What we can learn from Judges (2)

Continued from yesterday.

Jephthah

When we first meet him, we learn that Jephthah is the son of a prostitute and the leader of a band of outlaws. Yet Yahweh chooses him. He is best remembered for the vow he makes. A vow he probably shouldn’t have made, and one he certainly shouldn’t have kept.

Samson

At the beginning of chapter 13, there is no record of the Israelites crying out to God. And even though they need deliverance now, He takes His time growing a baby in the womb and on to adulthood.

The angel of the Lord appears first to Mrs Manoah, and then on Manoah’s request, returns and appears to both of them. Manoah asks the angel’s name, and the reply was, “It is wonderful.” In the next verse, the Lord did a wonderful thing as Manoah and his wife watched. Easy to miss that play on words!

Samson turns out to be more flawed than all his predecessors. He was able to overcome lions, but (Philistine) women turned him into a muscly mass of goo. Why? Because the Lord was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines (14:4). God was behind Samson. Utterly baffling.

Despite his unfaithfulness to his calling, Samson shows up in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith (I marvelled at that in this post). So do Barak, Gideon and Jephthah. God’s grace is truly amazing!

Chapters 17-18

The first epilogue, regarding Micah’s idols, is a picture of religious apostasy and syncretism. The narrator reveals the most surprising element of this story at the end: the idolatrous Levite was a direct descendant of Moses, the man of God. Godly heritage doesn’t guarantee faithfulness.

Incidentally, the tribe of Dan doesn’t show up in the tables of the tribes in 1 Chronicles. Neither does it show up in Revelation 7. Does that have anything to do with the events of chapter 18, where they go out and conquer land that wasn’t part of Yahweh’s allotment to them?

Chapters 19-21

The second epilogue starts with the Levite and his concubine and ends in civil war, displaying the moral depravity in Israel in the days of the judges. These clearly weren’t the good old days.

Judges 19 is a lot like Genesis 19. This is Sodom in Israel. Ironically, the Levite had earlier refused to spend the night in a pagan city, on the grounds that its inhabitants were not Israelites. But surely, could it have been any worse there? The Israelites in Gibeah, apart from being perverts were also inhospitable.

More irony: the man who hosts them for the night tells the men who come knocking at his door that their plan is vile. He fails to notice that his proposal (offering his daughter and his guest’s concubine) is just as vile.

The callousness of the Levite:  he gives the men his concubine (6:25) and then goes to sleep. Makes me want to scream. How can he do such a thing? He’s a member of God’s covenant community, and more than that, a Levite for crying out loud!

A more proper reaction is to be humble before the Lord. The only reason I don’t get bogged down in a morass of my own wickedness and depravity is because He keeps and preserves me. On my own, I have no strength to do it and so have no right to look down my nose at these people.

The story gets worse. His concubine is dead. He cuts her up in 12 pieces and sends a piece to each tribe (19:29). The nation assembles to take revenge against the Benjamites. They are united, but against their brothers. The Levite recounts the story leaving out the bits that incriminate him, and on the strength of that four hundred thousand men go up against Benjamin. In the battles that ensue, tens of thousands are killed. Only 600 Benjamites are left (20:46-48). The rest of Israel feels remorse that one tribe faces extinction, and then conjure up objectionable plans to procure wives for them.

Years later when the Israelites asked for a king, God gave them Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin. He set up his capital in Gibeah.

Sources: Bible.org, Dale Ralph Davis, D. A. Carson

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