it to the court. The court is, at each town, there were elders at the gates. And those elders would be there, they were the leaders of that tribe locally, and you would bring your cases there and they would judge it. And the Levites would be there too to explain the law, so the Levites and the elders and so it’s tribal.
You actually have the local elders, they’re in the each town, and then you have, sort of, tribal elders that are over each tribe. There is no government above that except when God says, “I’ve made this person the judge.” Now they’re not called the president, they’re not called the king, they’re a judge. It’s a judicial position. This is important to understand. It’s a judicial position. They are now the judge. They also had the power to pull the army together, and so they would many be the ones who would save Israel from invaders, the people that were oppressing them because they could lead the army.
So it’s a very different governmental system. So there’s a lot of freedom and there’s a lot of chaos in this system. It is set up by God by the way. Now their prison system is especially fascinating to me because there were certain cities that were declared prisons. And if you got sent there, there were no walls. If you left people could kill you. That sort of kept you inside the prison. But there’s no police, I mean, if you got away and you kept running, if you can make it to Moab you may get away, okay. Because there’s nobody to hunt you down except the family of the people of whoever you committed the crime against.
So in this system, we have a total breakdown of what’s going on. If there is a judge, we don’t know which judge period it is during. If there is no judge, which it seems, it has to be probably at the beginning, because it talks about who the high priest is, and the high priest is someone who lived towards the beginning of this book, not at the end. So he has his concubine, she runs away… or she commits adultery, she’s afraid, she runs to her father’s house. The Levite decides after a while, “You know, I want her back.” He must have felt like he loved her.
So he goes to the father’s house and he stays there for a long period of time trying to get her to come back. Tries to, you know, “I need you back. I want you back,” and it goes back and forth, back and forth. And finally, after a period of time, she says, “Okay, I’ll go back to being your concubine. I’ll go home with you.” So they start home. And we pick this up in verse 22.
Verse 22, it says, “As they were enjoying themselves,” they’re in Gibeah here. What happened was they started to travel, they got to a city in Benjamin that was named Gibeah, and there was a person outside, an old man, outside the city gates. He saw them coming and he said, “Come stay with me.” It’s hard for us to fully appreciate the law of hospitality. They were expected to take someone, a complete 100% stranger, that would come into their city, and invite them into their house. And there’s places in the Arab world today that they still do this. I’ve talked to people who’ve been, maybe in Jordan, met somebody, and the person says, “Oh, you have to come over to my house tonight. My wife will make you a wonderful meal.”
And they think that “Well, you know, I just met you,” and they don’t really think it’s… They mean it and just, you know, trying to be nice, and then they insult the person because the law of hospitality is very important in the Middle East and still is today in the Arab world and parts of the Arab world. It was very important. This man said, “Come stay with me. I must be hospitable.” He’s waiting for some stranger to come in. There’s a little difference to the world we live in, right?
So the Levite and the concubine go to stay with this old man. And that’s where we get to verse 22. “They were enjoying themselves, and suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. And they spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house, so we may know him carnally!’” So there’s this gang rape. You know, you see it in Sodom. This is really a depravity. You just don’t even find that much in ancient history, modern history. You just don’t see men going around gang raping other men just openly, and somehow they’re getting away with it in society. But in Gibeah, they are.
So you have a gang of men that come up and they want to do this. “But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, ‘No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come to my house, do not commit this outrage.’” Now that seems like a strange thing seeing that he’s come into my house. No, this is breaking the law of hospitality. This is horrible. This is shameful. And what you want to do to him is shameful.
“ ‘Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!’ But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go.”
Now we get a couple things here that tell us a lot about society. First of all, you have a gang of men that must be running free in Gibeah, that everybody’s afraid of. And they demand here that this guy sends out this Levite, and he refuses. But he and the Levite send out the concubine and his daughter. Or at least the concubine is shoved out. And they abuse her all night and leave her for dead. She crawls up to the doorstep and she’s there when he opens the door.
