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Judges 17-21 – Intro Post – 1


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#1 Clarity

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 07:07 AM

Judges 17-21 – Intro Post – 1

I’ve recently concluded a study on Judges 17-21. What a section of scripture! It’s a murky period of Israel’s history to say the least and yet there are some huge lessons and principles that emerge from a careful reading of it.

If you’ve never looked much at the book of Judges before, I hope and pray that you’ll join me in studying this section of the scriptures and I hope it 1) opens up a part of God’s Word to you that perhaps you haven’t looked at too much before and 2) it proves to be an example of how powerful and relevant the word of God can be to us today.

There’s a couple of important scriptures which serve as good prefaces for a study deep in the Old Testament like this:

Firstly, the words of the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 10 where he is commenting on incidents recorded in the books of Exodus and Numbers:

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. (ESV)

This principle applies to the section of Judges we’ll be looking at. The things recorded there will also be effective for our instruction.

And also this very revealing verse in 2 Timothy 3, in which the Apostle Paul writes this:

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings,
(These ‘sacred writings’ would have been the Old Testament scriptures – including the book of Judges!) which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
(ESV)

So let’s see what this section of Judges will equip us with!

Edited by Clarity, 15 April 2011 - 08:56 AM.


#2 Clarity

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 07:10 AM

Judges 17-21 – Background – 2

The Book of Judges can be divided into three parts:

(1) The Preface, (Ch’s 1-3:6)

(2) The Main Narrative (Ch’s 3:7-16:31)

(3) The Appendices (Ch’s 17-21)

Appendices are usually defined as ‘additional matter at the end of a book or document’ and one of the interesting questions in relation to the appendices to the book of Judges is – “why are they there?”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Chapters 17-21 of Judges contain what appears to be two narratives, two separate stories.

a): Judges 17-18

b) Judges 19-21

And interestingly enough, there is also a third narrative that counts as an appendices to the book of Judges and that’s the book of Ruth.

The original scriptures combined the book of Judges and the book of Ruth thus Ruth was counted as also being part of this section.

The fact that Ruth belongs contextually in the era of the Judges is demonstrated by the first verse of Ruth 1…

1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
(ESV)

…however, that’s just something interesting to note in passing, as this study is not going to delve into the book of Ruth.

The section of Judges 17-21 exists for thematic reasons rather than chronological.

That is not to say that the events contained in this section are not presented in a chronological and orderly fashion, they certainly are! However don’t be fooled into thinking that because these chapters are at the end of the book of Judges they therefore occurred at the end of the period of the Judges! They didn’t!

Chronologically, the events presented in these chapters occur towards the beginning of the period of the Judges. There are a number of proofs for this among which are:

1) In this narrative, Phinehas appears to be the current High Priest (Judges 20:27-28). Phinehas was the grandson of Aaron, son of Eliezer. He was a grown man by the time the children of Israel entered the promised land (Numbers 25), and therefore could not have been acting high priest centuries later just before the time of Samuel (where the narrative of Judges 20 is situated in our Bibles). He must have been coming into this role during the time of Joshua’s leadership or very soon after (Joshua 22:13) and this helps us place the events of Judges 17-21 chronologically.

2) Another proof lies in the fact that Judges 18 tells the story of how the tribe of Dan came to settle in the northern extremities of the land. As we’ll see, Dan’s inheritance was originally supposed to be down South near Philistine territory. And yet, a couple of chapters earlier in Judges 13, we read about Samson and find out that all that is left in the South is the ‘camp of Dan’. The tribe had already gone North. This means the events of Judges 18 preceded the narrative of Judges 13.

This is just an aside really, and I don’t want to get too into the ‘nitty gritty’ of the technical stuff but this all useful context to understand before we dive in to the narrative of chapters 17-21.

*****

If the Appendices of Judges 17-21 are thematic in some way then, I suppose the question is:
What is the theme?
Why are these chapters bundled together at the back of the book?
What’s the writers point? What does he want to achieve?

There is a famous phrase that is often quoted to summarise the book of Judges, and it is found four times in these five chapters – and thus the theme is supplied! Here it is: (fanfare)

Judges 17
6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (KJV)

This is it. Here is the phrase at the beginning of the Appendices section and you’ll never guess what the very last verse of the book of Judges is? Anybody?

Ah… you guessed it:

Judges 21
25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (KJV)

This is the theme of these 4 chapters. It the writers point, and by now he expects you to have got it!

There’s two other occasions where this is quoted in this section, but with a subtle difference. Here’s the first one:

Judges 18

1 In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel. (KJV)

Notice that’s it not quite the same in that only half the phrase is quoted. It says: ‘In those days there was no king in Israel’ but it seems to omit the latter phrase ‘every man did that which is right in his own eyes’.
Why would it omit the last part of the famous quote?
It actually doesn’t. The reality is that verse 2-31 says it very effectively! I believe that’s the point. Verse 2-31 is precisely this (as we will see) – a record of ‘every man doing that which is right in his own eyes’

It’s the same with the next time we see the phrase. We appear to only get half of it:

Judges 19
1 And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah. (KJV)

Why only half the quote again? Because… Judges 19:2 - 21:24 effectively says exactly this: ‘every man did that which was right in his own eyes’

Now in identifying the theme, we’ve also identified why these two narratives are handpicked by the writer and put together on their own. They have been chosen to provide us with the flavour of the times. These stories are emblematic of a period in history – the period when the Judges ruled and they appear calculated to demonstrate to us what happens when God’s ways are rejected and unaccountable and unrestrained, ‘man does that which is right in his own eyes’.

We are going to find that the first story in chapters 17 and 18 is about the setting up of an illegitimate priesthood in the Northern part of Dan. It shows us how the cancer of idolatry began in one instance and spread from one family to an entire tribe, and how the consequences effected the whole nation.

The second story is about the gruesome violation and murder of a Levite’s concubine in what was a brutal crime committed in the town of Gibeah in the tribe of Benjamin. The consequences that flowed from this crime, led to a crisis of almost unbelievable magnitude in Israel.

It appears initially that these two separate stories are unrelated, but as I hope to show, they are related in a most startling manner.

Edited by Clarity, 15 April 2011 - 08:58 AM.


#3 Clarity

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 07:13 AM

Judges 17-21 – Highlighting the Issue – 3

The events contained in these last five chapters tend to be memorable for us once we first become aware of them possibly due to the fact that seem so ‘bizarre’ in terms of what we might expect to read about God’s chosen people.

