For those who are novices to how life works, it nearly always comes as a moment of astonishment when they are confronted with the harsh reality that: even when you do what's right, things can still go wrong. And even though we all generally abide by the unspoken universal agreement not to talk about this '800lb elephant in the room', the Bible breaks ranks and brazenly describes the elephant! Judges 19-21 is the most embarrassing example of this.
So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel. Judges 20:6
HOW DIVINELY INSPIRED CAN THIS BE?
I find the last few chapters of the Book of Judges infuriating, uncomfortable and embarrassing. It always makes me angry when I read of a people who profess to know and serve God yet they are practicing idolatry, abuse of women, sexual depravity, violence, kidnapping, and rash-vowing. And just when it seems to take a righteous turn, it gets worse still.
So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man.
¶ And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, "What evil is this that has taken place among you?
The reader is forgiven for their bewilderment when reading the last few chapters of the Book of Judges. Who hasn't read these uncomfortable chapters and wondered how these chapters could possibly be divinely inspired and find a home in the pages of the Sacred Writ? And this is one of the lesser appreciated facets of what Divine Inspiration of the Bible necessarily involves: God has ordained that certain events which He did not sanction are inerrantly recorded in Scripture. The last few chapters of Judges is perhaps the most graphic example of this.
Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel." But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel.Judges 20:13
The believer's devotion to the God of the BIble is further tested when they are told in the New Testament that everything in the Old Testament was written for the follower of Christ's encouragement, instruction, and edification.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Instruction? What possible instruction could the believer draw from these ugly and gruesome chapters of the Bible? We notice that the downward spiral began when Israel neglected the Word of God. The men of Dan tolerated idolatry and this led to a chain events that resulted in the gross bloodshed of civil war. Wherever there is idolatry there is inevitably sexual perversion. We see that entire towns in Benjamin had sunk to giving into their basest desires. As the Epistle to the Romans describes the same downward spiral from idolatry to shameful misconduct-
because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
¶ For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT THINGS COULDN'T GET ANY WORSE
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Perhaps the believer can be instructed from this dramatic episode in the Scriptures by taking note that calamities often start with very small, seemingly inconsequential compromises. The act of kidnapping then appointing a Levite who was an idolatrous priest may have seemed benign but it soon beckoned barberous brutality when tens of thousands of people were slaughtered. The invitation to a Levite by Micah the Ephraimite to be the priest of his household idol should have met with immediate and swift rejection. But it didn't. This Levite compromised both his divinely appointed function (to help the Aaronic priests in the service of the Tabernacle) and the Law of God against idolatry. It seems that the Levite was enticed by the offer of full board and "ten pieces of silver" each year. He sold his soul for 10 pieces of silver (by the time of Christ incarnate it appears that inflation had driven the price up to 30 pieces of silver! Zech. 11:12; Matt. 26:15)
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. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest."
Just when you think this story can't get any worse, a band of soldiers from the Tribe of Dan arrive and in a rather thuggish manner forcibly remove Micah's idol and take his Levite-Priest with them. From there they go marauding and slaughter an entire village of people - despite the Law of God instructing them to do otherwise (Deut. 20:10).
Now the 600 men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate. 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. 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?" 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?"
The book of Judges increasingly tells the reader that "there was no king in Israel during those days and everyone did what was right in their own eyes." The follower of Christ is aware from the New Testament that God has ordained three great institutions to curb human sinfulness: (i) The Family - founded by a husband and a wife in a God-honouring, loving marriage; (ii) The Family of God - in the Old Testament this was Israel and in the New Covenant this is the Church; (iii) The State - God has ordained the various levels of Governments (local, State, and Federal) to restrain evil, promote the good, and provide civil services. The breakdown of each of these three arms of Divinely ordained institutions is graphically portrayed in the closing chapters of Judges. This will become even more evident in Part 2 of this article when we will witness what is arguably the most depraved conduct described in the Bible.
The saddest aspect of this tragic Biblical episode is that we are again witnessing the same seeds of civil destruction. Marriage was debased in Judges 19-21. Marriage is at risk of being debased today. The Family of God which was meant to be courageously led by those God had called into leadership had become corrupt, cold, ungodly, and idolatrous. Can you think of one uncompromising courageous church leader who speaks prophetically to the nation about the Word, ways and will of God who has withstood the tests of time, trial and testing and demonstrated proven integrity? And in the closing days of the Judges there were no civil leaders who served both God and their people selflessly. Today, it seems that everyday a new story breaks from either the Royal Commission into Corruption about how one of of national political leaders has broken, or at best- bent, the rules regarding use of Tax Payer Funds or political "donations". In Part 2 of this article I have some comments to make about the incredibly disturbing closing episode in Judges and the even more disturbing similarities that are facing today. What I hope to achieve is that we will have even greater confidence in the Divine inspiration of Scripture and its inerrancy - and that we will understand the urgency of the hour in which we live and why our commitment to God's Word now matters more than ever.