“All who saw it said, ‘Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak’ ” (v. 30).
We come today to the final section of the book of Judges, having finished our study of the narratives about the individual judges of Israel. This final section begins in chapter 17, and we will not be covering chapters 17–18 in depth because we have already seen something of the Israelites’ willingness to follow after idols, which is evident again in these chapters. The author does not comment on the events directly, but his disapproval of the idolatry in Judges 17–18 and of the Israelites’ actions in general in chapters 19–21 is evident by the use of the phrase: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25). The lesson is clear: without a godly king in Israel, moral and theological anarchy prevails.
Judges 19 gives us a picture of the moral anarchy in Israel. We read the terrible story of the Levite and his concubine in Gibeah, in the territory of Benjamin. Before the author gets to the heart of the story, we see problems with the Levite himself. He took a concubine, but the relationship he had with her is unclear. The Bible does not commend polygamy, but the law of Moses said that when a man had multiple wives, they were to be treated equitably (Ex. 21:7–11). But the concubine is never called the Levite’s wife in Judges 19, which indicates that he likely did not treat her as a wife. Even worse was his willingness to hand her over to the crowd of lustful, violent men, who violated her repeatedly. Moreover, the first thing the Levite did when he saw her the next morning was to command her to get up, even though she was plainly hurt (vv. 22–30). All of this demonstrates a callousness on the part of the Levite and a bigger spiritual problem in Israel. After all, the Levites were in charge of the tabernacle and the teaching of the law (Lev. 10:8–11; Num. 18:1–7). If one of them had become so corrupt, how much worse was the rest of Israel?
Reading the story of how the concubine was violated and killed by the men of Gibeah in Benjamin cannot help but make us recall what happened centuries earlier in Sodom (Gen. 19:1–11). The only difference is that there was no angelic protection in Gibeah. Consequently, the message is clear: in the days of the judges, the sin of the Israelites became so great that they were no better than the Sodomites. This was particularly true of the tribe of Benjamin. The Israelites, who drove out the Canaanites for their sins (Lev. 18), had become Canaanites themselves.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
In the days of the judges, Israel did not live as a holy, separate people. As a result, they took on the ways of Canaan, becoming guilty of the very same sins. When God’s people do not live holy lives, they open themselves up to the influence of the world. As we pursue obedience and as we seek the Lord’s face, we will become more resistant to the call of the world on our hearts.