Judges 21

 

1 “Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any

of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife.” A circumstance not mentioned

before is now brought forward, as is another in v. 5, on which the events about to be

narrated in this chapter depend, viz, that the men of Israel had taken two solemn

oaths at Mizpeh (ch.20:1) — the one that no Israelite would give his daughter in

marriage to a Benjamite; the other that whosoever did not come up to the national

assembly there should be put to death.  Like it or not, BENJAMIN REPRESENTS

THE LIBERTINE, A CHARACTER TOO COMMON IN OUR OWN DAY!

 

 

2 “And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even

before God,” - The narrative now proceeds. After the people, i.e. the Israelite

army, so described in ch. 20:3, 8, 22 - had finished the work of destruction

in the cities of Benjamin, they returned to Bethel (the house of God, Authorized

Version here and in Ibid. vs.18, 26, 31, where see notes), and, their rage having

now subsided, gave way to violent grief on account of the destruction of Benjamin

their brother. With passionate Oriental feelings they passed the whole day weeping,

and probably fasting (see ch. 20:26), before the tabernacle - “and lifted up their

voices, and wept sore;” Hebrew, wept a great weeping. The expression

lifted up their voices shows that it was a loud wailing and lamentation.

 

3 “And said,” - Better, And they 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?”

The existence of the twelve tribes was an essential part of their covenant existence

as the people of God (Genesis 35:22; 49:28; Exodus 24:4; Numbers 1:5-15;

Joshua 4:3-4; Matthew 19:28; James 1:1; Revelation 7:4). With one tribe missing

Israel would be no longer Israel.

 

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.”

See ch. 20:26, note.

 

 

Sorrow for Others (vs. 2-4)

 

  • IT IS NATURAL TO BE DISTRESSED AT THE TROUBLES OF

OTHERS.

 

Ø      It is natural on personal grounds. We are members one of another, so

that if one member suffer, all suffer. (I Corinthians 12:26)  “God that

made the world and all things therein…….hath made of one

blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the

earth….that they should seek the Lord….for in Him we live,

and move, and have our being.”  (Acts 17:24-28 – this is

timely, significant and instructive, since we are in the middle of

the 2012 Olympic Games in London – I perceive that the

secular segment of humankind is interested in promoting good

will and peace BUT TOTALLY APART FROM MAN’S

RELIGIOUS LIFE – unfortunately, in this they are

FAILING MISERABLY because “There is no peace,

saith my God, to the wicked.” – Isaiah 57:21 – NO MAN

IS WICKED WHO SEEKS GOD WITH ALL HIS HEART,

WITH ALL HIS SOUL, WITH ALL HIS MIND AND WITH

ALL HIS STRENGTH! IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR MAN TO

BE AT PEACE WITH HIMSELF OR HIS FELLOWMAN,

WHILE AT THE SAME TIME DETERMINED TO

IGNORE GOD -  CY – 2012)  The Israelites felt that it would be a

common calamity to the whole nation for one tribe to be blotted out. It

would not only be a judgment on that tribe, it would be “a breach in the

tribes of Israel.” England suffers through the wars and famines and storms

which devastate even remote countries. If adversity falls upon one great

town, one trade, one class, the whole community feels the effect of it.

(Meanwhile, in America this summer there has been a severe drought -

we all feel the effects of it.  It does not seem to occur to SECULARIST,

the imploring of God in His Word when He states “But it shall come

to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy

God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes

which I command thee this day……….thy heaven that is over

thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be

iron.  THE LORD  shall make the rain of thy land  powder and

dust: FROM HEAVEN shall it come down upon thee, until thou

be DESTROYEDDeuteronomy 28:15,23-24 – CY – 2012)  It is

foolish, on selfish considerations alone, for the rich and happy to ignore

the distresses of the poor and wretched.

