Judges 18 – The Danites’ Departure from their Tribal Territory
Judges 19 – Gibeah’s Corruption of Morals
Judges 20-21 – The Benjamites’ Near Removal from their Tribal Territory
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One Reply to “Epilogue for Judges”
The NIV Study Bible has a summary statement that is sadly fitting for the book of Judges,
Jumping from Joshua to the end of Judges can cause whiplash! Judges 2:6-9 provides a summary of Joshua’s good work and of his death and burial in the hill country of Ephraim. The framework for the book of Judges is found in 2:10-11, repeated here to provide context for today’s reading:
Chapter 18 begins by letting us know the tribe of Dan, the Danites, “had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel” (Judges 18:1), so they set out to take their land by sending spies to investigate. They come upon someone who sounds like a Levite, serving in the house of Micah, so they ask for his blessing. He provides a blessing that sounds good, but apparently was centered about household idols and an ephod that were clearly not from the house of God. As the quote above reminds us, they served the Baals of the land. So the Danites receive the report and return to attack the peaceful inhabitants of Laish and subdue it–after all, it was their inheritance! Sadly, they setup this Levite as their priest and the idols as their gods and occupied the land. This became Dan.
Chapter 19 provides a disturbing story ending with a horrible event in Gibeah in Benjamin. A Levite from the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Judah, but she fled and went home. After four months, he went to her house to retrieve her (like his property) and was warmly received by her parents. After four days, he begins the journey home, late in the day, so they end up in Gibeah in Benjamin where an old man invites them into his house. “While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him'” (19:22). The old man refused, but offered his own virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine to appease them. The Levite forced his concubine out the door and the evil men took and raped her throughout the night, at dawn she returned but fell at the door. The Levi found her dead on the doorpost, put her on his donkey and took her home where he cut her into twelve parts and sent one to each tribe of Israel as a wake-up call saying, “We must do something! So speak up!” (19:30).
Chapter 20 provides the response from Israel. They gathered and decided to avenge the murder of the Levite’s concubine. “The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, ‘What about this awful crime that was committed among you? Now turn those wicked men of Gibeah over to us so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.’ But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites” (20:12-13). And so the battle of Gibeah, the civil war between the Israelites and the Benjamites began and ended quickly with the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. “The men of Israel went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire” (20:48).
Chapter 21 concludes the story by allowing the few remaining Benjamites to capture wives for themselves, and thus continue the tribe of Benjamin. The final verse wraps up this section nicely:
These were troubled times. Horrible events from a people chosen by God who had lost their way. The events in Joshua ended with a fantasy portrait of a people inheriting the Promised Land, then just one generation removed, the events of Judges reveal horror after horror and peace is no longer the rule. Lord help us to learn from this history, help us to seek you in all things.