Rev. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.

We are in the midst of outlining the narrative of the Levite whose concubine had been abused by the men of Gibeah and killed. He had taken her body and cut it into twelve pieces and called the men of Israel to come to fight the men of Benjamin for this evil deed. The battle is now drawn, 400,000 men of Israel against 26,000 men of Benjamin along with 600 men from Gibeah. After inquiring of the Lord as to which tribe should go up first in battle, Judah prepared as the Lord had instructed. The first day of conflict resulted in the death of 22,000 soldiers of Israel. That evening the children of Israel wept before the Lord and sought counsel as to whether they should fight a second day. The Lord told them to go up. The men of Benjamin killed 18,000 soldiers of Israel the second day.

Stunned by this defeat, the Israelites sought Jehovah before the ark of the covenant with tears, as they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. The answer came the third time: go up and I will deliver the men of Benjamin into your hand (Judges 20:18-28). During the third attempt to do battle with Benjamin, Israel used strategy. They approached the city with a large army, but had 10,000 men lie in wait in the meadows outside Gibeah. When the army approached the gate as before, they began to run as if they were being pursued. In the midst of this retreat, thirty men of Israel were killed. It gave confidence for the men of Benjamin to pursue after them, thereby leaving the city exposed to the men who secretly waited in the meadows. The latter entered the city, slew the inhabitants, and set fire to the city. The smoke which filled the sky was the agreed sign that the army should reverse itself and force the men of Benjamin to fight from both directions. They tried to escape from the sides into the wilderness, but they were cut off. A total of 25,000 men of Benjamin were killed that day (Judges 20:29-48).

After the battle, the children of Israel assembled before the Lord at Mizpeh. Prior to this, they had sworn that they would not give their daughters unto the Benjamites for the evil that they had done. Now, after battle, as they assemble with their tribes, it grieves them that Benjamin is missing at the time of offering sacrifices. They realize that their vow not to give them daughters in marriage will mean the end of that tribe (Judges 21:1-7). They proceed to inquire whether there is any tribe that has not heeded the call to come up to worship. None of the men of Jabeshgilead had come. They immediately send 12,000 of the most capable soldiers to kill all the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead, sparing only 400 virgins which are brought to Shiloh. Messengers are dispatched to the children of Benjamin who were afraid to come and remained at the rock Rimmon. When they came, they were given the 400 virgins of Jabeshgilead. That was not sufficient for all the men, but it preserved the tribe (Judges 21:8-15).

What were they to do about the other men of war that did not have a wife? They advised these soldiers to attend the yearly feast unto the Lord at Shiloh, on the north side of Bethel. When the daughters of Shiloh would come out to dance, the men of Benjamin should grab each man a woman and run off with her to Benjamin. The men of Israel promised that, if the inhabitants of Shiloh would complain, they would explain to them the reason, namely, that they had not left to every man a wife during battle. This took place as planned and finally each tribe returned to its place. The book closes with the words which are repeated throughout, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:16-25).

Questions for Reflection

1. What is the relationship between the Book of Judges and that of Joshua which preceded it?

2. Why is this book called Judges? Describe the office and work of the people who functioned in this capacity.

3. Part of the significance of the Book of Judges is that it contains a description of the spiritual character of Israel during the years between the death of Joshua and the beginning of the kings of Israel. How do the following things demonstrate the ‘evil predominant in this period of time? In each instance, relate this same evil to our generation.

a. A new generation arose which knew not the Lord (Judges 2:10).

b. The sordid details of the last two chapters.

c. The repeated phrase (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) “there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

d. The “cycle” of the Judges, some 14 times.

4. As we study the history of the judges, we learn what was the significance of the heathen nations which were not exterminated according to the command of God. Consider:

a. Why did God give such a command? Was that not horrible? May we compare this to genocide?

b. How must we understand Gods anger with His people for not following His orders? What were their reasons?

c. What does this teach us about the antithesis?

5. Review the general history of the judges mentioned in this book and be able to demonstrate the following:

a. That God saves His people even though they do not deserve it.

b. That faith is the victory that preserves the remnant even in the darkest night.

c. That the only hope for Israel and for us is in the coming of Jesus Christ.

6. Reflect on some of the specific points of interest that come out of this history:

a. How must we understand the role of Deborah, a woman delivering Israel? Is this justification for women taking a leading role in the church today?

b. What encouragement is there for us in the deliverance by Gideon (300 soldiers)? How can we apply this to the church today?

c. How can we see a parallel between Abimelech (Judges 9:1-57) and apostasy in the church today?

d. Explain Jephthah’s vow (Judges 12). Was that rash or an act of faith?

e. Consider the pros and cons as to whether Samson was a righteous man. Why did he never deliver Israel completely from the Philistines?