The Israelites were shocked by the ghastly behaviour of the inhabitants of Gibeah. They assembled at Mizpah and told the tribe of Benjamin that they should hand over their wicked compatriots. The Benjamites refused and mobilised their troops for battle. They mustered an impressive army of twenty-six thousand men but this would be up against the rest of the Israelites: four hundred thousand fighting men.
The Israelites asked God who should attack first and he told them to send the tribe of Judah. The Benjamites killed twenty-two thousand of them in the first day. After confirming with God that they should attack again they lost another eighteen thousand soldiers. So far, the campaign to rid the evil from Israel was a complete disaster but God had never promised them it would be easy or that he approved of the war.
The Israelites wept in front of the Lord, fasted and made offerings. Then God promised to give the Benjamites into their hands (v.28). This time, with the help of an ambush the other Israelites slaughtered the Benjamites, killed twenty-five thousand of them, putting all their towns to the sword (including the animals_ and setting everything on fire. Only six hundred Benjamites escaped into the desert. Let us hope that the old man who had been hospitable in Gibeah escaped the carnage (19:16-24).
The other Israelites vowed that not one of them would give a daughter in marriage to a Benjamite (21:1). However, they were very sad and wept to the Lord in grief that one of the original twelve tribes of Israel had nearly been wiped out.
The chaos continued because the Israelites had vowed that whoever failed to assemble before the Lord at Mizpah should be put to death. No representatives had turned up from Jabesh Gilead. The Israelites sent twelve thousand men to kill all the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead apart from four hundred female virgins. They then made an offer of peace to the few remaining Benjamites and gave them the four hundred virgins.
However, the Benjamites still did not have enough wives. The Israelites were determined not to entirely lose the tribe of Benjamin and wanted to allow them to build up their numbers again. So the Benjamites were allowed to hide in the vineyards around Shiloh during the annual festival of the Lord and rush out to kidnap a wife – taking her back to the land of Benjamin.
‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ (v.25).
You can say that again!
What are we to make of this? When society does not have a single, righteous leader with a single set of unifying laws, wickedness and civil war can multiply. The majority of the Israelites still respected the official tabernacle and had attempted to come together to rid themselves of terrible evil but they had suffered heavy casualties. It would have been better to repent and renounce their sins, fast and offer sacrifices to God before they waged war as he may have given them victory straight away. Jesus’ prayers were always successful as he was in tune with God at all times through continual prayer and regular fasting. He didn’t have to get into God’s good books to have his prayers answered unlike his disciples who were unable to cast out a demon because they had failed to pray and fast enough (Mark 9:29).
It would have been far easier for the Benjamites to admit that their compatriots were evil and surrender them for trial. We should be impartial when it comes to justice and not try to violently defend evil. The rest of the Israelites did show love and regret for nearly wiping out the tribe of Benjamin. They did want to preserve their heritage. However, they came up with a bizarre way of providing wives for the Benjamites – allowing them to kidnap their women. This is legalistic nonsense. It would have been far more traumatic for the women to have been seized in this way rather than be asked if they wanted to volunteer. Thank God that we still have a government setting national laws. It has been intensely confusing in Great Britain having devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland making their own rules during Covid. However, sometimes this does give your own area a small advantage. Let’s hope that our government doesn’t break down into even smaller units so that ‘everyone will do as they see fit’.
We must pray for our leaders that they are themselves led by God. When leaders reject God and ‘do as they see fit’ countries and empires will be lost. We must pray for President Biden, who declares himself to be a Christian, that he will follow the will of God.
The truth we learn from Jesus will set us free (v.31).
‘Everyone who sins is a slave to sin’ (v.34). We need to break away from this slavery to take up our place as adopted children of God and be ‘free indeed’. God arranged for me to be free from the slavery of paid employment so I can work for him. I was recently tempted to start a new well-paid secular job but what would I be doing it for? To squeeze even more money into my bank accounts? I shouldn’t give up freedom for the love of money. I was emotionally traumatized at the thought of secular employment, because I would be returning to slavery. Proverbs 26: 11 kept popping into my mind: ‘As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly’. I would be a slave to the opinions of my new boss and my co-workers. Of course, a secular job at the right times in our lives can be a great blessing from God and he will engineer us into work positions that we need when we need them. I couldn’t have raised a family without decades of secular employment. However, eventually we might be called to do something else. I had this nagging feeling that I should leave and prayed a bold prayer to God ‘Lord, if I should be doing something else please make it abundantly clear as I am slow to respond to hints. I need you to make it plain’. He made it abundantly clear I should change my vocation. We aren’t permitted to boldly proclaim Christian values in most secular work places. I felt a deep sense of peace when I rejected the idea of returning to secular slavery and chose continued freedom in Christ.
The Holy Spirit will help us to be free indeed from the sin that attracts us and clings to us like a sliver of cellophane stuck to our hand. I was stuck in repetitive addictive sin despite being ‘born again’ until I handed over control to the Holy Spirit by praying for up to an hour a day ‘in the Spirit’. The power of the Holy Spirit can set us free after we repent, renounce and believe in Jesus.
Jesus told the crowd that they were nothing like Abraham. Jesus knew exactly what Abraham was like. It had been Jesus, along with two angels, who had visited Abraham in his camp and predicted that he would be blessed with a miraculous child (Genesis 18).
Jesus proved that the assembled crowd were neither children of Abraham nor of God. Their father was the devil, ‘the father of lies’ (v.44). As opposed to the people who belong to God who hear what God says (v.47).
The devil was a murderer from the beginning (v.44). People who support murderous abortion work for him and twist the truth that a foetus is somehow different to an unborn baby. They cannot hold to the truth, for there is no truth in them. They lie that abortion is a liberating ‘right for women’ when it kills over twenty million women a year before they are born.
Abraham saw Jesus back in the time of the patriarchs and rejoiced because Jesus brought truthful, good news to him. Jesus existed from the dawn of all time. He created the world and so existed long before Abraham: ‘He was with God in the beginning’ (John 1:2). Jesus said he was God by claiming for himself the most holy name of God: ‘I am’ (v.58).
This was so outrageous to the crowd that they wanted to stone him but it wasn’t yet time for Jesus to die. His guardian angel was Saint Michael, leader of the loyal angel armies, and so it was a simple matter to hide and slip away under the shelter of his wings.
King David’s heart was growing faint and he felt a long way from God. He continued to faithfully call to him. He longed to shelter under his wings and dwell in his presence for ever (v.4).
God had always been his refuge and ‘a strong tower against the foe’ (v.3).
David called for God’s love and faithfulness to protect him. He would sing praise to his most holy name and fulfil his vows.