Now, this is a man of God, he’s a Levite, which shows you also how depraved the entire country has become. He simply turned her out. Now he might be thinking in himself, he might have reasoned, “Look, she committed adultery, this should be the punishment she gets.” I mean, there’s all kinds of things he could be thinking, but the moral depravity of this man and the lack of moral courage is absolutely overwhelming.
Now he might have been afraid for his life, but instead, he let her out or threw her out, and they abused her all night. She crawls up to the doorstep, he comes out, we pick up what… By the way, there’s another thing here too to remember. She’s only a concubine. In the mind of the man and the Levite, the two men have more value, and the Levite has even more value. It’s interesting, they all saw themselves as the people of God, but they really saw other people of having less value even in their own society. So she wasn’t as valuable as them.
“That happened to her. Well, maybe it was God’s will.” The thing is, both of them survived, they both survived untouched because of what they’ve done. So verse 27. “When her master rose in the morning and opened the doors of his house and went out to go is way,” the implication here, he wasn’t even going to look for her, “there was this concubine fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold.” She crawled back to the house. And was hanging on the threshold of the door, “And he says to her, [‘I’m so sorry what happened to you.’]”
Okay, there’s nothing here of sadness, or empathy, or guilt. Even as a man, you’d think he’d be ashamed of himself. All there is, “ ‘Get up and let us be going.’ But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey; and the man got up and went his way.” She had died. Now, he takes her back and I can’t imagine what goes through his mind during this time period, as he’s now traveling back to his home and as… He’s got her draped over the back of the donkey here, and he’s thinking about all that happened. How is he going to explain to people what happened? You know, what about his part in this?
Verse 29. This is why I said, please, maybe you shouldn’t let your children listen to this as we go through it. But there’s a reason why all this is here. “When he had entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine,” this is verse 29, “divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.” I’m not going be very graphic about that but it doesn’t take much to figure out how gruesome that is.
Cuts her up, packages her up into 12 pieces and sends it out to all the tribal leaders. See, he didn’t send it to a judge. That’s why there doesn’t seem to be a judge, but he sends it to the tribal leaders. “And so it was that all who saw it, they said, ‘No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt till this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!’”
You can imagine the tribal leaders are called together for a meeting and they bring a package. Like I said, we don’t have to be too graphic here to understand what it is, to open that package. And there is an explanation from a Levite, a man of God, who says, “This is the type of men who live in Gibeah, that abused and raped this woman all night, and killed her and here is a piece of her.” And they don’t say, “What was your part in this?” He gets away here or seems to. But they say, “Something has to be done.”
I mean, you can imagine, if you were a tribal leader of any of the tribes, and you got this package with a note from the Levite, a man of God, and this is what happened. And so every tribe… all the tribal leaders except one come to the same conclusion. This has got to stop. Something like this is so horrible, so terrible, we have to put a stop to it. It has to. We cannot allow this to go on.
And so let’s go to verse 1 here of chapter 20. “So all the children Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, as well as to the land of Gilead, and the congregation gathered together as one man before the Lord at Mizpah. And the leaders of all the people, all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand foot soldiers who drew the sword. (Now the children Benjamin heard that the children of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.)”
Now think about this, every tribe now, every tribe except one, except Benjamin, where the town was, had all come to the same conclusion, they called up the militia. And the tribes were big enough that 400,000 men show up. Remember when we went through Gideon? He kept whittling down the army, whittling down the army until he had just a few hundred. They’ve got 400,000 men. They are going to do the work of God. They’re going to stop this thing that happened. The men who did this we’re going have to be turned over.
And they did have some basis for this. There’s a passage in Deuteronomy 13 where it says… Now the specific thing is in verses 12 through 18. But what it says there in Deuteronomy is that if you have somebody that goes into a town and begins to convince people to become idolaters, then you are to send somebody to that town. And if you find out, “Yes, they came along and told us we should worship these idols, and we said that’s a good idea, and so we started doing it,” you’re to kill everybody in the town.
In Deuteronomy, there was a law that says you can’t just let a town go bad, okay, but you’ve got to go investigate it first. Well, this is just as horrible is what he was talking about, or worse in Deuteronomy. So they’re doing here what appears to be in accordance with the law. They gathered together an army and then they inquire of the leaders of Benjamin, “Has this actually happened?”
