Scripture reading – Judges 21

Today’s Scripture concludes our study in the Book of Judges. The era known as the “Judges” began with the death of Joshua (Judges 1) and finished with the death of Samson (Judges 16). Judges 21 concluded the time when judges ruled in Israel. Following Judges, we find the love story of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1-4) and the introduction to the prophet Samuel.

As we will see, when Samuel began to minister in Israel, the tribes demanded a king to rule the nation. Such a request rejected the theocracy established by the LORD. He had ruled His people as a benevolent King, and His Law and Commandments served as their guide. Samuel, however, heeded and agreed to the demands of the people. He anointed Saul to be king. After Saul, the LORD established the Davidic lineage through whom Jesus Christ would be born the rightful heir to the throne of Israel (Matthew 1:1).

Judges 21 A Crisis in Israel (Judges 21:1-4)

Though victorious, the tribes of Israel were broken over the wickedness that had taken hold in the land and left one of the twelve tribes decimated (Judges 21:2-6). The tribe of Benjamin was devastated by its battle with the children of Israel (Judges 20). The sin of that tribe had been so dreadful that “the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh [most likely a military outpost], and said, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife” (Judges 21:1).

Though the men of Israel were bound by their oath, they sought the LORD, wept (Judges 21:2), “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?” (Judges 21:3). Israel lamented the destruction of Benjamin’s population, as God’s judgment for the sins of Gibeah. The thought that one of the twelve tribes would cease to exist and be cut off forever was indeed beyond the demands of the Law. And so the people went up to Bethel, “the house of God,” and they “built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings” (Judges 21:4).

A Resolution to Seek Wives for the Tribe of Benjamin (Judges 21:5-7)

A survey was then taken, and the question asked, “What tribes of Israel had failed to go to Mizpeh?” Such had not vowed that their daughters would not marry any man of the tribe of Benjamin. Also, the men of Israel had promised that any who failed to join Israel at Mizpeh would be put to death (Judges 21:5). It was then decided that the virgin daughters of any who failed to come to Mizpeh would become the wives of the men of Benjamin who had survived the battle, and retreated to “the rock of Rimmon” (Judges 20:47-48; Judges 21:5-7).

Israel’s Role Call and Commitment to Benjamin (Judges 21:8-18)

Attendance was taken, and it was discovered that no man of Jabesh-gilead had come to Mizpeh (Judges 21:8-9). Israel then sent “twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children” (Judges 21:10). As a result, all the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead were killed, except “four hundred young virgins [were spared], 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” (Judges 21:12).

Messengers then carried a word of peace to the remnant of Benjamin. The six hundred survivors of the tribe came to Israel and were given “wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not [there were six hundred Benjamites, but only four hundred virgins of Jabesh-gilead]” (Judges 21:14). The people then contemplated what more could be done to give wives to the men of Benjamin, for they had sworn an oath not to provide them with their daughters (Judges 21:15-18).

Catch a Wife and Flee (Judges 21:19-23)

A decision was then made, and an invitation was given to the men of Benjamin who did not have a wife, to go up to Shiloh for an annual feast (either the feast of the Tabernacles or the Passover, Judges 21:19). When the virgin “daughters of Shiloh [would] come out to dance in dances” (Judges 21:20), the Benjamites were instructed to “catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin” (Judges 21:21).

Should the virgins’ fathers protest, the leaders of Israel assured the men of Benjamin they would intercede for them (Judges 21:22). And so, Benjamin returned to their territory, claimed their inheritance, and began to rebuild their cities (Judges 21:23). With the future of Benjamin assured, the children of Israel returned to their land and families (Judges 21:24).

I close our final study in the Book of Judges with a reminder of what becomes of a nation when men refuse to hear and heed God’s Law and Commandments:

“Every man [will do] that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b)

Doesn’t that statement describe our day?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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