Upon reading these chapters, one is struck by how ignorant of God and His ways some of these people seem to be.

We perhaps find ourselves asking – How could it be? What had happened?

Down through time, God has always preserved His truth and His ways in families and communities. There are many scriptures which speak about the importance of parents treasuring the truths of God’s Word, preserving those same precious truths and being diligent and careful about passing those truths on to the next generation.

This is a beautiful theme in scripture. Here are a couple of examples of the Word putting emphasis on this principle: (Deuteronomy 6:7-9, Deuteronomy 29:29, Psalm 78:3-7, Proverbs 2:1-2, Isaiah 38:19)

Here is precisely the issue with the period of the Judges. There had been a failure of one generation to effectively pass on the knowledge of God and His ways to the next generation. Here’s the proof of that:

Judges 2

7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel.

8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years.

9 And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash.

10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.
(ESV)

Why did this generation ‘know not the Lord’? It seems as though they had not been sufficiently taught. It may well be that there weren’t too many children with ‘hearing ears’, but it would seem that the primary reason was that parents had failed to effectively communicate the truths about the God of Israel to their children.

Deuteronomy 6 had said:

7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
(ESV)

It seems they had not done this diligently enough, and therefore we read in Judges 2

17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so.

In Judges 17-21 we see a glimpse of this generation that arose ‘not knowing’ the ways of the Lord. We see what happens when a generation grows up unenlightened in relation to the ways of God.

And some of the things we are going to read could be straight out of today’s newspaper headlines.

Edited by Clarity, 15 April 2011 - 07:29 AM.


#4 Clarity

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 07:28 AM

Judges 17-21 – Micah and his Mum – 4

So with all that having been said about families and the importance of parents ‘diligently’ teaching their children Divine principles, let’s turn our attention to Judges 17 where we are introduced to a family living in Mount Ephraim.

Mount Ephraim we should just say is already an auspicious place in the nation. Even though it is still early days as far as the history of the nation is concerned, there are a couple of important points about this region in Israel already:

It is where the great leader Joshua had been buried (Joshua 24:30) after having challenged the people to remain faithful to God after he was gone. He had told them to reject foreign idols and had famously proclaimed ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15)

It was the place that Eliezer the son of Aaron the High Priest was buried, and there was a city called Gibeah which belonged to Phinehas the next High Priest of Israel. (Joshua 24:33)

So here in this place where Joshua had rejected idolatry, where the High Priest owns land, Judges 17 says we have a man named Micah:

1 There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah.

2 And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the Lord.”
(ESV)

“Mum… you know that money you’re upset about losing… confession time… I stole it”

You might think that this is pretty good going. Micah’s owned up. He’s confessed.

Here is a perfect opportunity now to sit down with Micah and say “listen son, I’m glad you’ve confessed but this was a serious sin and I want to ensure you understand the gravity of your actions. We worship a God of holiness who gave us a law at Sinai…”

Alas. Micah’s mother did no such thing.

Micah receives instead an enthusiastic blessing! NET: “may the Lord reward you my son”.

Micah’s spiritual mother (yes you correctly detected the sarcasm) decides that a celebration of sorts is in order.

3 And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “I dedicate the silver to the Lord from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” (ESV)

So Micah’s mother deems it appropriate at this point to use a portion of the money her son stole to make and idol for him!

4 So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. (ESV)

So Micah now has a little remembrance sitting in his house commemorating the response of his mother after he confessed to stealing from her. And in some bizarre sort of way, this is associated with ‘the Lord’ and is a token of his blessing of Micah too.

This seems to have sparked a bit of a hobby on Micah’s part, because by the time we come to verse 5 he is now a father with a family of his own and he now has a shrine full of various carved and metal images:

5 And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained one of his sons, who became his priest.


He also has himself an ‘ephod’ (a priestly garment of some sort) and he’s gone and ordained himself a priest who just happens to be his son.

Micah has developed a brand of home grown religion. It’s ‘do it yourself’ religion made and developed whichever way you like it.

Now just notice that already there is another generation on the scene now for Micah has a son who he has now made a priest. What do you think this boy knows about the God of Israel? He hasn’t learned anything from his dad, and we’ve seen that his dad hadn’t learnt much from his mother.

This is a classic example of how a generation arises not knowing the ways of God. The narrative seems carefully written and calculated to demonstrate just this point.

And the narrator, sensing your amazement at what you’ve just read… sensing you would like an explanation for the utter spiritual ignorance on display here drops in by way of explanation:

6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.


Here are some of the commandments in God’s law (so recently given) that have clearly been breached in these first 5 verses. (Exodus 20:15, Exodus 20:4, Exodus 28:1-4)

The cancer of idolatry and unfaithfulness has taken root in the family of Micah. In the rest of the chapter we see it spread.

#5 Clarity

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 08:51 AM

Judges 17-21 – Micah Hires a Levite – 5

Micah’s homemade shrine with its ‘Micah procured idols’ and its ‘Micah ordained priest’ must have been going along quite nicely for Micah for sometime and the record indicates that Micah was making some money out of the whole arrangement which is usually the case when it comes to manmade religion.

And then something happens which changes the scene quite dramatically. One day, Micah has a visitor:

7 Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there

8 And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah.

9 And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.
(ESV)

This Levite does not strike you as a particularly purposeful individual sure of his place and mission of life. He doesn’t appear to have any particular direction at all in fact and is just cruising along waiting for life to throw him up an opportunity.

Despite the fact that Micah already has a priest, he sees this travelling Levite on the move with no particular destination in mind and seizes the opportunity to hire a Professional! After all, Levites are the real thing! Levites are priests! And how good would it be if he was able to add to his shrine a genuine Levite!

We find too, that this particular Levite is most open to offers and it seems that Micah makes him a good one:

10 And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in.

11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons
(ESV)

The Levite is now setup with a salary, food and lodging. For a man who was open to ‘come what may’, he’s hit the big time. He’s a priest in Micah’s shrine and it seems that he and Micah get on very well indeed. Micah’s long time experience with homemade religion has given him all sorts of credibility and authority so much so that he ordains the Levite:

12 And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. (ESV)

It is here that we now have an insight into Micah’s motive for hiring this Levite:

13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”
(ESV)

It seems Micah now has a new degree of confidence in the validity of his homemade shrine before Almighty God. He figures that given God set apart the Levites for special service and now he has one working for him, his standing with God must have increased somewhat.