 

Ø      But it is natural to be distressed at the troubles of others on unselfish

grounds. When we are not hardened by sin we must naturally feel

sympathy. The law of Christ requires us to bear one another’s burdens

(Galatians 6:2). If Jews of old felt for their brethren in their trouble,

how can Christians, who owe all their best blessings to the compassion

and suffering of Christ for them, harden their hearts against the cries of the

world’s misery, when they in turn are expected to show the spirit of Christ

in sympathy and vicarious sacrifice?

 

  • IF WE ARE CALLED TO PUNISH MEN FOR THEIR SIN, WE

SHOULD ALSO PITY THEM FOR THEIR DISTRESS. Israel had

punished the tribe of Benjamin, but the sight of the ruin thus wrought filled

all the people with grief. It is right and necessary to be firm in repressing

WICKEDNESS, yet this should not be done in HOT HATRED,  in

callous sternness, nor in complacent self-satisfaction, but with grief,

mourning for the distress, and more FOR THE SIN OCCASIONING

IT!   So does God chastise, in grief, like a father loving His child (Hebrews

12:5-11), and therefore the more hating the iniquity which produces all the

trouble.

 

  • DISTRESS FOR THE TROUBLES OF OTHERS SHOULD LEAD

US TO GOD ON THEIR BEHALF. The people came to the house of

God, and wept there before God. We should bring all our trouble before

God, and, when we know not what to ask for, confide in Him and relieve

our souls by leaving the burden with Him. If we are really and deeply

grieved for others, we shall be constrained to do the same with the sorrow

of sympathy. All Christians are called to be priests, intercessors for

others.  We should pray most earnestly for those who will not pray for

themselves.  And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be

 gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,  In meekness instructing

those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them

 repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;  And that they may

 recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken

captive by him at his will  (II Timothy 2:24-26).  We should humble

ourselves for their sin, since THE ONENESS OF THE HUMAN

FAMILY BRINGS SHAME UPON ALL WHEN ANY GO

ASTRAY!  Such sorrow before God will incline us to fresh acts of

self-sacrifice and dedication. As the Israelites offered burnt offerings,

we shall consecrate ourselves to God, that we may be more capable

of relieving those for whom we grieve.

 

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? For they had made

a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying,

He shall surely be put to death.”  The idea evidently occurred to them that they

might supply wives to the 600 Benjamites in the way that actually came to pass, and

they asked the question, Who is there among all the tribes, etc., with this view.

 

6 “And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and

said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.”  This verse goes back a

little to explain why the children of Israel asked the question, viz., because they

repented them for Benjamin, and wished to repair the mischief resulting from their

rash oath not to give their daughters to a Benjamite; therefore they said (repeating

v.. 5) - 7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain, 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? And, behold, there came none to the camp from

Jabesh-gilead to the assembly. 9 For the people were numbered, and, behold,

there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there.” What one is there

that came not up to  Mizpeh?  (v.8) - and on numbering the people it was found that

no one had come up from Jabesh-gilead. This is the first time that Jabesh-gilead is

mentioned in Scripture. It comes up twice afterwards. First in I Samuel 11., on occasion

of its being besieged by the Ammonites and rescued by Saul; and secondly in Ibid. ch.

31:11-13, when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead took down the bodies of Saul

and his sons from the wall of Beth-shah, and buried them at Jabesh, for which

brave and pious act David thanked them (II Samuel 2:5). The name of Jabesh is

only preserved in the Wady Yabis, which debouches on the eastern bank of the

Jordan about lat. 32’24. Robinson thinks the ruins called ed Deir in this valley are

the remains of Jabesh, which agrees exactly with the situation assigned to it by

Eusebius in the  Onomasticon.’

 

10 “And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the

valiantest,” - The sons of valor simply means valiant men (II Samuel 13:28;

17:10) - “and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of

Jabesh-gilead 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” -  Devote to

destruction, as a ‘herem, an accursed thing. They followed in the severity of the

 punishment the precedent of the destruction of the Midianites (see Numbers 31:17),

and even in the numbers sent to destroy them — a thousand from every tribe

(Numbers 31:5). Revolting to our feelings as such wholesale massacres are, including

women and children, it must be remembered in mitigation that the ‘herem was the

solemn devotion of a thing or person to destruction under the sanction of an oath -

 “every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.”

