Judges 21

Judges 21 Devotional
By Pastor Lawrence

What a depressing conclusion of the book of Judges, for it ends just as it started with there being no king in Israel and everyone doing what is right in his own eyes. But in these remaining chapters, Israel is not facing any external threats from the enemies of God but only internal threats from those whose hearts had been given to sexual immorality and idolatry. But after the eleven tribes of Israel had essentially wiped out the tribe of Benjamin in battle because of their defense of the homosexual mob running amuck in Gibeah, God’s people began to take pity upon the six hundred men remaining, for they did not want to see the tribe of Benjamin blotted out from the nation of Israel. Now that those who had committed the original sin had been purged from the land and the vast majority of those who had defended them also shared in their death, the Israelites had a change of heart, for they prized the promise of God to their father Abraham in terms of the Promise Land, and now one of Abraham’s sons was in danger of being cut off from the promises of God.

Keeping in mind that the earthly land of Canaan served as a sign and a foretaste of the heavenly Promised Land, it is not difficult to understand the dilemma that Israel was facing in this very pivotal moment. This remnant of men deserved to be put to death for their rebellion against God, but twice we are told that Israel had compassion upon their brother Benjamin. Of course, they couldn’t just let them go free forfeiting God’s justice, for God could not simply forget what they had done to blaspheme his name in Israel. No, their sin needed to be atoned and that is why Israelites offer a sacrifice to God in v.4 bringing both burnt offerings and peace offerings unto God that their brothers might be forgiven of this great offense. Of course, the blood of goats and rams in and of itself does not satisfy God’s holy wrath, but God would accept these sacrifices offered by faith in the Lamb of God who would come to take away the sins of the world. Surely, these 600 men did not deserve to be forgiven but neither do we, and that is why salvation and the forgiveness of sins is given to us only by grace.

Then, in addition to the forgiveness of sins, there was the matter of their inheritance in the Promised Land. Because all of the women alone with the children and the vast majority of men in the tribe of Benjamin had been destroyed already, these remaining men had no way to preserve their own bloodline for the generations to come. And the rest of the tribes of Israel had vowed not to give their daughters to them because of their sin. This is why the tribes of Israel came up with such a crafty plan to allow the Benjamites to obtain wives for themselves and preserve their inheritance in the land.

At first, the Israelites sought to use one of their oaths against another. Since they had also vowed to devote to destruction any who did not come to their aid in fighting against Benjamin, when they found out that the men of Jabesh-Gilead had sent no men to help them, they agreed to wipe out the entire town, women and children included. Now that seems rather strange that in order to show compassion to Benjamin, they had to show harsh justice to Jabesh-Gilead, but it demonstrates for us the very nature of mercy. Both parties deserved justice and destruction, but undeserved mercy was granted to the remaining Benjamites by choice. After all, mercy deserved is not mercy at all. That’s justice. Mercy is only given when someone deserves justice but does not receive it.

Again, everyone in the town of Jabesh-Gilead deserved God’s justice. However not everyone received it. The Israelites purposely preserved the lives of 400 virgin women in order to give them over in marriage to Benjamin. So these women too were recipients of mercy, for they too were devoted to destruction but did not receive it. They would live on and would play a pivotal role in the future of Israel by marrying this lost tribe of Benjamin and bearing children unto God.

Nevertheless, there still weren’t enough women to go around for all the Benjamites, so again, Israel, doing what was right in their own eyes, decided to allow the Benjamites to steal wives for themselves and to defend their thievery by reminding the girls’ fathers and brothers that they themselves didn’t give them over to Benjamin, so as not to incur guilt on their own part. I’m sure this really didn’t help the men of Shiloh accept the matter any better concerning their daughters, but they were sort of forced into submission. Certainly, the girls also were forced against their wills being kidnapped and carried away to Benjamin. Of course, this is not something that is to be recommended for Christians today.

But what does apply today is the same compassion of God to preserve the inheritance of his people. Even though the Benjamites had squandered their inheritance through sin, in the same way that the Prodigal Son had squandered his father’s inheritance, the grace of the Lord is once again put on display in allowing these Benjamites to return to their homes as sons of God. With all the sin, failure and misery that we have witnessed throughout the book, this should astound us that the Lord still has compassion upon them and still maintains an inheritance for them. Just how gracious is our God?