Micah appears not to have taken into consideration that this Levite is ministering before graven images! (Exodus 34:13-17)

Micah appears not to realise that it was only the family of Aaron who were to be priests! (Numbers 3:10)

Micah appears not to realise that the Levites were set apart to the service of Aaronic priesthood alone. (Exodus 38:21, Numbers 3:9, 8:18-19, 18:2-4)

Micah is an apostate, founding an idolatrous religion right in the centre of the land.
He has a prominent Levite now ‘ministering’ in his homemade abomination of a shrine… and so far, he’s getting away with it.

#6 Clarity

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 06:18 PM

Judges 17-21 – The Tribe of Dan and the Levite – 6

When the children of Israel finally crossed the Jordan and entered into the land of promise, it was after 40 long years of wilderness wandering and tribulation. We know that what followed was a very successful series of military campaigns under the leadership of Joshua designed to break the back of Canaanite resistance in the land.

The individual tribes of Israel were apportioned certain geographical areas in the land and it was their responsibility to clean out the remaining inhabitants by fire and sword. The God of Israel made it clear that such action against the existing inhabitants of the land was necessary because ‘their sin had reached its limit’ (Genesis 15:16)

The tribes did this with varying degrees of success, although the record makes it clear that with enough faith and confidence in their God it could have been completely successful.

The tribe of Judah was very successful as a reading of Judges 1 demonstrates. (Judges 1:4)

But many of the other tribes made compromises with the wicked inhabitants of the land or simply lacked the courage and faith necessary to do what was necessary.

Examples: Manasseh (Judges 1:27-28) Ephraim (Judges 1:29) Zebulun (Judges 1:30) Asher (Judges 1:31-32)

Some of these tribes made initial progress but lacked the necessary zeal and purpose to complete the job. However, the tribe of Dan was on the backfoot from the start and Judges 1 says:

34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain.
(ESV)

Not only did the tribe of Dan not make progress in expelling the Amorites from their inheritance, they were actually oppressed and forced back by them! (Just as an aside, it was this circumstance that caused Samson so much angst leading to his clashes with the Philistines (Judges 13:25))

This background information about the tribes and their inheritances is important when we come to the next section of the appendices in the Book of Judges, which is chapter 18:

1 In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. (ESV)

So the Danites have got to the stage where they are now ready to scout around for a more suitable inheritance. The portion they had been allotted has been deemed by them to be too difficult and notice how they see it:

It says ‘until then no inheritance… had fallen to them…’

And so Dan is ‘seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in…’

Dan is doing what is right in its own eyes. Dan is not acting at the behest of any Divine commandment. This is Dan saying “its too hard… we don’t like what God has given us, it hasn’t ‘fallen’ to us… it hasn’t landed in our lap on a silver platter… its time to look for greener pastures”.

So this is what they do.

2 So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. (ESV)

On their way up North the Danites lodge in or nearby the house of Micah, and it’s now that something very intriguing takes place:

3 When they were by the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. And they turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?”
(ESV)

Up until this point, all we know about the Levite who is now acting as priest in Micah’s house is that he was from the town of Bethlehem in Judah, he’s a ‘young man’ and he had been wandering fairly aimlessly it seems prior to Micah offering him full time employment in his shrine.

However, we now learn that this Levite has a distinctive voice that the Danites recognised! How mysterious! Note this point! The narrator wants you to!

The Danites proceed to ask him a series of questions, and before long we get the distinct impression a genuine catch-up up amongst old friends is occurring.

“Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?”

4 And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me: he has hired me, and I have become his priest.”
(ESV)

In response to their questions the Levite informs them of his situation with Micah, and now this will be interesting!

Further evidence as to the spirituality of these Danites is going to be revealed by their reaction to Micah’s house of idols.

What will they say? Will they be shocked and outraged at the presence of idolatry in Israel? Will they demand and explanation of this individual that they appear to have had some previous acquaintance with or will they perhaps feel compelled to notify the High Priest of this flagrant violation of God’s holy law?

Alas.

5 And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.”

6 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”
(ESV)

They seem to have no reservations about the Levites appointment as priest in Micah’s homemade shrine and in fact seek his blessing on their faithless endeavour, which they duly receive.

The Danites continue their journey North bolstered by the Levites’ assurances of divine favour and guidance. What they don’t know, or perhaps don’t care is that he was simply yet another individual doing ‘what was right on his own eyes’.

#7 Clarity

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 07:04 AM

Judges 17-21 – The Zeal of Dan – 7

In this post we take up the story of the Danites mission to carve out a piece of territory for their tribe. They travelled far to the North and came upon a town called Laish. There were some very attractive features of this area as Judges 18:7 tells us:

7 Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth, and how they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. (ESV)

Quite simply, Laish looked like a pretty easy kill. They land must have been fertile, there was plenty of wealth to be gained and these ‘quiet and unsuspecting’ people would not be ready to defend themselves. The Danites gathered they could invade, massacre all and have the task completed before anyone could come to their aid. Such would be the method of gaining their inheritance.

So, with this ‘wonderful news’, the five spies returned South to their brethren.

8 And when they came to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?”

9 They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them, for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you do nothing? Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land.
(ESV)

One cannot help but note the zeal and enthusiasm that these 5 spies have for the task at hand! In fact, they seem to be impatient about getting some action happening and valiantly exhort the rest of the tribe to ‘get cracking’

"And will you do nothing? Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land"

Funnily enough, these encouraging words sound eerily reminiscent of Joshua’s encouragement to the tribes in Joshua 18:3 however, Joshua had gone on to delineate the God given geographical plot of land for each tribe by way of casting the lot (Josh 18:10 cp. Proverbs 16:33) and it was in that context that the tribes were encouraged to go and fight (Joshua 23:9-10).

These encouraging words are appropriate… but only in the context of the Danites staying right where they are in the South and having the faith and tenacity to take their God given land from the Amorites who are currently winning the battle!

The urging continues:

10 As soon as you go, you will come to an unsuspecting people. The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.” (ESV)

Excuse me? God has ‘given it into your hands’!?

No no… the Danites are taking it for themselves. This isn’t what God has counseled! This is their doing! This is Danites wimping out of the battle and going to find an easier option. They may justify their actions by citing the fact that they obtained the blessing of a Levite at Micah’s shrine but that has nothing to do with Yahweh.