 

12 “And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred

young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they

brought them” -  It is masculine in the Hebrew, though it refers to the women.

So again in v. 22, their fathers and their brothers in the masculine (see above,

ch.19:23, and vs. 21-22). It is perhaps an archaism -“unto the camp to Shiloh,” –

whither it should seem they had now taken the tabernacle back, the war with

Benjamin no longer requiring its presence at Bethel  - “which is in the land of

Canaan.”  This is inserted to contrast it with Jabesh in Gilead (Genesis 33:17-18,

and ch. 8:5, note).

 

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.”

Translate the whole verse thus: And the whole congregation sent and spake to

 the children of Benjamin …. and proclaimed peace to them (see Deuteronomy

20:10). They sent ambassadors or heralds to them as it were with a flag of truce.

 

14 “And Benjamin came again” - i.e. returned to their own homes in the

tribe of Benjamin, as in v. 23 -“at that time; and they gave them wives

which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: and yet

so they sufficed them not.  Yet so they sufficed them not — or, Yet so

they (the Israelites) did not provide enough for them (the Benjamites); or,

Yet so they (the Benjamites) had not enough for themselves.

 

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? -  It is rather more in

accordance with the Hebrew style to  take the words as the narrator’s explanation

of the question, What shall we do?  They said this because all the women of

Benjamin had been destroyed.

 

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.”

The passage is difficult to construe and to explain. If the words There must be

are properly supplied in the Authorized Version, the sense will come out

more clearly if we take the word inheritance to mean rather succession,

which is the idea contained in the root. There must be a succession for the

escaped of Benjamin, i.e. there must be heirs to succeed, and therefore we

must find wives for them. The word peleytah without the article can hardly

mean the remnant, as has been proposed, but must be defined by being

taken with Benjamin.

 

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.”  Note again the evil of rash vows, and how often chicanery

is necessary in order to evade their evil consequences.

 

19 Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly” –

Compare the exactly similar description, I Samuel 1:3, 7. There is a great difference

of opinion among commentators as to what feast is here meant.  Some think it was

the Passover; others think it was the feast of tabernacles, a more joyous feast; it is

even conjectured that it was a festival peculiar to Shiloh, after the analogy of the

yearly sacrifice of the family of Jesse at Bethlehem (I Samuel 20:29), and more

or less in accordance with Deuteronomy 12:10-12. It is not easy to say which

view is right, but the last seems not improbable - “in a place which is on the

north side of Bethel,” -  The words in a place are not in the Hebrew, and do

not seem to be implied by the context. But the description is that of the situation

of Shiloh itself, which is very exact (see ‘Palestine Exploration Fund,’ Map of West

Palestine) – “on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to

Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.”  Lebonah survives in el-Lubbun,

about two miles northwest of Seilun, and to the west of the road to Shechem or

Nablus. It seems strange that so particular a description of the situation of Shiloh

should be given; but it may probably indicate that the writer lived after the

tabernacle had been moved to Jerusalem, and Shiloh had relapsed into an obscure

village (see ch.20:27, note). The situation of the descriptive words in the Hebrew,

with the pronoun which, separated from Shiloh by the word yearly, indicates that

they are an explanation added by the narrator.

 

 

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” -  The verb is in the masculine gender, though the

daughters of Shiloh is the subject (see above, v. 12, note) -  “to dance in

dances,”  - Bishop Patrick says that the feast of tabernacles was the only feast

at which Jewish maidens were permitted to dance – “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.”  The close vicinity of the high road leading

from Shechem to Bethel on the border of Benjamin would facilitate their flight.