And it says, “…Then the children of Israel said, ‘Tell us, how did this wicked deed happen?’” So we have now the person, the Levite, gets up and he tells all the leaders of Israel the story. “So the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, ‘My concubine and I went to Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, to spend the night. And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and surrounded the house at night because of me. They intended to kill me, but instead they ravished my concubine so that she died. So I took a hold of my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of the inheritance of Israel, because they committed lewdness and outrage in Israel. Look! All of you are children of Israel; give your advice and counsel here and now!’”
I find it interesting that he did seem to, “Yeah I threw her out. They were going to kill me but they took her instead and they ravaged her and they killed her.” This is horrible, this is terrible. All the elders of Israel agree this is against the law of God. They all agree. They all agreed that this is so horrible that the men who did it must be punished in accordance with the law of God. And they have an army there to back them up.
And they know in Deuteronomy, there’s a law that says, “If a town goes bad you just have to kill everybody in that town.” Now, I want you to understand all this because you need to understand that they are doing as they have been instructed to do. Doing as they’ve been instructed to do. I mean, wouldn’t all of you? I mean, we’d all support that in a civil, not in a church, but in a civil, a government, that you have to go punish those kinds of people, but you have to do it accordance with the law. And they’re doing it here in accordance to the law that all the elders are involved.
So as one man, it says, there’s nobody in that army of 400,000 that is openly saying… If there’s anybody that’s against it, they’re not saying it openly. All the elders, all the men, they agree, “This is what God wants us to do. We cannot allow depravity at this level that happened in our society.” And they’re right, aren’t they? I mean, they’re right.
So let’s go to verse… Well, verse 8 says that “All the people arose as one man, and ‘None of us shall go to his tent, nor anyone turn back to his house; until we fix this thing in Gibeah.’” So now you have an entire army filled with righteous indignation against a sin that’s so horrible, that it’s… Like I said, I didn’t necessarily want children to hear it.
And so they rise up and they go to Gibeah, and the men of Gibeah basically say, “Who do you think you are to judge us?” Not only the men of Gibeah, the entire tribe of Benjamin says, “You know what, this is a local matter, this isn’t something for all you other tribes. You know, the people of Manasseh, you have nothing to do with Benjamin here. You people of Zebulun, you have nothing to do with the Benjamin. You take care of your own tribes, we’ll take care of our tribe.”
“Who are you to band together and have the tribes come down on one of us?” Each was a sovereign tribe. That’s how they saw themselves. “So who are you other Israelites to come in here with your big army, and your elders, to tell our elders what to do? We have Levites here, we have elders here, we know how to handle these things.” Yeah, but Deuteronomy says, “If a city goes bad, we’re here to enforce the law.” And the men of Benjamin said, “You’re not going enforce the law in our territory. We’ll enforce our own law. We’ll enforce law in our territory, not you.”
Civil war, sort of, over tribal rights. Civil war was a little bit about state rights in the United States, but this is about tribal rights here. So they gathered together. Verse 15 says, “From the cities at that time the children of Benjamin numbered twenty-six thousand men who drew the sword, besides the inhabits of Gibeah, who numbered seven hundred select men.” What’s interesting, the men of Gibeah all were left-handed and they were all expert with slingshots which was, sort of, the short-term missiles of the day. It was like artillery.
You know you had arrows and you had slingshots. Everything else was short range. I mean, you were looking in the eye of the person you were fighting with. They could throw a slingshot, you know, left-handed. These guys could throw a slingshot a good period of space. And, you know, they could get off a number of rocks and they were experts at this. They were like the elite special forces of the day. They could get off… If you were charging them they could get off a number of rocks over and over again before you got there. So no one liked to go up against the wall of guys that were experts with the slings. No, these aren’t the little slings you do with the kid. You know, totally different sling. It’s like what David used to kill Goliath.
