Judges 21: This is How it Ends

I’m finished with Judges. And I feel like I need a shower.

It’s gross, wrong, sickening, infuriating, confusing and a host of other things unpleasant. I guess the Bible isn’t really afraid of stuff like that.

A quick recap for you:

  • Men from the tribe of Benjamin gang-rape and kill the wife of a Levite.
  • The rest of Israel goes on a vengeful rampage, killing most of the Tribe of Benjamin.

You would think that a civil war would be enough to calm them down a bit, but it doesn’t. If anything, this conflict only serves to twist their thinking about how to make things right.

The Dangers of Vowing

God has been quite clear on several occasions that if his people make a vow, they are bound to it. The smart listener would hopefully arrive at the conclusion that vows should be made after careful reflection and process, if at all.

Israel is not what I would call, “smart listeners.”

Before the war started, they made two vows, which we only learn afterwards. No one is allowed to give their daughters to Benjamin as wives, and anyone not at this assembly shall be put to death.

I can understand the first one. The second seems just a bit silly.

The problem occurs when the realities of the civil war (Benjamin almost wiped out) collide with their vows and their compassion.

How Compassion Can Go Seriously Wrong

In a moment of “what have we done?”, the rest of Israel decides that they don’t actually want Benjamin wiped out. So they have compassion on them.

Ordinarily, I would like this. But compassion is only as effective as its execution.

This particular form of compassion involves murdering a whole city (because they weren’t at the assembly), taking all the virgins, and giving them to the Benjamites as wives.

But unfortunately, there aren’t enough virgins to go around.

So they tell the men of Benjamin to go wait in the vineyards near Shiloh during a festival. When the young girls come out to dance, the man should jump out and take them and make them their wives.

If you are wondering what “make them their wives means,” it means rape. Just to clarify it for you. But don’t worry. If you were related to those girls and were concerned that since they are now wives for Benjamin you might have broken the vow, you may breathe easy. Since they stole them from you, you didn’t give them! Hooray! Everyone wins!

Gives new meaning to “Compassion Ministry” doesn’t it?

How Far We Have Fallen

The abduction of the young women of Shiloh involves the following phrases:

Lie in wait


carry off a wife

Those are words associated with predators. That is what Israel has become. Do you know what makes it worse?

This was at a festival to the LORD.

A festival celebrating the God who brought them out of slavery has become fertile ground for kidnapping and rape.

I really hope the author of Judges wants me to feel disgusting. Because I do.


4 responses

  1. Pingback: Monday morning coming down

  2. Actually they do want you to be disgusted. I always interpreted Judges as a set of stories explaining why Israel needed a king. “See, without a king to rule over Israel this is how bad they got.”

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