 

22 “And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to

complain, that we will say unto them, Be favorable unto them for our

sakes:” -  Rather, Grant us them as a favor, the masculine them referring to

the daughters of Shiloh, as in v. 12, and the verb grant a favur being followed

by a double accusative - “because we reserved not to each man his wife in the

war:” - These words are somewhat difficult. If we may insert the word to, as the

Authorized Version does, before each man (for it is wanting in the Hebrew), the

sense is good. The Israelites acknowledge their own fault in not reserving women

enough to be wives to the Benjamites, and ask the fathers and brothers of the

daughters of Shiloh to do them a favor by enabling them to repair their fault. But it

is rather a strain upon the words. The omission of the to is not natural in such a

phrase (Numbers 26:54 is hardly to the point, nor is Genesis 41:12, where the to

 had been expressed before the us), and reserved is a forced interpretation of the

verb. If the words were spoken by the Benjamites, all would be plain and easy:

“We received not each man his wife in the war.” Hence some put the speech into

the mouth of Benjamin, as though the Israelites meant, We will say in your names,

 in your persons, as your attorneys, so to speak, “Grant them to us,” etc. But

this is rather forced. Others, therefore, follow the Peschito, and read, “because

THEY received not each man his wife,” etc., which makes very good sense, but

has not manuscript authority - “for ye did not give unto them at this time, that

ye should be guilty.” - i.e. you need not fear the guilt of the broken oath, because

you did not give your daughters, so as to violate the oath (v. 7), but they were taken

from you by force. The Authorized Versioin  gives the probable meaning of the passage,

though it is somewhat obscure.

 

23 “And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according

to their number,” - i.e. so as to provide the 200 with wives. The cities, as in

ch.20:15 - “of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and

returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities,” – (Ibid. v. 42) –

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.”  Compare the breaking up of the national assembly in the

days of Joshua (Joshua 24:28; ch.2:6).

 

25  In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which

was right in his own eyes.”  (ch.17:6; 18:1)  THIS IS THE KEY-NOTE,

IF NOT THE REFRAIN of the whole book of Judges. THE POINT

TAKEN IS ONE OF GREAT SIGNIFICANCE IN DEALING WITH

THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY AND THE STATE!  (In early

Twentieth Century America – 1920’s – and the last half of the century and

into the first two decades of the Twenty-First Century – 1960-2012 – the

present - we are finding out the FOR SOME COMMON EXTERNAL BOND

AND SANCTION FOR PUBLIC CONDUCT OF LIFE – yesterday,

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 is an example where many Americans

lined up for chicken at Chic-Filet to resent the BULLYING  of the

Gay and Lesbian community and the mayors of Chicago, Boston and

San FranciscoExhibit A in the Culture Wars in the United States of

America – CY – 2012)

 

 

War (vs. 1-25)

 

Who can think of the flourishing tribe of Benjamin reduced to a handful of

600 men, clinging for life to an inaccessible rock, but having to mourn the

loss of wives and daughters, and sisters and children, all ruthlessly

slaughtered with the edge of the sword, and not shudder at the horrors of

war? It is a distressing picture to bring before the mind, but the picture

must be looked at in its details if we would form a right judgment on the

subject. Well, then, in war there is first the snapping asunder of the bonds

of neighborhood and friendship which once existed between the parties.

There is the exchange of hatred, and ill-will, and the desire to injure and

destroy, for amity and kindness and benevolence. The word “the enemy”

takes the place of that of “friend,” and the change of conduct corresponds

to the change of name; for THERE SOON FOLLOWS THE ACTS OF

DESTRUCTION AND VENGEANCE!   Precious life, THAT

MYSTERIOUS GIFT OF GOD is spilt like water on the ground.

