The last chapters of Judges give us a glimpse of how depraved human beings can become when they reject God and His Word. They remind us of how destructive sin is and how vigilant we must be to nurture a loving, obedient relationship with the Lord.
The Wisdom Journey Lesson 108 - Darkness
As we come to these final chapters in the book of Judges, we are given a fresh warning that moral guidelines are not up for a vote. Moral purity is not decided by the courts or church councils; it’s determined by God, who created us and knows what is best for us.
Now let me warn you that chapter 19 is disturbing. It opens with a man chasing after his wayward wife:
A certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem . . . And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house. (verses 1-2)
Later on, we’re told that the Levite had actually married this woman; that is, he had added her to his harem, his collection. Let me tell you something, beloved: no matter where you go in the world today, wherever God’s design for marriage is abandoned, women are not honored. They become playthings or beasts of burden; they are not given the honor and dignity that God designed for them.
Now verse 3 tells us the man finds her and talks her into coming back with him. So, they begin their journey home. That night they arrive in the town of Gibeah and sit out in the open square of the city with nowhere to stay for the night.
Villagers back then were expected to take in travelers as a demonstration of national unity—it was a sacred duty. Finally, an old farmer returning from his fields invites them to stay with him for the night.
Now look at verses 22-24:
[But] the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.
What a tragic, wicked offer he makes to these evil men.
Continuing, we read:
But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they . . . abused her all night until the morning. . . . And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house . . . He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and . . . went away to his home. (verses 25, 27-28)
Now you can imagine why this isn’t a favorite passage to preach on Sunday morning. It’s tragic; it’s brutal; it’s immoral; it makes you want to weep for this poor woman.
The men of Gibeah had rejected God’s created design and embraced sexual sin. And in our world today, if someone calls sexual activity outside of God’s design for a husband and wife sinful, that person is immediately accused of being hateful.
Beloved, this doesn’t have anything to do with being hateful; it has everything to do with being biblical. The Bible warns us in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” Let me tell you, a million words of approval from your culture does not erase one word from God PQ.
Now back in Judges 19, instead of burying his wife, this man cuts her body into twelve pieces and sends one part to each of Israel’s twelve tribes. He wants to shake the nation up—to wake it up to its moral corruption—and evidently, it works.
Here in chapter 20, the Israelite tribes gather a huge army and demand that the people of Benjamin turn over these wicked men or prepare for war. Verse 13 informs us of their response:
The Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers . . . [they] came together out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the people of Israel.
They are going to fight to defend these men rather than hold them accountable to God’s moral standard.
Civil war breaks out, and the tribe of Benjamin is nearly wiped out in battle, all except for 600 men. But nobody in Israel is celebrating this victory. They’re weeping that one of the tribes of Israel is on the brink of extinction. They cry out as a nation in Judges 21:3: “O Lord, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?”
But what are they to do? These 600 young men need to rebuild the tribe of Benjamin, but they have no wives. This is a real problem since verse 1 informs us, “The men of Israel had sworn . . . ‘No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.’”
Now they realize that vow is going to hinder the rebuilding of this tribe. But instead of going to God for a solution, they come up with their own. And it’s also sinful and tragic.
Here in verse 8, they notice that the Israelites living in Jabesh-Gilead had not sent any soldiers to help them in this civil war. So, they decide to wipe out that city—except for the unmarried virgin girls.
How is that for a solution? Step 1: Kill everybody in the city but unmarried virgins. Step 2: These young women won’t have anywhere to live since their families have been killed, so they will agree to become wives of these 600 men from the tribe of Benjamin.
And that’s exactly what happens. The problem is, only 400 young virgins are found following this battle, and that still leaves 200 men without wives.
So, they come up with another wicked solution—and by the way, there’s no mention anywhere of praying or seeking the Lord for wisdom. The new plan is for these 200 men to hide out in the field and then rush in and kidnap young unmarried Israelite women who have come to celebrate at the annual festival at Shiloh.
This way, the Israelites will not have to break their vow since they are not technically “giving” their daughters away and the men will get their wives. And that is exactly what happens.
Beloved, you read the last few chapters here in the book of Judges, and you want to go take a bath: total defiance against God’s created design for love and marriage and family.
And what does God say about all this? Verse 25, the final verse in this book, says it all: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” God had not abandoned them; they had abandoned God.
Now, let me draw from the book of Judges two final, timeless truths we need to remember. First, whenever God’s Word is abandoned, dissatisfaction in a person’s life becomes inevitable. In other words, those who defy God are never satisfied. But, second, whenever God’s Word is followed, satisfaction in a person’s life becomes possible.
And here’s the promise to sinners like you and me who repent and take God’s Word as our guide: And here’s the promise to sinners like you and me who repent and take God’s Word as our guide:
This is the promise of God’s Word as we choose to not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds. We will discover that good and acceptable—that satisfying—will of God for our lives.