But humans so easily deceive themselves into thinking that what they want to do is what God wants them to do.

The encouraging words of the 5 scouts are effective. There’s movement now in the tribe of Dan. There is purpose. Direction. A will to fight. It is man’s will though, not Gods.

11 So 600 men of the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol,

12 and went up and encamped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim.
(ESV)

Interestingly enough, as these 600 warriors travel North they will once again have to travel past the shrine of Micah.

Perhaps they will drop in to pay their respects to the priest there?

#8 Clarity

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 06:51 AM

Judges 17-21 – Dan Get Religion – 8

600 men ‘armed to the teeth’ would be an intimidating sight as they marched North ‘up hill and down dale’ on the way to their ‘inheritance’. They weren’t alone either as they had family and cattle with them. The whole tribe was on the move.

No doubt the 5 scouts would keep their sprits up with lively descriptions of the land they were going to. It maybe that they had quite forgotten about seeing the Levite at Micah’s shrine until they came to the hill country of Ephraim, however they were soon reminded of it upon reaching the area and then a thought seems to have arisen in their minds…

13 And they passed on from there to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.

14 Then the five men who had gone to scout out the country of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that in these houses there are an ephod, household gods, a carved image, and a metal image? Now therefore consider what you will do.”
(ESV)

If we didn’t already know something of the Danites lack of spiritual perception we might be wondering what the 5 men had in mind at this point. With 600 fighting men behind them they might have felt inclined to destroy this singular institution of idolatry with delay and earn the commendation of the God of Israel who had been so insistent in His holy law on the need for faithfulness. However, we know that they don’t have a conscience in relation to this sort of thing, so it’s with interest that we wonder what these 5 men have in mind:

15 And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and asked him about his welfare. (ESV)

Well perhaps a social visit is all they were thinking? How nice… to ask the young Levite of his welfare! This seems innocent enough. Or does it?

For now the record takes on a menacing tone:

16 Now the 600 men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate.

17 And the five men who had gone to scout out the land went up and entered and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war.
(ESV)

Wow. This is daylight robbery! These 600 men are on the lookout whilst these 5 men who’ve been here before (and sought God’s guidance here no less) clean the shrine out of all its idols! What could they be thinking?

Ah… but there is one thing they didn’t count on! The priest, the young Levite is on guard and in verse 18 he speaks up!

18 And when these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” (ESV)

One imagines that this priest must be outraged! If there’s one thing an acting priest stands for then it’s going to be basic honesty is it not? What could they be thinking in stealing from a holy place? One imagines they are in for a withering pronunciation of judgment from this young Levite, who no doubt will feel scandalized at such behaviour.

Alas. As we’ve seen all the way through this record so far. Principles of common decency and upright behaviour are sadly lacking in this period of Israel’s history… and remember, that’s the point.

One might think that the simple question “what are you doing” directed as it was to these 5 men by the young priest might in fact have the effect of shaming them into better behavior. It doesn’t of course, and instead the young man is given an ultimatum. Or is it a threat? Or is it a job offer?

19 And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” (ESV)

Whether it’s a violent threat or a career opportunity on offer, one thing is clear: The priest now has to choose between going with these men who have just stolen his benefactors ‘valuable’ idols at sword point or staying with Micah who has fed and clothed him up until this point.

If we were not already starting to get the picture we might be tempted to think that the last thing this man would contemplate is disloyalty to Micah, for after all it does say that he had become ‘like one of his sons’ (Judges 17:11)

But no, apparently he has no compunction about going with the Danites. He can spot an opportunity when one comes along can this Levite! And so we read:

20 And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people. (ESV)

The Levite has made his choice. The thieving murdering Danites make a good point. It makes no sense to stay with Micah. As good as his situation had been in Mount Ephraim, it was only a local shrine to a little village environment. He now has the opportunity to be a priest and ‘father’ (spiritual guide) to a whole tribe.

In Australia, we call a decision like that ‘a no-brainer’. So convinced is he now that it is a better offer, the record tells us that he took the ephod… ’ He did!

The Levite is now one of the thieves travelling North.

#9 Fortigurn

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 08:51 AM

Is this a Bible class or youth group talk? Gripping stuff! :D

#10 Clarity

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 02:55 PM

Hi Bro,
It's been both but a recent youth group night on it reignited my interest and I've been hooked on this section since. I have so much material that I decided to explore putting in into this format which means rewriting it all. Great exercise though as I'm discovering new stuff in the process.
I can't get over how exquisitely crafted the whole section is and I've got some jaw dropping stuff up my sleeve for chapters 20-21.
Enjoy!

#11 Clarity

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 03:05 AM

Judges 17-21 – Micah’s Protest – 9

Having stolen Micah’s household idols and his priest, the tribe of Dan continues on their journey, but not it seems without first taking precautionary measures.

21 So they turned and departed, putting the little ones and the livestock and the goods in front of them. (ESV)

The children, cattle and goods were all put to the front of the column because their behaviour had been such that pursuit was more than likely.

It is the next verse interestingly enough, that confirms something that we suspected. Micah’s descent into idolatry had not just affected his own family, but had spread around the district commanding the loyalty of neighbours in the vicinity.

So loyal to these false gods were these neighbours, that they happily accompanied Micah in pursuit of the Danite thieves:

22 When they had gone a distance from the home of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house were called out, and they overtook the people of Dan. (ESV)

It would not have been difficult to overtake the migrating tribe of Dan, but clearly the Danites were not counting on speed in their getaway. They knew that they had the brawn, and given how they had positioned their travelling party the first Danites Micah and his cronies would come upon would be 600 armed and dangerous ones.

Still, this does not stop them making an attempt to address the issue of the flagrant robbery that has just occurred.

23 And they shouted to the people of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you come with such a company?” (ESV)

It is intriguing to wonder if this question asked of Micah is one of feigned innocence, stupidity or just pure ‘who-do-you-think-you-are-yes-we-stole-your stuff-what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it-ism’.

Probably the latter. These Danites appear to have a cavalier, brasen and brutal manner about them except when it came to dealing with the Amorites in their original inheritance.

24 And he said, “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?’ ” (ESV)

It has to be said really, that Micah, ungodly sinner and idol worshipper though he is, makes a very good point here.

