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A GREAT CALAMITY PREVENTED
1. Zeal is always right in denouncing sin.
It would have showed a lamentable lack of the reverence due to the God of Israel, if such a hideous revelation of evil as that which was discovered at Gibeah, had not met with a loud and emphatic protest on the part of His covenant people. The Church at Ephesus was commended because they “could not bear them that were evil.” In the present case, tolerance to Benjamin would have been treason to Jehovah—a principle too often forgotten. Paul at Athens (Jude 1:3; Numbers 25:7-12). Want of zeal against sin condemned (1 Samuel 3:13; Revelation 2:14-15; Revelation 2:20).
2. The evils of rash oath-making (Judges 21:1). Compare with rash vowing—see pp. 455, 457, 464.
In their calm moments the men of Israel found that their zeal was not according to knowledge, for they practically shut themselves up to exterminate the tribe of Benjamin. Hence a backwave of great sorrow (Judges 21:2-3). “There may be over-doing in well-doing. That is not good divinity which swallows up humanity.”—Henry.
3. It is a promising sign when people bring their difficulties to God to have them settled (Judges 21:2-3).
It was doubtless, He who suggested to them the question in Judges 21:5, the answer to which led to a solution of the dilemma that now stood before them. The number 12 was something sacred in the estimation of an Israelite. It was mixed up with the promises of God, and with the whole history of the sacred people.
4. Great rigour characterised the expedients of Old Testament times. (Judges 21:10-12.)
There was blood-shedding in the punishment of the sins of Gibeah. Not only on one town did the sword of justice fall, but from Dan to Beersheba all the tribes of Israel were gathered in vast numbers on the field of battle. In three great battles did the blood flow till 65,000 men had fallen, and one whole tribe, the children of the youngest brother, was left in desolation before the deadly strokes of the children of the elder brothers. And now more blood must flow, because of the excess of blood which has already been shed. The men of Jabesh-Gilead must die with their wives and children, in order that the young women may be got for wives to the sons of Benjamin that are yet spared. We might almost say with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:1-2), But why were not the virgins in Benjamin itself not spared? This whole history is a specimen of the spirit that characterised the days, when as yet the true atonement had not been made, and God had not yet become the “God of peace.”
5. The great evils which flow from men taking the vindication of God’s honour into their own hands.
The instinct of every true man of God would say—Let God Himself speak in this matter, and say what should be done. Man is not fit to judge for the great Jehovah. This was the great error of the Israelites in this tragedy. They decided first what the course should be, and then asked God to sanction it. And what a mess they did make of it! They well nigh extinguished the name of their brother Benjamin, and when they discovered that deplorable mistake, how much rough soldering work did they go through to put matters right! Of this, the manner in which they tried to find wives for the few men that were left of the desolate tribe is a melancholy illustration! There is no safety but in ever asking counsel at the mouth of the Lord. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Judges 21". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20