But still 26,000 and you get 700 men from Gibeah, so let’s just round it off to 27,000 men. You’re outnumbered 400,000 to 27,000. You’re going lose. You’re going to lose. You can’t win this battle. But they said, “Yeah, we’ll fight you. You can’t come in here to our tribe and tell us what to do.” Israel of course says, “Well, we must.”
And so it says in verse 17, “Now besides Benjamin, the men of Israel numbered four hundred thousand men who drew the sword; and all of these were men of war. Then the children of Israel arose and went up to the house of God to inquire of God.” So okay, “This depravity has got to stop. Even the law says that the people of that town have to pay for it. This is what God tells us to do. All the elders have come together. The armies have come together. Here we are.” So they went to the house of God, which would have been the tabernacle, “…the house of God to inquire of God.”
“And they said, ‘Which of us shall go up first to battle against the children of Benjamin?’” So they go to God. They said, “Okay God, we know what we’re supposed to do here. We know what Your law demands. Who goes first? Who gets the honor being in the front line?” And the answer from God was… and according to this, the answer was from God. “Put the Jews up front.” That would have made a lot of sense. The Jews were known as the best warriors. “Put the Jews up front.” So they did. This must be a great story now. They go in, they destroy Gibeah, and they punish the men and God’s law is once again throughout the land.
Verse 19 “So the children of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah. And the men of Israel went out to do battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel put themselves into battle array to fight against Gibeah. Then the children of Benjamin came out of Gibeah, and on that day cut down to the ground twenty-two thousand men of the Israelites” But they’re going against men who are so evil that according to the law of God, they should not live.
They were following the law. All the elders agreed. All the men agreed. They went to God and said, “Who should go first?” and He said, “Put the Jews out front,” and they lost 22,000 men in one day. There is nothing like that in American history because most of these men would have died. They didn’t have good medical procedures, you know, they died. Twenty-two thousand men died
You know, the worst day in U.S. history was Antietam during the American Civil War, and that’s because both sides were Americans. And you didn’t have 22,000 men die. This is a catastrophe. I mean, all through Israel, fathers, brothers, uncles, children, your sons, died by the thousands. “But we’re doing what God wants us to do. In fact, God told us what to do.” Something’s wrong here, isn’t there? This isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. This isn’t how you think it’d work.
So they pulled back and they said, “Okay, let’s think about this.” So we pick it up in verse 22. “And the people, that is, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves and again formed the battle line at the place where they put themselves on the first day.” Okay, so they come back, they say, “Well, this is what God wants us to do, but, you know, it’s not going be easy.” They get in battle lines, they march out, they charge the next day.
So they go out they “encouraged themselves and again formed the battle at the place where they put themselves array in the first day. Then the children of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and asked counsel of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I again draw near for the battle against the children of my brother Benjamin?’ And the Lord said, ‘Go up against them.’” Now they wept, they cried, for what had happened. It was so horrible. It was unimaginable. “The evil people are cutting us down as we do God’s will.”
“Lord, should we go punish the Benjamites?” And God’s answer is, “Yes.” And so they go out the next day. “And so the children of Israel approached the children of Benjamin on the second day. And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah on the second day and cut down to the ground eighteen thousand men of the children of Israel who drew the sword.”
In modern times, with bombs, and machine guns, and airplanes, and tanks, it is hard to find 40,000 men killed in a two-day period. The British lost 20,000 at Passchendaele, World War I in one day. And that’s with bombs and hundreds, well, there were thousands of cannons involved, and artillery, and mortars and machine guns and millions of men involved, millions. They killed 20,000 men in one day. They killed 40,000 in two days.
The biggest battle the United States ever been in is the Battle of the Bulge. In a little over a month, we had 70,000 casualties of which 20,000 died. So that doesn’t even match this, because we had a million men involved. They had 400,000 men. This doesn’t seem right. Why would God, when they say, “Should we do this?” and He says, “Yes,” why is He punishing them so terribly? Doesn’t make sense, does it? Well, let’s go on.