It really was quite intellectually slow of the Danites not to realise that Micah would take issue with their treatment of him. In one fell swoop they had taken away his life’s work, the token of his mothers forgiveness (or stupidity), his source of income not to mention his priest who he appears to have become quite fond of.

His cry of ‘what have I left’ appears to be a plea for sympathy. It failed.

25 And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” (ESV)

This is pretty persuasive talk at the best of times. This was not the best of times for Micah and it was still persuasive.

26 Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home. (ESV)

So Micah turns his sad and sorry self around and resigns himself to going home to an empty shrine. As he does so, one wonders if he thought about why those gods of his allowed themselves to be pinched in broad daylight.

One wonders if he realised the irony of what he had said in his appeal to the Danites or whether he just said the words without realising their significance.

Did you pick them up?

Micah had said: “You take my gods that I made…”

Wow. There’s an admission. Do you want to meditate on that a little Micah? ‘gods’ that you made?

Micah the God Maker. Micah the Priest Ordainer. Micah the Idolater.

Sad, dejected Micah who though made in the image of God himself, thought he could return the favour.

Micah the Fool. Psalm 115:4-8

Meanwhile, a ‘quiet and unsuspecting’ people are going about their business in Laish unaware that death draws nearer by the minute.

#12 Clarity

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 05:19 AM

Judges 17-21 – The Legacy of Dan – 10

The tribe of Dan travelled North with a clear objective in mind. They were seeking a new homeland for their tribe, one in which they could flourish unmolested by any Amorites or Philistines.

They no doubt had a vision in their mind about how their plan to attack and wipe out the inhabitants of Laish would unfold. Perhaps as they drew closer, they wondered if the 5 scouts had given them accurate information. Perhaps they wondered whether the strength of Laish had been underestimated. Perhaps they wondered if 600 armed men would be enough to perform the necessary ‘cleansing’ of their chosen land.

It may be that the young Levite, Dan’s new priest and ‘father’ was called upon to once again offer ‘divine reassurance’ as he had done for the 5 scouts who had spoken with him on their initial journey North.

Whatever the case, the tribe of Dan need not have feared. Their plans went like a sundial shadow. Perfectly.

27 But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire.
28 And there was no deliverer because it was far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. Then they rebuilt the city and lived in it.
(ESV)

And so the inhabitants of Laish perished. All trace of them was wiped out and there was no one to come to their aid – just as the Danites expected. Having bravely conquered a mighty enemy through faith (not!) they set about rebuilding the city.

29 And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first. (ESV)

Having now rebuilt the city, they rename it Dan. However, the record does not allow us to forget (as no doubt the tribe Dan would like us to) that this geographical location had never been intended for them. The name of the city was Laish at the first.

There has been a big surprise building in this narrative from the beginning of chapter 17. We’ve seen how Micah came to be an idolater. We’ve seen how he schooled his own children in idolatrous ways until one of them became his priest. And then the Levite came along. He was a ‘young man’ when we first met him and he was wandering through the land looking for a place and station in life. Micah gave him that. We perhaps might not think too much more about the Levite after that if not for the intriguing reaction of the 5 Danite scouts when they first arrived near Micah’s house. You will recall we were told that they recognised the Levite’s voice.

Evidently they knew this young Levite in some way, but how? He hadn’t come to Micah from Dan, he wasn’t from the tribe of Dan and so we ask – what was it about this young Levite? What rendered his voice so distinctive? How was he known to them?

It is in verse 30 that the bombshell is finally dropped. This is the point in the narrative that Judges 17-18 has been building to:

30 And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. (ESV)

Did you get that?

The idle, wandering young man.

The vacant, purposeless Levite.

The idolatrous priest of Micah.

Was. The. Grandson. Of. Moses.

The grandson of Moses himself had departed from the living God, cast off his heritage and the remembrance of a mighty grandfather and all he stood for and had forged a new career in a scumbag little shrine housing grotesque figurines Micah deigned to call ‘gods’.

Disloyal and thieving, this grandson of Moses had left Mount Ephraim with the Danites and was now installed as High Priest of Dan’s false system of worship.

Jonathan, the son of Gershom, son of Moses.

Truly a generation had arisen that knew not the God of their fathers (Judges 2:10).

And the consequences of Dan’s apostasy?

‘and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land

Wow. The captivity referred to here was the Assyrian captivity that occurred centuries after these events. Decisions were being made in Judges 18 that affected the spiritual life and health of the nation of Israel for centuries to come!

The spiritual consequences of these compromises flowed right down the annals of Israel’s history until the nation (the Northern kingdom of Israel) was hauled off into captivity. (2 Kings 18:11-12)

And why were they taken into captivity? Idolatry. (Jeremiah 1:7-8, 11, 13, 26-27, Hosea 4:17, 8:8-11)

31 So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh. (ESV)

In other words, a rival religion had now been setup. There was the tabernacle setup in the South in Shiloh where Phinehas was installed as High Priest and faithful Levites ministered in his service, whilst up in the North, the first cousin Phinehas founded an apostate system of worship.

The cancer had begun with a mother, and had spread to a son, a grandson, a village, a travelling Levite, a tribe… a nation.

Truly: ‘Big tree from little acorn grow’

In the next chapter we read of a seemingly unrelated event – a crime in a small Benjamite town of Gibeah which leads to a crisis on a national scale.

#13 Clarity

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 03:46 PM

I will take a short break on these posts before resuming the study in Judges 19.

#14 Jon

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 02:41 AM

Been interesting to read Clarity, ta.

I've spent a bit of time in Ruth and wonder if that forms part of an Appendices to Judges as it seems to deal with a similar time period:

- Judges 17 - 18: Jonathan (grandson of Moses)
- Judges 19 - 20: Phinehas (grandson of Aaron)
- Ruth: Boaz (grandson of Amminadab - prince of the tribe of Judah)

Edited by Jon, 19 April 2011 - 02:45 AM.


#15 Clarity

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 03:32 AM

Been interesting to read Clarity, ta.

I've spent a bit of time in Ruth and wonder if that forms part of an Appendices to Judges as it seems to deal with a similar time period:

- Judges 17 - 18: Jonathan (grandson of Moses)
- Judges 19 - 20: Phinehas (grandson of Aaron)
- Ruth: Boaz (grandson of Amminadab - prince of the tribe of Judah)


Yes I think that's the case and its believed that Josephus may have counted Judges and Ruth one book.