The bleeding wounds, the mangled limbs, the lifeless corpse,

take the place of the buoyant spirits, the active frame, and the healthful

vigor, of youth and manhood. The happy home where affection and

social mirth and bright hopes and schemes made happiness and light,

becomes the HOUSE OF MOURNING WHERE ALL HOPE IS PUT

OUT!   The husband, the betrothed, the brother, the darling son, is laid low in

dust and blood; and what is life any longer to the wife, to the expecting

bride, to the sister, to the bereaved mother? And in such a war as this with

Benjamin there are still more revolting images to be contemplated. The ground

strewed with innocent babes and little children unconscious of wrong,

and unsuspicious of harm.  Merry youths and laughing maidens cut down

in the spring-time of their life. Homesteads, orchards, gardens, whole streets,

whole cities, reduced to heaps of rubbish and ashes. All the works of men’s

hands, the fruit of their labors, the product of their skill, the ornament, the comfort,

the very shelter and food needed for human life, spoiled, wasted, and destroyed;

human progress thrown back for a century, and seeds of hatred sown to

bring forth a crop of bitterness in times to come. Thank God, war has been

shorn in our days of its savage cruelty. Soldiers no longer slaughter women

and children and defenseless men, nor destroy in the mere wantonness of

power. Most true also is it that in war some of the noblest qualities of men

are developed, and that kindness, mercy, and generosity, are the frequent

companions of daring courage, resolute endurance, and inflexible will. The

brave leader of men is deserving of all the gratitude and all the enthusiasm

of his fellow-men; and as long as war is a necessity, he who conducts it to

a successful end for his country’s good will always merit his country’s

praise. But for all that, it must be acknowledged that war, even in its

mitigated form, is A BLIGHT UPON HUMANITY  and that its

 continuance is a BLOT UPON CIVILIZATION and STILL MORE

UPON THE NATIONAL PROFESSION OF CHRISTIANITY.

 He would indeed be a benefactor of the human race who could discover and

establish the machinery by which national quarrels and disagreements could be

settled by some other arbitration than that of the sword. Viewed even in an

economic point of view, how great would the gain be to nations if the half million

or the million of men in the prime of life who are now supported in industrial

idleness at the expense of their countrymen were, instead, contributing their own

quota to the production and to the wealth of the country! (Nearly half a million

men died in the American Civil War and who knows how many wounded,

many permanently, put out of the work force and dependent upon someone

else for existence??? – CY – 2012)   And if the vast sums of money now

 spent on a single war were devoted to useful works and to great social

improvements, how greatly would the world be benefited, instead of being,

as now, impoverished  and made desolate! How to get rid of war, and at the same

time maintain the national  dignity and not compromise the national safety, is indeed

a problem difficult to solve. The existence of force may be necessary for the

maintenance of right. But for all that, the discovery of the means by which bloody

wars might be exchanged for some binding code of national law, to which the

strongest as well as the weakest should be subject, would be a signal blessing to

mankind. The subject is welt worth the consideration of every Christian philanthropist.

Surely, too, we are encouraged to hope for success by the glowing words of

prophecy.  A DAY WILL COME (II Peter 3:10) we know, when “nation shall

 not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”

(Isaiah 2:4). The Psalmist saw a blessed vision of a time when there shall be

abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth (Psalm 72:7). The

Holy Ghost speaks of a time when “they shall not hurt nor destroy in

 all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the

Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). And, even if in no other way

we can hope to succeed, let us, at least, use our utmost endeavor to spread

that  knowledge of the PRINCE OF PEACEJESUS CHRIST, THE

ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD -  at home and abroad which is THE

SUREST GUARANTEE OF PEACE!    We know not when or how the

kingdom of righteousness and peace shall be established. But we know that in

proportion as the gospel of peace influences men’s hearts, controls their

 passions, and incites them to brotherly love, the motives to war will be

diminished, the motives to harmony and union will be strengthened.

May the time come quickly when in the love of Christ, whether present in glory,

or still dwelling in the heavens, THE LOVE OF MAN TO MAN SHALL SO

ABOUND THAT IN THE FAMILY, IN THE NATION, AND IN THE

WORLD, THERE MAY BE ONLY PEACE!

 

 

"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."

 

This material can be found at:

http://www.adultbibleclass.com

 

If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.