He says, verse 26, “Then all the children of Israel, that is, all the people, went up and came to the house of God and they wept. And they sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening; they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And so the children of Israel inquired of the Lord (the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days), saying, ‘Shall I yet go up to go out to battle against the children of my brother Benjamin or shall I cease?’”
Now I want you to notice there’s something dramatically different that’s happening to the Israelites. “We know the law, we know what You want, we’re here, and we’re going go kill them. Who do you want to go first?” “Jews are your best warriors.” “Good,” they lose. They come back. And they said, “Now, are we supposed to punish them?” He said, “Yeah,” and they lose again. And then they actually come and they stop and it says they fast, which is a way of seeking and being prepared for God’s will. It’s the first time they’re actually asking God “What is it You want us to do?”
You see, we can actually do things for God with the wrong motive. These people weren’t repentant before God. They just saw people worse than them and said, “We’re going kill them. We’re going carry out the law of God.” But they themselves were not right before God. They had raped this woman and killed her, but they weren’t right before God. So when they asked Him, “Who do You put out front?” That was the best advice you could give, “Put your best warriors out front.” When they asked Him, “Should they be punished?” His answer was, “Yeah.”
And now they fast and they pray. It says they bring offerings. They go to the ark of the covenant. They renew their covenant with God. They were in a repentant attitude. It took 40,000 deaths before the… 10% of all their soldiers died in two days. Can you imagine that? And they finally go to God and say, “Should we do this or should we not do this?” It’s the first time they ever ask, “Should we not do it?”
And they bring offerings to God, sin offerings. In other words, they bring offerings and they’re now repenting before God. They come worship God, not as, you know, “We’re the ones that do the work of God. We’re the ones that carry the sword of God, and we’re going go out and we’re going punish people.” And they were self-righteous. It is possible to be right and so self-righteous, you’re wrong. They had to fight the Civil War to figure that out. Actually, they really didn’t as we’ll see in a minute. They only figured part of it out.
And when they finally went humbling themselves, “We’re here to humble the people of Benjamin,” humbling themselves before God, doing sacrifices, bringing offerings which was required to approach God. It would be, like, you and I deciding that we were going go punish somebody because they need to be punished, they did something wrong, and we go to God, and say, “Should that person be punished?” And He says, “Yes.” So we go punish them. And then God says, “Well you never asked Me if you should punish them. Besides, we have your sins to deal with here.”
And finally, they asked, “Maybe we shouldn’t do this.” And God says, “Okay you win this time because I will do it.” They would have fought till there was no Israelite soldiers left and Benjamin would have won. And the Israelites were in the right, but their attitude as far as that instance concerning the law, but their attitude, their humility before God was not… was bad. You know, their self-righteous before God was so much, that He did not accept them as His instruments.
When they humbled themselves and they approached Him in the way that He said to be approached, through sacrifices, there at the tabernacle, there at the ark of the covenant where the Ten Commandments were in there. The high priest would have been involved then in doing these sacrifices. The high priest was to intercede for them as he did his intercession. God finally said, “Okay, I’ll work with you people now. Yes, they should be punished for the laws that they broke, and yes, they’re being obstinate and rebellious for defending them, the people of Benjamin. So yes, you can go fight them,” and they did. And they won. They won.
But in their enthusiasm now, they were chosen by God, God protected them, God said that you know, they were the ones that were supposed to go do this now. They didn’t just go in and kill the people, I mean the men of Gibeah. They killed everybody at Gibeah. They killed and wiped out the entire Benjamite army. And then they went through Benjamin and they killed every old man, old woman, every woman, every baby, they killed everybody. Now God didn’t tell them to do that, see the problem here?
“Oh, we’re the righteous people of God. We’re doing what the law says,” but He didn’t say to kill everybody in the entire tribe. All that was left was a few hundred soldiers that managed to get up into the hills in a hideout. That was it. They actually wiped out an entire tribe except 600 men. And now their bloodthirstiness is gone, you know, the Levite is happy, the men of Gibeah are killed, the whole city of Gibeah is burnt to the ground. You know, for acres and acres as far as you could see, are the piled up dead bodies of the Benjamite army. Every town, every village, every farm, they’ve killed everybody.