Thanks for your points. I would be really interested in your thoughts and studies on Ruth as that is my next study for a YP camp later in the year. I'm in chapter 1 at the moment but part of the reason for looking at the Appendices to Judges again is to refresh memory on context and background for the study of Ruth.
Interesting that Judges 17-21 and Ruth form the family backgrounds of the first two kings - Saul and David.
I'm interested in exploring more links between them (I expect thematic links) and one aspect to zero in on is of course Bethlehem. Also interesting on meaning of Elimelech "God is my King" in context of theme of Judges 17-21.
Certainly have 3 prominent men as you say... and maybe 3 prominent women too?

Edited by Clarity, 19 April 2011 - 03:35 AM.


#16 Jon

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 04:39 AM

Yes I think that's the case and its believed that Josephus may have counted Judges and Ruth one book.

Thanks for your points. I would be really interested in your thoughts and studies on Ruth as that is my next study for a YP camp later in the year. I'm in chapter 1 at the moment but part of the reason for looking at the Appendices to Judges again is to refresh memory on context and background for the study of Ruth.
Interesting that Judges 17-21 and Ruth form the family backgrounds of the first two kings - Saul and David.
I'm interested in exploring more links between them (I expect thematic links) and one aspect to zero in on is of course Bethlehem. Also interesting on meaning of Elimelech "God is my King" in context of theme of Judges 17-21.
Certainly have 3 prominent men as you say... and maybe 3 prominent women too?


Yes, the Bethlehem-Judah connection is another one I'd noted before. I'd be interested to see what other thematic connections you notice :) I've dropped you a PM.

#17 Clarity

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 01:30 AM

Judges 17-21 – A Reconciliation of Sorts – 11

In now turning our attention to Judges 19, we turn to a chapter that your parents most likely skipped if you grew up in a household that read through the Bible systematically!
Judges 19 contains one of the most infamous and grotesque episodes in the whole of the Old Testament. It is a chapter that could have ‘rape, murder and dismemberment’ as its subtitle. Yep. It makes for a gritty read.

In fact, so infamous was this incident that many centuries later the prophet Hosea referred to it in the context of condemning the people of his own day.

Hosea 9
9 They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins. (ESV)

Deep corruption. This is the phrase used to describe the state of a society and mind that produces the kind of incidents recorded in Judges 19.
It is to be noted, that almost every day we could open a local newspaper only to read of precisely the same ‘deep corruption’.

Just writing about Judges 19 is a different experience to writing about Judges 17-18. Though chapters 17 and 18 are dark and tragic in their own way, they are written in such a way that aspects of it are almost comical.
There is none of that in chapter 19. In turning to this next section of the appendices, the record takes on a more sinister tone. We truly enter the hell on earth that ‘every man doing that which is right in his own eyes’ can produce. Again, the narrative is brilliantly crafted to demonstrate just this point.

If Judges 17 represents a quick progression into a dark shade of grey, in Judges 19 it turns pitch black, and by the close of Judges 21 it is the ‘darkness one may feel’ (Exodus 10:21)

The Appendices to the Book of Judges starts with what one may deem to be a couple of small compromises in chapter 17, but by the end of chapter 21 we have moved from laughing in disbelief at Micah’s mother to staring in stunned disbelief and horror at scenes of an altogether different nature. When we see the connection between the two the disbelief deepens… and the lessons come home with the force of the proverbial sledgehammer.

But again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Chapter 19:

1 In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.
(ESV)

In this verse we are introduced to yet another Levite also from the area of Mount Ephraim. He presumably has a wife. However he also had added to his family circle a ‘concubine’ – as you do in a time period characterised by people doing whatever they feel like.

The NET Study Bible has a useful study note telling us something of the status and role of a concubine:

A concubine was a slave woman in ancient Near Eastern societies who was the legal property of her master, but who could have legitimate sexual relations with her master. A concubine’s status was more elevated than a mere servant, but she was not free and did not have the legal rights of a free wife.

So really, she was a ‘secondary wife’. It is interesting to note that she is never called his wife in this chapter, however he is called ‘her husband’ (v3)
Her father is called his ‘father in law’ (v4,7,9) and he is called the fathers ‘son in law’ (v5) In relation to her however, the Levite is called ‘her lord’ – (v26 & 27)

It is now revealed that there has been some tension in this relationship and the concubine has left her husband and returned to the home of her childhood:

2 And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months.
(ESV)

Although the reading here would indicate that the woman had been adulterous, there is some doubt on this. The Septuagint version (LXX) has: ‘she became angry with him’ and again the NET has a useful translation note:

Or “was unfaithful to him.” Many have understood the Hebrew verb וַתִּזְנֶה (vattizneh) as being from זָנָה (zanah, “to be a prostitute”), but it may be derived from a root meaning “to be angry; to hate”

As we learn more about this Levite, one tends to favour the more sympathetic reading of his concubines actions. This Levite is a stern and hard individual as we will see and one wonders if her ultimate fate might not have come much sooner had she been genuinely guilty of adultery. Alternately, she is guilty and yet another example of a moral anomaly that all the individuals in these chapters seem to present.

Be that as it may, at this stage the Levite is not content to leave the relationship in this broken state and after four months separation, he decides its time to seek reconciliation.

3 Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him. (ESV)

The Levite is not traveling alone. He has an unnamed servant with him and ‘a couple of donkeys’ which speaks to his intention of returning to Mount Ephraim with the woman.

Thus, on the surface it would seem we have a story to warm the heart. The Levite travels with the specific intention of ‘speaking kindly to her’ and he seems to have indeed been successful in winning the heart of his estranged ‘wife’ who even sees fit to invite him to her family home to meet dad who is overjoyed to see his son in law and witness to the evidence of reconciliation.

One just has to say; ‘so far so good’.

#18 Clarity

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 08:11 AM

Judges 17-21 – Extended Hospitality – 12

The next few verses are curious indeed. They suggest that the Levite and his father in law got on extremely well, but I’m not buying it entirely.
I must confess to reading these verses and asking myself ‘what is really going on here’? I’d be interested to see if you feel the same way.

4 And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there.

So three days pass in eating, drinking, kicking back and ‘shooting the breeze’ whilst the concubine brings out the schooners? Hmmmm.

Having enjoyed three days of extended hospitality, on the fourth morning the Levite is ready to move, however her father has other plans.

