Jump Start # 3504
Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Our verse today not only ends the book of Judges, but it ends one of the saddest and darkest stories in the Bible. It begins two chapters before, in chapter 19, which starts, “Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel…” This section begins with this and our verse ends this section, like bookmarks.
A Levite had a concubine. She had been unfaithful to him. From Bethlehem, the concubine’s fathers home, they head towards Ephraim, where the Levite lived. They reach Gibeah, where an old man invites them in to stay the night. It is here where the worst things take place. The men of Gibeah, Benjamites, surround the house and demand that the Levite be given to them for homosexual pleasures. The Levite passes his concubine out to the crowd. They ravish her all night and in the morning the Levite finds her dead at the doorstep. He cuts her into pieces and sends them to the tribes of Israel. Anger boils. Justice is demanded. When the tribe of Benjamin refuses to hand over the rapists, war breaks out. In total, 57,000 were killed between Benjamin and Israel. The tribe of Benjamin was nearly wiped out. To prevent that, women were taken from Jabesh-gilead and Shiloh to be wives to the men of Benjamin and to keep the tribe surviving.
There are layers of things in this story that bothers me. It seems that no one cares for the concubine, even the Levite who had her. One would think that the Levite ought to have come out to that crowd with swords waving and fought to the death for the protection of this woman. But he doesn’t. He is the one who opens the door and hands her to the lustful crowd. Her name is never used. The Levite refers to her as “concubine.”
This is a tough section to teach, especially to children. This is a tough passage to preach. God has put this story in His book for a reason. All Scripture is profitable, even this one.
Here are a few lessons:
First, without moral leadership and divine instruction, there is no depth to which man will sink. Hell has no bottom. Could that be the reason this story is book cased with “there was no king in Israel.” No leadership. No direction.
What does this tell us about the home? Leaving kids to make up their own rules and their own minds is to simply open the door to trouble and evil. I have seen on the nightly news multiple times, a tearful mother watching her teenage son, handcuffed, being put in a police car for shooting another person. The mother wails, “He’s a good boy.” Is he? Good people do not shoot others. Without responsibility, accountability and a moral compass, the worst is possible.
Second, the people of Benjamin where God’s people. You would think that they had heard about Lot and the wickedness of Sodom. The cycle of sin repeats and repeats when one ignores the lessons from God’s word. One would expect such wickedness from pagans, but not the people of God. All of this shows us that one can belong to God in name, but not in heart. The old man pleaded with the crowd to stop this foolishness and wickedness. But, with eyes full of adultery, as Peter uses that term, they would not listen nor be reasoned.
Third, a lot of people died because of this wickedness. A short civil war took place in Israel. Much so often, one deed leads to multiple consequences that have long and lasting impacts. People died because of this wicked deed. Many people died. Satan blinds our eyes to the consequences of sin. All we see is the pleasure. All we see is the moment. The only day on Satan’s calendar is “today.” He never thinks beyond this day.
Fourth, the concubine was treated like trash. Even in death, she wasn’t given a decent burial. Chopped up and sent among the tribes, she was abused in death like she was abused in life. No one seemed to care for her. She had no protection, help or savior. The justice that comes after her death seems too late. Reverence for life is missing in this story. This story lacks compassion.
And, could it be, that all of this is pointing to the One true King of Israel, Jesus. Without THE KING, we are lost. Without THE KING we act like animals. Without THE KING the way we treat one another is shameful and harmful.
Israel would soon get a king. That wouldn’t help them much. Another king, would follow, David. Within his own family, there would be rape and bloodshed. More kings. The nation doesn’t change much. It’s not until the true King of Kings, Jesus, is there hope. You and I find this story disgusting and wrong. If we could tear a page out of the Bible, this would it. We feel this way because we have a sense of right and wrong within us. We have a moral compass that we are following. We understand compassion and decency. We know the golden rule.
We have a King—and that makes all the difference.