And so what happens here, let’s go to verse 1 of chapter 21. Well, before we go there, they have a problem that they now have to deal with. And that is a promise that there would be 12 tribes, that they would be counted. There would always be 12 tribes. Well, let’s go ahead and go to verse 1 of chapter 21.
“Now the men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah, saying, ‘None of us shall give his daughters to Benjamin as a wife.’” So not only did they kill everybody, they swore before God that no Benjamite could marry anybody from another tribe. Now that’s not in the Bible either. And by the way, that wasn’t something that God instituted, they did. But they had made an oath to God. And they were told, “If you make an oath to God, don’t keep it. You will be punished by God.”
In their self-righteousness, this wasn’t a motivation just to take care of the men of Gibeah or even punish the tribe of Benjamin. It was a desire to wipe them out, off the face of the earth, even to the point where they can’t marry any other Israelite, period. They all made an oath, “Then the people came to the house of God, and remained there before God till the evening. They lifted up their voices and wept bitterly,” now this is the Israelites, “and said, ‘O Lord God of Israel, why has this come to pass in Israel, that today there should be one tribe missing in Israel?’”
They finally come to the realization, “We destroyed a tribe of God in our, you know, self-righteous.” Now, remember the men of Gibeah’s punishment was never in question. It was how they were doing it. This was lawless, this was bloodthirsty, and they killed people who weren’t even involved. And now they say, “But You made promises, there were promises to all of the tribes.” How does God carry out His promises now to Benjamin? “These are our cousins. They’re our brothers, and sisters here. Were all Israelites, and we destroyed a tribe.”
And they go to God and they cry, “What are we supposed to do?” They still hadn’t learned their lesson. They still hadn’t learned their lesson. They do offerings, it says in verse 4 they did offerings and they’re asking of God, but God doesn’t give them an answer and they become impatient. So what they decide to do is come up with their own solution. “Was there any city that didn’t send soldiers to the army? Oh yeah, there is this one city over here, they said, ‘Look, leave Benjamin alone. It’s none of our business. We’re not sending anybody.’” So they went and killed all the men and took the girls.
Okay, well now, you know, they’re unclean. They’re not good. So we’ll just give them to the Benjamites. Because since none of us can give our kids, we killed those fathers, these were people who were absolutely innocent. They had done nothing except refuse to send their sons into the army at this point. They killed them, it’s still not enough women. They don’t have enough. So they figure out, “Here’s what will do. We’ll have a big dance.” And, you know, the women and men did not dance together in ancient Israel, you know, separated.
So what we’ll do is have a dance and let’s all of us have, you know, all these elders who agreed to do this, let’s have all of our daughters dancing, you know, in front of a big bonfire and we’ll be watching, And tell the Benjamites who didn’t get women from the people we killed to hide and, you know, then we send out a signal, and they can rush out and grab the women and run off and we won’t do anything about it. But we haven’t broken our vow because we didn’t give them to you, you came and stole them.
So they have a big dance, the women are all dancing, and they run up and they’re yelling “Papa, papa!” and dad is just standing there, and this Benjamite runs, grabs and lead them off into, you know, the woods. And they tried to rebuild a tribe that was just absolutely devastated and down to 600 men. No women, no children. Sad story, is it? It’s almost unbelievable. You couldn’t write a movie like this and have anybody believe it. Who would believe a movie like this? We’d say, “What barbarians?” and actually they are.
Israel had degenerated into a barbaric people at this point, but they thought they were doing the law of God. Now, why did I take all this time to tell you this bizarre story? Because there are some lessons we need to learn from this. Let’s go over a few lessons that we need to learn from this story. The first one is it is possible to do the right action for the wrong motives. Right actions but done with the wrong motives or self-righteousness are not acceptable to God.
