Open your Bible to Judges chapter 19. We’ll be finishing the book of Judges today.
We’re going to see the climax of Israel’s Canaanization in this lesson. And it’s not pretty. Verse 1 of Judges 19.
KJV Judges 19:1 ¶ And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel,
No one to restrain the people. No one to lead them to do right in God’s eyes. When that was the case…
that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah.
Now, we saw in our last lesson a Levite from Bethlehem. This one is from Ephraim. His concubine is from Bethlehem.
2 And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months.
So, we’re informed of the concubine’s character — she commits adultery against her husband the Levite.
3 And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of [donkeys]:
So he apparently wants her back.
and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him. 4 And his father in law, the damsel’s father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.
Notice the hospitality of this concubine’s father. What we’re going to see for the next several verses is this father-in-law of the Levite making pretty lavish accommodations for his son-in-law. And we’ll contrast that to the in-hospitality of a certain group later on.
5 And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he [The Levite] rose up to depart: and the damsel’s father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way. 6 And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel’s father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry. 7 And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again.
8 And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel’s father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them. 9 And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel’s father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home.
10 ¶ But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two [donkeys] saddled, his concubine also was with him. 11And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent;
Which wasn’t safe when you’re traveling in ancient Israel.
and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it. 12 And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah.
I’m not sure that the Levites’ concerns are unwarranted. Canaanites were known for their paganism and evil practices. This Levite was not comfortable lodging amongst those kinds of people. So, on they go to find an Israelite city where the people would be doing right.
13 And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah. 14 And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin. 15 And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.
So, the hospitality of the people of Gibeah left much to be desired. Boy, even in Sodom, the visiting angels found Lot to take them in. This Levite can’t find anyone. At least, anyone from Benjamin.
16 ¶ And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites. 17 And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou? 18 And he [The Levite] said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehemjudah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehemjudah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me to house. 19 Yet there is both straw and provender [Fodder/food] for our [donkeys]; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing.
So the Levite wouldn’t have been a burden to whomever might take them in. They had everything they needed. Yet, no one in Gibeah showed them any hospitality.
20 And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street. 21 So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the [donkeys]: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.
So, this emigrant from Ephraim – this old man – is the only one to show kindness to these folks from this whole city. What a testimony to the coldness of the men of Gibeah. And it gets worse.
22 ¶ Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, [Or worthless men] beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.
Now, this is where terror should set in. We’re in Judges chapter 19. But what we’re hearing reminds me more of Genesis chapter 19. The story of Sodom. Gibeah – in this brave new Israel where everyone does whatever he thinks is right – has basically become New Sodom.
23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. 24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you:
Or literally “the thing that’s good in your eyes.” Which is what everyone was doing anyway.
but unto this man do not so vile a thing.
Now, in the story of Sodom it was right at this point where the angels struck the men of the city with blindness. But that doesn’t happen here. God is noticeably absent.
25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man [The Levite] took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. 26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light.
27 ¶ And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered.
The actions of the sexually perverted mob was shocking. But the coldness of this Levite is almost worse. You mean to say he slept comfortably through the night, knowing what was happening to his concubine? And then he just barks at her to get up when he sees her lifeless body?
Then the man took her up upon [a donkey], and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. 29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.
And dwelling on the process that would have been involved in the diving of this body is a little more than I care to meditate upon. So, we’ll move on.
30 And it was so, that all that saw it [The pieces of the concubine’s body] said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
20:1 ¶ Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh. 2 And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. 3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness? 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. 5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead.
So, he conveniently leaves out the part about how he threw her to the wolves.
6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. 7 Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel. 8 ¶ And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house. 9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; [To fight them.] 10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people,
So, some will feed the troops who attack Gibeah.
that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.
Wow, finally, some unity in Israel. Too bad it took a Civil War to accomplish that unity.
12 ¶ And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you? 13 Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel.
That’s a reasonable request. They committed a crime. Now they pay.
But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel: 14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel. 15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. [So 26,700 warriors.] 16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war. [400,000:26,700]
18 ¶ And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first.
Does this sound familiar? It should. This is eerily reminiscent of chapter 1 of this book. Only, back then Israel was fighting external enemies. Now they’re fighting themselves. So, God commands Judah to go first.
19 ¶ And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah. 21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men.
Oh, but I thought God told them to go. But they lost. That’s concerning.
22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. 23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)
God again gives them the green light.
24 ¶ And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.
40,000 Israelites dead so far. 10% of their forces.