5 And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.”

“Have some breakfast first”

So he does. And perhaps meanwhile, the concubine is packing her gear, the servant is completing his preparations and the donkeys are being saddled.

6 So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl’s father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.”

Meanwhile the Levite and his father in law continue to tuck in and breakfast becomes ‘elevenses’ becomes lunch becomes… “hey why don’t you just stay another night”?

The Levite makes a valiant attempt: “thanks, but we really must get going”

7 And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again.

The father-in-law is having none of it. They are there for another night.

We all know the experience of finding it difficult to leave good hospitality with good friends. I suppose its probably pretty rare however that we have the luxury of 5 spare days up our sleeve to just ‘takes things slow’ and keep putting off our departure!
But that’s what happens here. But it’s odd. And the Bible doesn’t waste words. So what’s really going on?

Don’t you think the way verse 4 starts is interesting:

4 And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay…

It wasn’t just his ‘father in law’ that made him stay, it was ‘the girl’s father’ that did so. We know they are one and the same person of course, but is the record cleverly hinting to us as to the motive of the man in keeping the Levite?

Have we a case here of a clever father who is deliberately stringing things out in order to try and assess the sincerity of this reconciliation?
Perhaps this Levite has a reputation for treating his girl a little harshly? Perhaps a bond with his son in law will result in his having a more favourable disposition to his daughter in future or maybe he is shrewdly assessing all this time whether he really wants to let her leave with him after all?

If this is the case, by the close of the chapter we may very well feel that he had good reason.

Another interesting thing to note, is that the father in laws words of verse 5: “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.” are very reminiscent of Abraham’s words of hospitality expressed to the angels in Genesis 18:5. This is not going to be the last similarity between what transpires in this chapter and what took place during this period of Abraham’s life, for it is Genesis 18 and 19 that record the events that lead to the destruction of Sodom.

It is now the 5th day and the Levite really really wants to leave. It’s now getting embarrassing. For everyone. However, there is one last valiant attempt at extended hospitality on the part of the girl’s father.

8 And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl’s father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them.

The girl’s father has so far very effectively used drink in detaining the Levite. However on the 5th day, the Levite will eat only.

9 And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, (note same phrase as verse 4!) said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, (with drink) and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”
10 But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him.


The Levite is now quite possibly frustrated at having been waylaid to such an extreme. He simply must leave today.
And so finally on the fifth day, despite yet another attempt by the girl’s father at detaining them they manage to get on their way.

But it’s too late in the day. It’s too late… in just way too many ways.

#19 Clarity

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 06:17 AM

Judges 17-21 – Journey to Gibeah – 13

Heading North along the road, the Levite must have been happy to have finally been making some progress in his journey home at last.

Verse 10 seems to emphasize the obvious point that ‘his concubine was with him’. Perhaps the record is reminding us that his mission had been a success – she was with him, and contentedly so. He had sought her out after 4 months separation and had spoken ‘tenderly’ to her. Her fathers hospitality and those happy days in Bethlehem had been reassuring. Whatever the nature of the wrongs between them, they had been forgiven. The future must have looked brighter to her than it had done so for many months.

The journey to Jebus was a distance of about 10 kilometers from Bethlehem and upon drawing near to Jebus, the Levite’s servant was inclined to call it a day.

11 When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.”


It was probably a very sensible suggestion all things considered, but no doubt frustrated by the repeated delays and wanting to get further along the road the Levite voices an additional reason for not stopping:

12 And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.”

This decision of the Levite could be construed as quite an honorable one. The Jebusites were among the nations listed for destruction (Joshua 3:10) , and as early as Genesis 15 they had been listed as one of the nations destined to give way to the children of Israel (Genesis 15:21).

It seems that the Levite would either not seek hospitality from a nation God had marked out for destruction or he thought it unlikely he would receive a fitting welcome in such a place. It was a stance with immediate consequences. Not stopping at the city of Jebus meant that he was committed to another 6 kilometers of traveling near the end of the day in order to make it to Gibeah.

13 And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.”


As it turned out, reaching Gibeah before sundown was challenge enough. A further 3 kilometers in order to reach Ramah was soon revealed to be clearly out of the question.

14 So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin,
15 and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.


Making their way through the gates and into the city square, the Levite and company must have looked expectantly at passers by as they rushed to reach their respective abodes before sundown with thoughts of evening meals, family and the events of the day on their mind. The visitors would expect at any moment to hear a friendly greeting, an interested enquiry as to their origin and destination and perhaps an invitation of food and shelter for weary travelers. None came.

The first inkling that there would be trouble at Gibeah was manifested in the complete lack of hospitality shown to this traveling party. So much for insisting upon reaching an Israelite town! Ironically enough, it is highly probable that that the Levite would have received a better reception in Jebus than he did in this small town of Benjamin. In fact, by the end of the chapter we wonder if it could have been worse had the Jebusites tried to match it!

Why the lack of hospitality? Was it a case of Benjaminite parochialism? A knowledge of the spirit that ruled the town once night fell and the danger it represented to anyone who obstructed it? Or was it just plain dull, sullen inhospitality? No satisfactory answer as to why the locals failed to extend a warm reception to these travelers presents itself plainly. It is just as easy to note it is simply more evidence of every one ‘doing what was right in their own eyes’.

16 And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites.

We have already been told that Gibeah belongs to Benjamin and so we would expect it to be full of people from the tribe of Benjamin, and yet the record spells it out distinctly. ‘The men of the place were Benjaminites’. As well as making their tribal origin clear, it is perhaps calculated to tell us something of their character.

Jacob had spoken of Benjamin as a ‘ravenous wolf’ (Genesis 49:27) that would ‘devour the prey’ and ‘divide the spoil’. The Benjaminites could be fierce and brutal in disposition and quickly gained a reputation of being excellent warriors.

In short, you didn’t want to mess with these guys. You didn’t want to be on the streets of their city late at night when they came out to play.

And someone it seems, knew that. The ‘old man’ appears to be someone from the Levite’s ‘neck of the woods’. He’s living temporarily in Gibeah and just happens to be coming in from the day’s toil in the field:

17 And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?”

At last we hear the interested and friendly enquiry that the visitors have been holding out for.
In his response one can tell that the Levite is somewhat ‘put out’ by not having received hospitality.

18 And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord, but no one has taken me into his house.

These are obviously the days before the ‘Best Western’ motels and ‘Holiday Inns’. Travelers relied on carrying with them their own provisions and the spontaneous care and kindness of hospitable countrymen for shelter and warmth.