Now, the right action may produce something good, or in this case, it actually produced something evil. The right action is those men should be punished for what they did, and God’s answer was, “Yes, they should.” God’s answer was so precise. “Who goes out first?” “Well, the Jews are your best dudes. You better put them out first.” “Should these guys be punished?” “Yeah.” Prayer, fasting, offerings, coming before the high priest, doing everything right and God said, “Oh, so you actually want My opinion on this? My opinion is they should be published. And I will now use you to punish them.” But God didn’t say kill everybody in the tribe. God didn’t say that. They did, except the 600 men.
So, right actions with wrong motives are not acceptable to God. It’s our motives that are important too. A second point is we must have genuine humility before God, or He will not bless our endeavors. They just weren’t humble. They were so self-righteous. If we don’t have genuine humility before God, He’s not going bless what we do. It’s that simple.
The third is we approach God through Jesus Christ who is the High Priest. They had to go to the tabernacle where the high priest was, and it’s different. The first time they went to the house of God but notice what it said the second time “They brought offerings, they brought sacrifices, they went into where the ark of the covenant was which is where the presence of God was and there was a high priest there, and they said, ask God, ‘Really, are we supposed to do this or not supposed to do it?’” They never asked, “Are we not supposed to do it?” In their minds, they knew what they were supposed to do. It was just a formality to ask God.
Now they really went and asked, which brings us to the point that you and I have to constantly be going to God and recognizing when we pray in the name of Jesus, that can’t be an afterthought. We are recognizing that Jesus Christ as our Savior, and our Master, and our soon-coming King, and our High Priest. I wonder how many times we fail because God says, “You’re not approaching Me properly. You’ve already got your mind made up,” “What should I do?” “Well, if I was you I would do this.” We’re not asking, “What do You want us to do?” God’s answer is sometimes is, “Well, I guess if I was you I’d do that but it won’t work.” See we’re not asking God for the real answer, we’re asking God to support our answer. Go ahead. Boy is that going get bad.
So He didn’t come down and possess them and make them do it. He kept saying, “No, you have to do this a certain way,” and they wouldn’t do it that way. And finally, they did. We have to approach God in a proper way and that’s always going be through the High Priest who brings us to God, who intercedes for us, and because of Him, God says, “You can come to Me.”
So when we pray in Jesus’ name, we have to mean that. So the Father will say, “You can come to Me, because of His intercession.” We must seek God’s will instead of presuming it. They just presumed they knew God’s will. And what’s funny is they were partially right. He did want the men of Gibeah punished. And if the Benjamite soldiers were going stand in the way He wanted them killed too. Get them out of the way. If they’re going defend this kind of horrendous depraved behavior, then go kill them too. But they presumed it without truly asking.
When we carry out judgment of those who have sinned, don’t execute punishment beyond what God prescribes. You know, even as parents, we have to be careful that we don’t punish our children more than what God says we should punish them. I thought about it as a pastor. I have to occasionally sit down with somebody and say, “I’m sorry. You can’t come to church while you continue to do this sin.” When they repent before God, I’m supposed to bring them back. I can’t say, “Okay, now you must do, you know, penance. When you please me you can come back,” it’s when they please God that they come back.
We can’t enforce our own punishment on people beyond what God would do, and that’s exactly what the Israelites did. So whenever we have where we have to correct someone, whether it’s our children or, you know, in your marriage or somebody in the church, because there’s times when all of us have to it seems like correct somebody, we have to be very careful how we do that. What the Israelites did is they just ran wild until they went to God crying and saying, “We destroyed an entire tribe,” and then wouldn’t wait for an answer. You know, killed another bunch of innocent people then had their own children kidnapped. I mean, just, like, one criminal activity after another. It is true barbarism here. This is how far they had gone.
And then the last point, and that’s what we learn from these last instances. When we create problems and then ignore or don’t wait for God’s solution, we will come up with just worse solutions. They didn’t wait for God’s solution. It says, “They brought offerings, they were weeping, and then someone said, “Hey is there any city that didn’t send soldiers when we asked?” “Yeah,” “Good, let’s go kill them. We’ll take their women.”