26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. [They’re serious now.] 27 And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) [So, the events recorded here, just like last lesson, happened relatively soon after Joshua died. Again, how far and how fast Israel fell.] saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.
Finally, the Lord gives assurance of victory.
29 ¶ And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.
Sounds like Bethel again…
30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways. 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah. 34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them. 35 And the LORD [THE LORD!] smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.
So, Benjamin started with 26,700 men. They just lost 25,100 men. That leaves 1,600 men.
Then verses 36 through 46 retells the events we just heard about, but in greater detail. That’s not uncommon in Hebrew narrative.
Skip to verse 47.
47 But six hundred men [Of Benjamin] turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
Which is also the same amount of time the Levite’s concubine fled from him.
48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.
Basically, Israel is doing to Benjamin what it should have been doing to the Canaanites – destroy every last one of them. Now, Israel had to do what they just did. But what a sad state of affairs that led to the need to almost completely wipe out an entire tribe in Israel.
21:1 ¶ Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh,
When they gathered to fight Benjamin – we didn’t hear about this oath at this time.
saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife. 2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore; 3 And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?
So, again, Israel did what it had to. But they’re not happy with the results.
4 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
So, we need to solve this missing-tribe problem. Benjamin needs wives. Israel killed all the women of Benjamin, apparently in their zeal.
5 And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD [That is, to fight Benjamin]? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh [When Israel gathered together to fight Benjamin.], saying, He shall surely be put to death. 6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. 7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain [The 600 at Rock Rimmon], seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them of our daughters to wives? 8 ¶ And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? [Which is just repeating what they’ve already said.] And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead to the assembly. 9 For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead there.
Jabesh-Gilead was on the east side of the Jordan. For whatever reason they didn’t show up for the battle against Benjamin.
10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children. 11 And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.
Wow, again, if only Israel could have been so determined with the real enemy – the Canaanites. This is what God wanted them to do with those pagan nations around them. And now because they disobeyed him, they’re having to fight Canaanism from within their own people.
12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
13 ¶ And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.
Just like the Levite did to his concubine.
14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: [So, that’s 400 girls for 600 men of Benjamin.] and yet so they sufficed them not. [200 left.] 15 And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
16 ¶ Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?
By the way, I don’t really think Israel needed to destroy the women in Benjamin. But that’s a moot point by now. What’s done is done.
17 And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel. 18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.
So, we can’t have a lost tribe. And we can’t give our daughters voluntarily to Benjamin. What to do…
19 Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.
Wow, there are still some people who are observing some of the feasts that the Lord had ordained? Yeah, apparently.
20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; 21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
So, target the ones who are actually worshipping the Lord and take them away to be wives for these rebellious Benjamites. Good idea.
22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain,
And you can imagine that they will!
that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: [So, we messed up. And…] for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.
Again, the idea is that you men of Shiloh aren’t guilty because you’re not voluntarily giving your daughters to the men of Benjamin. Rather, they’re being stolen. Oh, that’s much better. Right? Anyone?
23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. 24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.
You say, I just don’t understand. That was so weird. So confusing. What’s the message the narrator wants us to get from this 3-chapter marathon of perversity, sin, and confusion? Verse 25.
25 ¶ In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
You can be assured that when everyone’s playing by their own rules that perversity, sin, and confusion will abound. The narrator paints this awful messy picture for us, then puts it aside and speaks his message right to you – Israel needs a king. He could have said that and saved us this whole section – or really, this whole book. But God wants you to feel the need – not just know that the need existed, but to feel the need that Israel had for a king.
So, Bethlehem has earned a bad reputation. Chapters 17 and 18 had the idolatrous Levite from Bethlehem. Chapters 19 through 21 today had this unfaithful concubine from Bethlehem. You might start wondering if anything good can come from or happen in Bethlehem.
That’s why when you continue on past the book of Judges, the very next book you come to also occurs in Bethlehem. And it happens in the days when the Judges governed. And so you’re expecting more immorality, more carnality, more confusion. But what you get is the story of two faithful loyal godly individuals – Ruth and Boaz. And they end up getting married and bearing a son. His name is Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse. And Jesse is the father of… David. Oh yes, David. The King. Wait a second, is this the king that Israel needs? The one this book we’ve been studying for the last several months has kept calling to our attention that we need? I think so.
And so, next week, we’ll shed this rather discouraging book and move on to a book of four chapters where the characters aren’t doing right in their own eyes. They’re doing right in the Lord’s eyes.