This is the first we hear of the Levite’s intention to go to the house of the Lord and one wonders if this was true or added merely for effect. It appears there may have been something about him that marked him as being a Levite, therefore adding to his surprise that he had not been showered with goodwill and invitation.

19 We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.”

The Levite explains that they are self sufficient and would therefore represent no burden to anyone offering them shelter for the night.
However, the old man needs no such assurance. He is more than happy to house and feed the visitors. Perhaps it takes an older man with the memory of the older values of a fading generation to show the kindness that Israel should have been renowned for.

20 And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.”


There is an ominous shade to the phrase ‘do not spend the night in the square’. It appears the old man knew it wasn’t safe to do that.
The words are very reminiscent of the angel’s words in Genesis 19:2 when, upon entering Sodom they said to Lot: “we will spend the night in the town square” Lot was alarmed at such an idea and insisted that they do no such thing. The old man in Gibeah all but does the same.

The parallels between Gibeah and Sodom are just beginning.

21 So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.


At last the travelers are experiencing hospitality in Gibeah. Weary limbs aching from the steep ascent to Gibeah are resting, feet caked with the dust of the highway have been cleansed and soothed and the perennial comfort of good food and drink is now before them. All seems well.

But night has now fallen in Gibeah. And a dark night it is.

#20 Clarity

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 03:44 AM

Judges 17-21 – A Dark Night – 14

As the old man’s visitors relax and begin to ‘make their hearts merry’, word is evidently spreading around the village of Gibeah of their arrival. Particular note seems to have been taken of the Levite himself, for it is he that is initially the focus later in the night.
Intelligence is soon garnered as to where they are staying and before long certain ‘interested parties’ have made their way to the old man’s abode.

22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, 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.”

The home of the hospitable host is now besieged and the insistent demands of the men of Gibeah echo the demands that were made of Lot centuries before as the men of Sodom surrounded his house (Genesis 19:5).

The phrase ‘worthless fellows’ is going to be an important one in this study. It is literally: ‘sons of worthlessness’, and the NET has ‘good for nothings’.

Every town has its ‘local hooligans’, but it appears that a large portion of the men of Gibeah fell into this category. There is no check on these men’s nocturnal activities by any local ‘leaders’ of the community and later when Gibeah is called to give account over the events that unfold this night, there is no noble eldership of the city stepping forward to acknowledge the wrongdoing and hand over the culpable ‘minority’. It seems it just wasn’t like that.

Upon understanding the demands of the men of Gibeah, we might feel that descriptions of ‘wicked’ or ‘worthless’ seems to understate the matter somewhat. In a translation note on the euphemistic phrase ‘that we may know him’, the NET says:

On the surface one might think they simply wanted to meet the visitor and get to know him, but their hostile actions betray their double-talk. The old man, who has been living with them long enough to know what they are like, seems to have no doubts about the meaning of their words.

The angels in Genesis 19 had arrived in Sodom only to find that it was nothing more than a large ‘red light district’. It seems that Gibeah was no different. These men were guilty of the proverbial ‘sin of Sodom’ (Romans 1:24-27, Leviticus 18:22, 1st Corinthians 6:9-10).

The owner of the house however, is determined to appeal to the men of Gibeah:

23 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.


His appeal is to one of common decency in relations to matters of hospitality; “this man is come into mine house!”
The violation of the safe haven that is his home represents the height of discourtesy and he hopes that reminding them of this this will curtail their behaviour.

We are not surprised of course to find that such an appeal fell on deaf ears. Perhaps he wasn’t either, but his next attempt is a desperate offer of an alternative that he somehow seems to have considered as ‘the lesser of two evils’.

24 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.”

It is very hard to find anyone who acts nobly in this story and we can hardly excuse the old man’s solution here on the basis of the nature of ‘eastern hospitality’. His solution seems to be an endeavor to save his guest by having the men channel their lust in more 'legitimate' ways as if to say “If you must commit a crime, let it be rather this than this…”
The most we can say for such reasoning is that it seems to have been the result of mortal fear.

At the height of the crisis recorded in Genesis 19, Lot and his daughters had been saved by the fact that his guests happened to be mighty angels who blinded the men of the city who were assaulting the house (Genesis 19:10-11), but this old man’s guests are no angels, and the men outside are only blinded by their lust and ‘deep corruption’.

The tumult from outside would have been frightening to say the least. One can only too vividly imagine the hammering on the door, loud curses, insistent demands and the threats of violence. The fear in the room would be palpable, and the terror must have increased tenfold for the women as they heard the solution offered by the master of the house. Had it really come to this? In alarm they would look at one another and then in turn to each of the three men in the room.

The daughter would naturally appeal to her father. The Levite’s concubine, to her ‘lord’.

It is now we see the extent of the reconciliation between the Levite and his concubine. Having bonded with her father for five days in Bethlehem, having travelled all the way from Mount Ephraim to find her, speak ‘tenderly’ to her and bring her back to his home, it has come down to this moment to reveal the extent of his love and loyalty to her.

It is not enough, and in a proverbial ‘moment of truth’ his streak of self preservation wins through over any feelings of compassion or protectiveness that he may have felt for his wife… and thus the first act of violence she experiences on this night is at the hands of her husband as he physically forces her out of the door.

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go.


The door of the house opened and the men of the city; baying, bloodthirsty and ravening wolves that they were, were flung a morsel. It was not what they had been demanding. It would have to suffice.

We allow the veil to fall over the sad and sickening scene that ensues. Subjected to an horrific ordeal of sadistic brutality, it was not until the first glimmer of dawn was discernible in the night sky above Gibeah that she was released.

Dawn… ‘daybreak when the shadows flee’ is spoken of in scripture as the time of salvation and deliverance (Psalm 46:5), the ending of a long, dark night comes at dawn and with it the joy of salvation (Psalm 30:5, Isaiah 17:14). Night has its power, (Luke 22:53) and in such a time the deeds of darkness are done (John 3:19-20) but dawn brings the sun with its healing and revealing rays (Malachi 4:2).

Alas. It did not come soon enough for the woman of Bethlehem. She staggered as far as the door of the house where her lord slept and succumbing to her injuries sank on the threshold.

26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.


As the sun arose it did so to reveal a pitiful figure lying motionless in the doorway, her hands outstretched for help that never came.




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