God didn’t say to do that. They never got an answer from God. Their solutions were just as bad as the problem because they didn’t wait. God wasn’t going answer them right away. He was upset with them. “You just wiped out almost an entire tribe of My people. I wanted you to punish the wrongdoers. I did want you to kill all the women and children. What did those children have to do with this? They lived on the other side of Benjamin, they weren’t even close to Gibeah. What did they have to do with it?”
So God wasn’t going answer them for a while. He was going let them stew in understanding the gravity of what they had done. So they got impatient and they didn’t wait for God, and in not waiting for God, their solutions are just more criminal acts. They’re just more barbarism where innocent people get hurt. That’s quite a list of things we can learn from this story.
It is one of the most bizarre. If you read the two chapters before this, it’s even more, or just as bizarre, okay. These last five chapters of Judges is a time of chaos and depravity that’s just unbelievable. And yet they thought they were the people of God. I mean, the tabernacle was there, they had Levites. But some of the Levites weren’t so good, were they? In fact, what you see in the two chapters before this is some Levites were basically priests for hire. You hired them and they would be your priest and they would worship whatever idols, or god, or whatever you wanted, they were just priest for hire. That’s all they were, traveling priests for hire. That’s the state that they were in.
So I don’t know how many more Bible studies we have. I know there’s still some Judges that we had not covered. Is Mr. Myers here? Do we still have some more Judges to cover? Oh, Good, so we’re still going be covering Judges. Maybe someone will do the other two chapters because that’s an interesting two chapters too about what happened during this time period. You can see why God was upset with them a lot. We’re talking about a people who could be barbaric, and God would bring them back. And then when the judge would die, they would go back. They would go back to this barbarism and paganism. Well, any quick questions or comments? We got four minutes left? You all seem in shock. I mean this is a shocking part of the Bible, yes.
Man: So they mentioned Phinehas, the son of Eleazar right there in verse 28 of chapter 20. Does it sound like either they’re not listening to him? We’re talking about Phinehas, the son of Eleazar who we… in the book in Numbers he showed a lot of zeal. Boy, he got that Simeon out of his… you know, verse, whatever with the Moabites and the Midianites. But does it seem like he’s going along with the flow or they’re not listening to him or there’s no…?
Gary Petty: I could only give you my personal opinion. You know, why was it Phinehas? That’s why I say this is at the beginning of Judges because Phinehas is mentioned in Numbers. See, that’s why it’s probably at the beginning.
Man: Josephus mentions this and if you read, like, Josephus’ story, this part of the Bible, he’s got to before the rest of the judges.
Gary Pettyr: Okay. It makes sense, yeah. I didn’t realize he said that, but it makes sense because of the people. I can only give you my opinion. My opinion is, you don’t really see Phinehas involved in this until the third time they go and fast and implore of the Lord. I mean, they were getting an answer probably from Phinehas. They’re coming making the request. He’s going to God and God says, “Just tell them this.” But now you see where he’s… If he’s going before the ark of the covenant, you know, they’re doing sacrifices, they’re doing things. For the first time, the high priest is really involved as the minister of God, as the intercessor between the people.
They didn’t see him as the intercessor. They just went to God. “Here we are. We’re going go kill these people.” Now, the third time, you really see them seeing him as intercessor. So that’s my opinion. I think he probably gave the answers the first two times that God gave it through him. It doesn’t say, but it would only make sense. But the third time I think is where you finally see Phinehas. And it’s interesting what Josephus. But it I think… that’s my personal opinion is that’s the first time he really is involved now as high priest.
That’s why I say the idea of Jesus as our intercessor is so important when we go before God. We have to remember who it is that makes this possible. They couldn’t go directly before God in the way that they were without Phinehas. So I think it’s not until the third time that he’s actually really involved in the way he’s supposed to be. So that’s my opinion.
Any other questions? Like I said, you all look like you’re in shock, like, “Wow, I came to a Bible study and it’s a horror movie,” right? It is. It’s barbarism. Any country, even the children of Abraham, without God’s Spirit, under Satan’s tutelage and left alone, can degenerate into barbarism. That’s what we are. That’s what people are. And that’s part of what this message is. Okay. Well, thank you for coming out and try to get some sleep tonight if you can.